Pete Radovich: Man Behind the Scenes
Emmy award winning CBS Sports producer, fundraiser, and proud Croatian-American
By Josip Bogovic
Did you ever wonder as you sit on your comfortable couch watching a major sports event like the U.S. Tennis Open, an NFL football game or the Olympics, what it takes and who the people are behind the scenes that make the broadcast possible? During the 2005 U.S. Tennis Open and the NFL game between the Giants and the Denver Broncos, Croatian Chronicle had an opportunity to go behind the scenes to witness the grand operation of sports broadcasting, courtesy of Pete Radovich. Who is Pete Radovich? To begin with, he is a CBS sports producer, a feature story Emmy award winner and a gentleman who has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help de-mine Croatia. That’s already too much factual information, so let’s take it slow and find out what he does, how he got there, and what makes him tick. Let’s also discover how he got us on to center court 10 minutes before a match between Roger Federer and Andre Agassi and on to the New York Giants’ field during team practice.
At CBS Sports, the A-team covers major sporting events and Pete Radovich is one of its principal members. The A-team travels around the country in mobile trailers that broadcast in high definition; CBS is one of the few networks that have such a setup. The operation is huge and complex and the communication and coordination between the more than one hundred workers is at the core of a successful broadcast. Everyone has to get it right because it’s a live, unedited broadcast. As the replay producer, Radovich is one of five people that are at the center of the sport broadcast operation. In this role he gives the viewer information about a replay or some other aspect or action of the game. This is one of the roles of Pete Radovich in his capacity as a live producer. As a tape producer, he goes out, creates a story then films it with a crew. The footage is then broadcast during a live telecast or separately on its own. In this role he is a creative force, a filmmaker and a storyteller.
As we walk around the secret corridors of the stadium, he gives us details about the operation. Radovich is warmly greeted by his colleagues as we pass them. This guy carries weight, we think to ourselves. “You want to find out more about me, go to my colleagues and ask them some questions,” he suggests. So off we went forty minutes before game time. We were warmly received at the Giants Stadium skybox by Jim Nantz, the veteran sportscaster who has more than 20 years of broadcasting under his belt at CBS. He and co-sportscaster Phil Simms worked their 31st games together. Nantz is a true professional in every respect. “Look,” I said to Mr. Nantz, “I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Pete. Surely you can tell us about a time when he dropped the ball? Some secret the world is eager to know?”
The sportscaster smiles at my comment. “Sorry to disappoint you, but when we are talking about Pete we’re speaking about a true professional. Pete’s a very talented guy who gives texture and a polished look to our broadcasts, making them look and feel unique. Pete produces little vignettes (stories) on players and teams; this too adds spice to our broadcast,” says Nantz.
So how does one become a nine-time Emmy award winning sports producer?
Pete Radovich’s father was born on the island of Kaprije near Šibenik; his mother was born in Nevidane on the island of Pašman. Radovich’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in the mid 1960’s and settled in New York where they met and got married. Peter was born in Astoria, Queens. Since Croatian was the spoken language at home, it was Peter’s first language. He recalls his parents as working hard since the family lived a small apartment in Astoria. “My parents taught me the value of hard work. They have always taken their jobs seriously and never missed a day of work for trivial reasons. I can say from experience that Croatian people are proud people who take their work seriously. This is one of the attributes I carry with me from my Croatian heritage,” he recalls.
Throughout his youth Pete played soccer, basketball and baseball. In the early 1980’s he played soccer for Croatia-New York as a goaltender when the team was in the Metropolitan league. “I played for the team at a time when it wasn’t politically correct to be Croatian. What was also great about the experience was that our team played against Dinamo in 1989 at the Croatian Highlands in Boonton, New Jersey. I was good at everything but great at no one particular sport,” he recalls. The other thing that he excelled at was art - drawing, painting and photography in particular. He was voted “most artistic student” several times in grade and high school. It was this combination, together with several other factors, he believes, that allowed him to be where he is.
Croatian experience changed my life
In most peoples’ lives there comes a time when their direction and focus is not clear. But there usually follows a pivotal point from which their life takes a turn for the better. This was the case with Radovich when he started high school in Queens. “When I started high school I wasn’t focused. I didn’t know what I should do. I then decided to go to high school in Croatia for two years and see what would happen. Off to Zadar I went, alone and ready to experience the land of my parents. This experience most definitely changed my life. I became more patient and appreciative of what I had and the fact that my life was comprised of two cultures. From an American kid I became a Croatian-American kid. I learned the language, the culture, made life-long friends. Ever since then I go back every year. At my job at CBS everyone knows of Croatia and my roots. In a small way I try to give Croatia some positive and well deserved publicity,” he explains. Radovich played baseball for the Zadar high school he attended and was the best player on the team, having the U.S. experience under his belt. “I was the only player to have hit two home runs in the same day - one in Varaždin and one in akovec,” he says proudly. Upon entering college in the U.S. he came upon an internship at NBC Sports. That’s when everything clicked for him; his love of sports and art became one body.
“In the last 10 years of my career I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of great moments in sports. But the biggest and most memorable are those where Croatia has made incredible results. I was covering the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was at these Olympics that Croatia received its first Olympic gold medal, in handball. I was standing behind the Croatian bench for the game and for the singing of the Croatian national anthem. I will never forget these moments; I get goose-bumps whenever I think of them. In 2000 I covered Wimbledon for NBC. Goran Ivaniševi dedicated the final match in memory of Dražen Petrovi, the Nets Hall-of-Famer. What I did was to put together a live footage montage of Dražen, inter-spliced with live footage of Goran in action. I gave him the completed project the morning of the match. Goran watched the footage before the match. I believe that it must have stirred his emotions quite a bit. The final match stirred my emotions to the point where my coworkers told me to leave my post and go watch the game. I was so emotional I could only think of Goran winning. That’s all that was on my mind that day. Well, the good news is that he did win and I got to see it as a spectator as well as from behind the scenes. I hope my reel made a little difference in the great outcome,” says Pete with the expression of a great moment relived in his memory.
Radovich has combined his love of his heritage with his work to help Croatia in other ways as well. “When I started at NBC I was very fortunate to be taken under the wing of Jim Bell. Jim was my mentor and I owe him a lot. Jim is now the executive producer of the Today Show. Matt Lauer does this three hour show once a year showcasing a particular country. The show is seen by millions of viewers. So I said to Jim in a somewhat joking way, “Jim, you should have Matt check out Croatia; maybe you’ll like it. Maybe do a showcase on it. I didn’t think anything of my comment. Next thing I know, I get a call the day before the airing of the show only to find that Matt was showcasing Dubrovnik, Croatia. I was pleasantly shocked and should have told Jim to include Zadar,” he says smiling.
Radovich won his solo Emmy award for a feature story he did called “Super Bowl Quarterbacks and their Sick Sons.” He picked up on the idea that there was this coincidence of more than six Super Bowl quarterbacks having sons that were very sick so he put together a very emotional story that moved everyone who saw the work. Radovich shies away from the notoriety of being an Emmy winner. “It’s a good conversation piece at home when friends and family come to visit. I’m sure my parents told more people about me winning the Emmy than I did. An Emmy is a benefit of doing my job.” He says that giving the speech when receiving the award really racked his nerves like few other things before.
Radovich’s ties to his heritage extend beyond the professional realm. He is also involved in fundraising, particularly for the annual Croatian-American Golf Outing to raise money for de-mining in Croatia and the work of the American Cancer Society. He auctions off tickets for special sporting events like the one we experienced. “I’ve been fortunate in my life and this is a way for me to use my position to give back to Croatia and society at large,” he says of his fundraising activities.
“Professionally, I take it as it comes. I love what I do now. So far, I feel like I’ve won the lottery so I don’t play the regular one. The only drawback to my job is that I miss many family functions since I’m always booked on the weekends. I’d like to semi-retire early so I could perhaps do some projects in Croatia and spend more time there.” Radovich may have the opportunity to rework some of the Croatian tourism commercials shown abroad. He believes they don’t measure up to a higher standard.
For now, Pete Radovich is on the road and a very busy man. Currently, he is off to Korea to do a story on Hines Ward, the MVP of last year’s Super Bowl who is half Korean. The story will air sometime during the Super Bowl in Miami.
The theme of this story seems to be that when Pete Radovich wins, the world becomes a better place.
Formatted for CROWN by Croatian Chronicle
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