Milwaukee – It was the experience of the first day of school for Lisa Byington, who was learning her way around the Fisher Forum, where the Bucks play their home games. Some television production trucks were stationed in a corridor away from the court, but Binton faced a dilemma: which team’s broadcast partner Bally Sports Wisconsin was from?
She took the chance and shook her head inside one of them and was excited to see some familiar people, including John Walsh, the Bucks’ broadcast director. Walsh greeted her, pointing to a box of cookies. “We still have some left!” he said. Binston arrived for his first home game on Sunday as the team’s new play-by-play voice.
“Everybody made me feel like family,” Byington later said. “It’s been a super easy position to walk into a position that shouldn’t be easy.”
For 35 years, Jim Paschke provided the soundtrack for the Bucks as his play-by-play voice, as well as the well-worn and beloved La-Z-Boy recliner. When she retired last season in the wake of the team’s first championship since 1971, she was replaced by Bington, 45, who made history as the first female full-time play-by-play broadcaster for a major men’s professional sports team. Make. About a week later, Kate Scott was hired to do play-by-play for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The hiring of both women this season is a sign of incremental progress in the predominantly male industry, though Binnington is well aware that not everyone will be accustomed to hearing a woman play Giannis Antetokounmpo for a dunk. relays to.
“You learn how to work with it, and you learn how to laugh about it,” she said. “And if there are fans who have concerns and they don’t fully understand it, I can listen. But ultimately I don’t think of myself as a female broadcaster. I think of myself as a broadcaster , and my goal is to do the job so well that people start thinking the same way.”
Growing up outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Byington learned from her parents, Linda and Bob, both teachers that she could dream big, that she could be ambitious in school and excel in sports, and her gender. won’t hold him back. “He made me feel like I could do anything in the world,” she said.
At Portage Northern High School, she helped lead the girls’ basketball team to the state semifinals. Her father was the coach, and as she came off the court after the team’s season-ending loss, they shared a tearful embrace. The moment was filmed in Kalamazoo by CBS affiliate WWMT for a story on their father-daughter connection.
“It was amazing to see, and it was the first time I felt the impact of the broadcast,” Byington said. “I always go back to that, because that’s really the first moment I started thinking, ‘Oh, this affected me, and maybe someday I can affect others in the same way.'”
At Northwestern, he played varsity basketball and soccer, majoring in journalism. (“I’m always better when I’m busy,” she said.) With a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, she entered the business as a sports anchor and reporter for modest-sized television stations in Michigan.
She was working her second job in local TV when she overheard a talk on sports talk radio about how Pam Ward was set to become the first woman to be the play-by-play voice for a college football game on ESPN. Binston was going to cover a high school football game at the time.
“I remember it being such a big deal,” she said of Ward’s trailblazing assignment.
A few years later, Byington was moonlighting as a sideline reporter for the Big Ten network when one of his bosses called with an unusual request. The network needed someone to do play-by-play for a women’s basketball game. This was unusual as Binton never did play-by-play. She wondered: How different could it be from anchoring a sportscast? Turns out, a lot.
“It was terrible, but I must not have spoiled enough because they kept asking me to do a bunch of different games,” she said.
Binton did play-by-play for softball and field hockey and football. He did men’s and women’s football. and gymnastics. and volleyball. Earlier this year, she was the first woman to participate in a play-by-play of men’s college basketball tournament for CBS and Turner Sports, and her call to be upset with Oral Roberts’ second round over Florida won media acclaim. Of.
And as the Bucks began evaluating candidates to replace Paschke in the weeks after winning last season’s championship, team president Peter Feigin found he was particularly impressed by the three consecutive hours of coverage that Byington had put in. The Big 3 League was supplied the playoffs. Byington was new to the Big3 but there she was live from the Bahamas, working a one-hour pregame show, which was followed by both semifinals.
“If you can do that, you can do anything,” Feigin said.
Binston was broadcasting a college football game on September 4, when her agent, Gideon Cohen, tried to call her, which she found strange: He knew she was on the air. When Binton opted not to pickup, Cohen resorted to sending a text message that featured a GIF of Antetokounmpo. He got a job at the box.
“After that everything was unclear,” she said.
Women have been broadcasting men’s games for years, Bington said, but not every game for a team and for a fan base.
“That’s the big difference, and that will be the big innings,” she said. “Because fans can handle the voice that’s coming in and out for national networks. But now you’re in the community, you’re going to events, you’re interacting with them, and it’s your voice in highlights and social media. Yes – that’s all.
And while Binston isn’t gullible about the importance of her gender, she hopes the story line has a short shelf life.
“It’s a part of the process,” she said. “But if you’re asking me the same question 10 years from now — or even next month — there’s a problem.”
On Sunday, the Bucks were in Milwaukee for their first preseason game at home, and when Binston walked to the court about an hour before the tip, he pulled out his phone to capture the moment. The stands were still empty, and a couple did a double-take: Was she the new announcer?
Binton chatted with Bucks sideline reporter Zora Stephenson, then made her way to the court to congratulate Beth Movins, who was preparing for her play-by-play duties with ESPN, which also broadcasts the game. Had been. Neither of them had a moment: two women calling out the same game for different networks.
“Maybe there’s a bigger thing than people realize,” Byington said.
Before long, Binton sat by the scorers table with his broadcast partner Marques Johnson as their show went live.
“So glad you can join us,” she said.