The Red Sox. The Celtics. The Bruins. In New England, big teams dominated Boston TV sportscasts in the 1980s and Scott Fleishman followed them all.
And in an unlikely way, these dynasties became destiny for the Massachusetts native. While Fleishman watched the teams, he studied the anchormen who brought their stories into his living room, setting the stage for the dream career he would pursue: New England Sports Anchor.
The 33-year-old Fleishman is now living his dream as a sports anchor for WCAX in Burlington, VT, covering the teams he loves, both national and local, and presenting those stories on-air for a major media market.
After years of toiling behind the scenes in cable access studios and small radio stations, Fleishman reached his goal last year. He began working and living in the area he loves, covering the teams he grew up following.
"No two paths are the same," he said about earning a dream job. In Fleishman's case, it was a shameless pursuit of experience---some glamorous, some grunt work---that led him from one coast to the other and back to the job he's always wanted.
But it all started on the playground.
Like most boys who grew up west of Boston, Fleishman played and watched sports. But while some boys fantasized about being Larry Bird or Roger Clemens, he dreamed about broadcasting the game. He wanted to be in front of the cameras making sense of sports for TV watchers, bringing the national pastimes home to his New England neighbors.
Even as a kid, he found himself glued to the evening news---particularly the sports segment. Anchormen as familiar as his homeroom teachers at school would rub elbows with sports legends and report it. They'd pore over game strategies with local coaches and tell stories of heroics on the field while Fleishman hung on every word.
"It would be great to be the guy everyone turns to locally," Fleishman said. "I wanted to be that guy."
In college, Fleishman tried calling games as a play-by-play and color commentator for various sports. But he was itching for more visibility. "Anchoring was a step above everything else for me," he said.
When he went to watch the Red Sox or Patriots in person, he would rush to get to games early, but not to see the players or snag an autograph. He'd arrive pre-game to watch the sports anchors set up their shots and report their pre-game stories.
Fleishman had two internships during college he hoped would put him on a direct path to the Boston television market. One of them---WBZ Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate---was led by his childhood sports anchor idol, Bob Lobel. Lobel's folksy take on national sports and his passion for high school sports in the Boston area was the inspiration for Fleishman's dream.
But despite that internship and also the one at Sports Radio 850 WEEI, a local all-sports radio station, he wasn't able to land a paying job.
His first attempts at sending out resumes yielded few results. Fleishman was adamant about finding a job in New England, though the media market is competitive and there were few sports jobs for a newbie.
He lowered his sights from major media market Boston to the smaller fish, Providence, RI, where he paid his news dues as the assignment editor at WLNE 6, away from sports and away from the on-air post he coveted.
"It was the worst job ever, but it gave me the opportunity to make contacts," Fleishman said.
The sports anchors there gave him the frank but tough advice he sorely needed to get ahead: If you want to be on TV, you've got to find a way to be on TV.
He stepped a rung lower on the media ladder and did just that, by taking a job at a local cable access station. Although it was a far cry from where he wanted to be, Fleishman knew he had to fill in one huge blank in his resume---a great demo tape. His one regret leaving college was that he didn't have one and the cable station weekly news show gave him a chance to report, and even anchor.
For months he worked every night gathering sports stories for the newscast. And because he still had to make ends meet, Fleishman worked as a part-time data entry clerk during the day.
Fleishman routinely jumped at other opportunities others would scoff at, working at a second local cable news show. He did a two-night-a-week stint as a TV sports producer, creating content for on-air personalities back in Providence, while also anchoring an early-morning show at WBSM in New Bedford, a small city radio station.
Sports jobs are typically a 2-11 p.m. shift, he said. But for the radio, he had to be up by 3 a.m.
"I was burning the candle at both ends, but I was doing something I love," he said.
What the jobs lacked in glamour, they made up for in experience. Fleishman helped cover the Red Sox first World Series Win. And when the Patriots made their second Super Bowl run, Fleishman was right there with them. He was shameless in his pursuit of experience, but his goal was always clear---to be a sports anchor in New England.
After months of working in the trenches, Fleishman found himself at a crossroads. He admitted he had limited himself by not looking outside his hometown media market, so he made a bittersweet decision.
"I decided then and there I was sending my tapes out across the country," he said.
Someone on the West Coast took notice. Fleishman soon found himself working as the number three anchor, behind the nightly desk and weekend desk jobs in Eugene, OR. It was the break he needed.
"You need to go away and come back," said Fleishman. "I was too arrogant to do that. I thought I was good enough. It wasn't about being good, it was about getting out there, doing reps and getting better."
While in Oregon, Fleishman won several awards for his work, including two Associated Press Awards and even a Sportscaster of the Year award. After four years of on-air reporting and anchoring, he felt confident he was ready to return to New England's more competitive media market.
He sent a tape out to WCAX in Burlington even though Fleishman admits it was a lateral move professionally. What was Burlington's edge? It was back home in New England, the place Fleishman really wanted to be. Near friends, near family and immersed in the teams he loved.
"I'm at a point, for the first time ever, I haven't considered what I want to do next. I'm settling into a lifestyle."
While the draw of Boston media still peeks over the horizon, Fleishman said his career in Vermont offers all the positives, but none of the drawbacks to a "big market" television station.
"I'm not in a rush right now," he said. "I'm a weekend sports anchor in New England. Not many people can say that."
To learn more about Scott Fleishman, check out his work at WCAX in Burlington. You can also view some of his clips on YouTube and follow Scott on Twitter.
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