By Steve Sears
Arguably, there may be no on-air sportscaster who loves sports more than WNBC’s Bruce Beck.
To go even further, there may arguably be no sportscaster that works harder than Bruce Beck.
“Every day,” he says, “I’m driven to be the best that I can be, which might not be the best in New York or the best in the country, but I’m going to try, I’m going to give it my all. I’m not going to go down without trying to outwork everyone. That’s my goal. My goal is to be at my desk between 12 at night and 3 in the morning and getting ahead of you because you’re sleeping. How can I do more research and preparation than you? Think ahead or think out of the box?”
“I really don’t think you can change the world, but you can impact lives. And I still have the opportunity to impact lives by covering meaningful and compelling stories.”
With the above statement, Beck may be defining his over-40-year career, and whether he is the best or not is certainly discussion fodder. He has, after all, been named New York State Sportscaster of the Year 9 times (six in a row from 2007 to 2012) by the National Sports Media Association, and has garnered 9 Emmy Awards. While the before-mentioned accolades may buttress the argument of Beck supporters, he says hold on. “Of all those accomplishments, honestly the greatest things to me is to mentor the next generation of sports broadcasters, and to be able to be a father and a grandfather,” he says proudly. “I take a lot of pride in all these awards, but I think the two things my parents instilled in me was, number one, the importance of family, and I’ve tried to live up to that all the way being the father of two boys (Jonathan and Michael), and now a grandfather of four kids, and being a husband (to wife Janet) for almost 40 years.”
Beck, 64, has been with WNBC since 1997, and is the lead sports anchor for the network. Prior to his time at WNBC, he freelanced for Comcast CN8, CBS, ESPN, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, worked for MSG Network from 1980 – 1994, and for Suburban Cablevision in the late 1970s.
Beck was born in Union but grew up in Livingston, and while attending Livingston High School played tennis for Elliot Lovi and basketball for Dave Samuels, and also took part in Key Club and Student Government prior to his 1974 graduation. He was inducted into the Livingston Hall of Fame in 1994. “My childhood was special. It was fostered by being raised by two great parents, Doris and Felix Beck, who loved Livingston, who believed in giving back to the community, they believed in serving the community, and my childhood was built around sports in every way.” Pick-up basketball games were often hosted at the Beck home, Bruce’s mom – a former Mayor of the township and first female to serve in the role – would bring out the lemonade and welcomed all. “We just enjoyed the Livingston experience,” Beck adds. “The community was always good to me. I lived close to Mount Pleasant School, so that was a normal playground for all of us as well. I went to Mount Pleasant Junior High School, I played basketball, and I loved every aspect of sports.” He was 9th grade class President. He also adds about his parents, “They were Livingston in every way. They embodied the great feelings of the community, and my two brothers and I were brought up to experience Livingston and love it in every way.”
And he loved announcing, starting at age 8, imitating Marv Albert, and he used to tell his folks he wanted to work at WNBC with Albert, Dick Schaap, and Len Berman. “I was lucky enough to fulfill that dream.”
After high school, he attended Ithaca College as an Accounting major, and ended up getting a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. However, everyone close to Beck knew he wanted to be a broadcaster, and in his senior year, he was awarded the National Honor Society AERho Award for Outstanding Broadcaster. “I was a non-major, so I was doing it on the side, and I was doing it because you have to get the experience, so I loved it. So, I was an accounting major, which was crazy, and then I spent all my time at the TV and radio station doing broadcasts for TV and broadcasts for radio. That was kind of like my background.”
Next up was Suburban Cablevision TV3 in East Orange, co-hosting the popular sports talk and call-in show, Time IN, with the recently retired Bob Ley, and then eventually moving into the host chair himself. “Suburban Cablevision covered state championship games like they were national championship games,” Beck recalls excitedly. “My boss was Bob Ley; he went on to ESPN. I also worked with Matt Loughlin, he became the voice of the New Jersey Devils. And I ended up going to WNBC. You know, we had a pretty good group that ended up doing pretty well in life.”
He wants others to do so as well, therefore the broadcasting mentorship, and being able to pass along his knowledge and experience to the next generation. “I was lucky enough to be mentored by Marv Albert, Sam Rosen, Jim Gordon, Jim Karvellas,” Beck says fondly. “I think that it’s my duty, my obligation, my responsibility to continue to foster the development of future broadcasters.” Beck since 2017 has hosted the Bruce Beck Sports Broadcasting Camp at Iona College in New York, and also co-hosted with Ian Eagle for 14 years at Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair. Beck always tells his camp attendees three things: attention to detail, preparation, and relationships are the key to his field and any business, and that relationships are even more important than the first two. He has built and continues to cement his with team owners, athletes, General Managers, and public relations staff. “That’s something that goes back to Livingston,” he says. “It goes back to my folks who, I honestly have to say, I’d be nowhere without them, without their leadership, love, and commitment.”
For Beck, the most compelling story he’s ever covered was during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. “The first (ever) Israeli gold medalist, Gal Fridman, won in the sport of windsurfing. I ended up finding him – calling Jerusalem, calling Tel Aviv, finding where the Israeli delegation was staying – I was the only one who got to him for an interview. He was secluded and was in a lockbox for security, was bubble-wrapped, insulated, and protected by the Israeli delegation, and I went and found him and got an interview. It led the news that night. That one will always stand out in my mind.” Another was the funeral of New York Giants owner, Wellington Mara. “To see the adulation and love at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was incredible.” He was also fortunate enough to cover Michael Phelps winning gold medal #8 in Beijing, Sarah Hughes winning the 2002 gold medal in figure skating (“I said to her, ‘Sarah Hughes is the Olympic gold medalist,’ and she said, ‘Say it again!’”), Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit and Mariano Rivera’s final game, both at Yankee Stadium, and David Tyree’s miraculous catch against his helmet during the Giants final Super Bowl XXXXII winning drive against the New England Patriots.
Bruce Beck is still happy in what he does. “I always say, ‘Reach for the moon and settle for the stars.’ I still believe in striving for excellence. I still believe in cultivating relationships. I still love the big story. I still want to be the best in what I’m doing. I’m still driven to beat ABC and CBS. I still want to be the best broadcaster that I can be. If I ever get to the point where I think I’m slipping or that I’m not putting forth the effort, I would say that would be the time to call it. But I’m nowhere near there; I’m still driven to perfection – which is impossible to achieve.” Even a legend has disclosed as much. “Bob Wolff, the great broadcaster, who passed recently and was in his 90s, came up to me one day and said, “Beck! I’ve got to tell you: I almost did it.’ I said, ‘What Bob?’ And he said, ‘Ah, I just missed.’ So, there is no such thing as a perfect show, a perfect broadcast, or perfect person. But you try your best to continue to entertain our viewership, continue to find stories that are compelling, continue to try to be honest and bring them the news of the day in a manner where sometimes you can have a commentary on it, somedays you can have an opinion. But more than anything it’s to present the facts, to present the stories that are ever changing, to show the human side of the athletes.”
He closes lauding WNBC. “The opportunity that I have had to work for this iconic station – it has been an honor, a blessing.”
And that makes Bruce Beck, a guy who also loves Livingston and sports, a happy guy.