The Press Box celebrates episode #300 this weekend, a milestone of sorts as the show draws close to the end of our 6th season. A weekly round-table sports talk show, airing 52 weeks a year, with only a couple of repeats(which were both due to technical issues). It’s been a long haul to 300. So long in fact, it’s technically 301. You see, there was a ‘Pilot‘. And until now, it’s never been seen before.
First, some background… The Press Box was a simple concept, one that was easily explained (think ‘ESPN’s Sports Reporters’ but with Rochester media people). MacGregors was on board as title sponsor, and it was decided the show would be filmed on location each week, at the newest location – East Ave. & Alexander.
Doing a new TV show, especially one shot entirely on location, requires preparation. Knowing where to set up, where to place cameras, how to do lighting… these are all big questions that need to be answered. For production purposes, a ‘pilot’ shoot was necessary.
“Proof of Concept” – is another reason for filming a pilot. We knew what the show would be about – sports – but how would it flow? What was the right length for a segment or topic? Are we really going to have questions from the audience? Working out the kinks ahead of our premiere was vital.
The Pilot was shot on August 29, 2012. It was already established the episode would not be broadcast, so the dress code was informal. We were lucky to have some willing participants – Kim Berntson, Alex Zapesochny and Bob Matthews.
Kim was working on the John Ditullio show at the time – of course, now you can catch her every morning on WCMF’s The Breakroom with Pat Duffy and Tommy Mule. Kim also has been a part of the High School Sports Beat for the last 6 years or so.
Alex Zapesochny is an entrepreneur and also was a part of the editorial board of the Democrat & Chronicle. He’s a good friend of Bill Pucko’s, and while he may not be a huge sports fan, he did his research and came prepared to talk about all the topics, going as far as to memorize stats.
We were extremely lucky to have Bob Matthews for the pilot show. Bob is a legend in Rochester, a Hall of Famer and continues to host his own show on WHAM 1180. Bob was a regular on the Press Box from day 1… until about day 8.
Helping out, and serving as our fan correspondant, was Brian Mazurowski. Brian would sit in the 4th chair on many occasions in the future (see day 8 as noted above). Brian can now be heard every morning on WBEN radio in Buffalo.
Here’s the complete episode… with some more notes to add after you watch.
- For the pilot, and most of the 1st season, some of the staff of MacGregors was used for “bumpers”.
- The panel made Bills’ predictions – Bob picked 8 – 8, and Alex and Kim followed the same. The Bills ended up 6-10.
- The big baseball news was the Dodgers-Red Sox trade, that saw Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzales and Josh Beckett head to LA. The Dodgers looked good coming out of the trade, but the Sox would win it all the following year. The Dodgers didn’t get much out of Crawford or Beckett, but have been in the post-season every year since 2013, including the World Series last year. Bob called it right.
- Like it or Not – a mainstay of the program, started here as an audience Q & A segment. The audience participation aspect was dropped, and Jess (the MacGregors manager) would ask the questions. That continued until episode 18 (January 6, 2013) when Jess left MacGregors for another opportunity. From then on, Bill handled the questions.
- The Unfinished Business segment survived the pilot stage intact, and continues on. Bill stopped adding his own #UB eventually, due to time constraints. The pilot gets a little rough here, production-wise. I don’t recall the reason why, but am willing to blame it on the construction sounds.
There you have it. A simple beginning, proof that a round-table sports talk show could work. Not an especially strong episode, but interesting to watch with the added historical perspective. And now we know that Bob Matthews was pretty much dead on with most of his opinions.