Tim Healey Relishes Dream Job

The football team's bye week, is also a chance for the Voice of the Sun Devils to rest his vocal chords, and will he ever need that time to prepare for a grueling week of broadcasting. Starting on Wednesday next week and for the seven days to follow, Tim Healey will broadcast four basketball games, one football game, and emcee a football team banquet to boot. But if you ever thought for one minute that he'd be dreading going back and forth to Tempe every other day - think again.

Tim Healey, who has been broadcasting Arizona State sporting events on the radio since 1998, grew up in Washington D.C. area and graduated Penn State in 1973 with a degree in Broadcasting. His first television job was that year in Salisbury, MD, and he also worked in Scranton, PA – both in the news department. His first sports anchor job came in 1979 at KDFW TV in Dallas. He arrived on the valley broadcasting scene in 1983 as channel's 3 sports director, and left for another Phoenix station, channel 10, in 1985 where he worked for three years. Following one year in Seattle in the KIRO station, he came back to Phoenix in 1988 and was hired once again by channel 3 where he worked for the next 11 years.

His first broadcast of an ASU game on TV came in 1988, in the team's season opener against Illinois. Healey was the color analyst, and worked together with Ray Scott, former voice of the Green Bay Packers, who was the play-by-play announcer. Healey's first play-by-play T.V. assignment was in 1989 following Scott's retirement, which was another ASU season opener this time against Kansas State.

Along with broadcasting the Devils games on the tube, Healey also hosted various ASU coach's shows with former skippers Bill Frieder, Larry Marmie and Bruce Snyder. His ASU radio work started as a freelancer on KTAR as he replaced Tom Dillon. In the Spring of 1999, he was hired by what is known today as Viacom, who owned the ASU radio broadcasting rights.

DevilsDigest: When you were hired as the Voice of the Sun Devils, was it largely because your years of experience broadcasting ASU games on TV.?

Tim Healey: "I would imagine that would have to be a huge reason. I'd like to think my ability had something to do with it too, but that had to be a big reason. When a guy has been the voice (of the Sun Devils) as long as Tom was, it can be a disruption for fans to have a completely new strange unheard of voice come in and broadcast the games. Yet with me, I was doing those games on T.V. all those years. I also had a very good relationship with the ASU athletic department when I was the emcee at various functions like the football banquet. So I was very familiar to a lot of ASU people and fans, and I'm sure that helped me with my bid to become the full-time radio announcer."

DD: Did you ever do T.V./radio simulcast, or was 1998 the first time you did the ASU play-by-play on the radio?

TH: "Yes, it was exclusively T.V. for all those years. The one experience I had with simulcast – I was the radio voice of the Arizona Cardinals in 1995, while still working at channel 3 and doing ASU on television. The Cardinals used to simulcast their pre-season games, so I did some work there. But with ASU it has been always separate."

DD: When you made that transition from T.V. to radio, what did you find to be the biggest adjustment?

TH: "Radio is more challenging from the standpoint that you don't have any pictures to transmit to the listener. You have to be the eyes and ears and paint the entire picture for them. So you have to talk more, set the scene, and fully describe the play. On television, you don't need that many words. I learned from one of the best in that area, Ray Scott. He was the master of less is more style broadcasting. A typical call by Ray in a Packers game would be ‘Bart Starr…this is Boyd Dowler…touchdown.' That's all he would have to say. Your words just fill in the blanks. Radio is more challenging and I find that broadcasters love that challenge. I enjoy radio more than television because you can be more descriptive."

DD: In an ASU game that's just broadcasted on radio, do you find yourself having an extra bounce in your step and probably trying to put in even more into your broadcast with no T.V.?

TH: "Probably. I honestly believe I work hard and give it my best shot I have every game. But when there's no television, I do feel a little bit more responsibility, and I'm more focused because this is the only way people will follow this game. Generally, when I'm focused I work better anyway so I'd like to think it comes out just fine. But if the game is on ABC, it's not like I'm gonna sit in a lounge chair and slump off (smile). I think they're a lot of people that even if the game is on network television, they will turn down the sound and turn the radio up. The comment that I hear the most is that the network announcers don't, and they really shouldn't compared to us, know as much about what's going on with the team, the background of the players and so forth."

DD: That leads us to the next question. Cynical fans would say that a voice of a team like yourself, is the ultimate homer. How do you view that theory, and do you feel immune during the times when an ASU team struggles?

TH: "I kind of dislike the term homer and don't like to be called one. My philosophy is that as a home team announcer – through the enthusiasm, the background, and the knowledge I have of the team, it's probably obvious what team I want to do well. When you broadcast games exclusively for one team, you can't but help bond emotionally with the people that are part of the team."

"On the other hand, I really feel that a play-by-play guy is ultimately a reporter. You're describing an event as it's happening live. Although the subject matter is less grave or serious, there's not a whole lot of difference between a sports play-by-play guy reporting to sports fans and Walter Cronkite describing a space shuttle launch on CBS television. Ultimately, you're reporting events as they happen. So if someone hasn't given good effort, over the years Jeff (Van Raaphorst, ASU football color analyst) and I have reported that. Obviously he's an alum, and I consider myself a Sun Devil – my son goes to school at ASU and I've been working with the program for 17-18 years. But we have a responsibility not only to the school, but also to the fans who listen to be as honest as we can in our broadcast."

"So to me a homer is one who shamelessly cheerleads and is an apologist for the program. He's an announcer that will use personal pronouns like ‘we' and ‘us' when talking about the team and I have steadfast refuse to do so through out the years. I'm not part of the Sun Devil football team and my name isn't on the roster last time I checked (smile). You're not always losing because you're getting bad breaks or bad calls. Sometimes you're losing because you're playing poorly or the other team is doing good things and you have to recognize it as such."

DD: Do you find your broadcasting style, maybe even subconsciously, changing as the team goes through a winning or losing streak? Would you be more upbeat when the team is going through some good times and have a different demeanor when the team is hitting a low point?

TH: "I really take pride in working hard and preparing hard every game, no matter what the context of the season is. I don't think there's any question, and I said that earlier, that as an announcer you have to a certain extent detach yourself from the team and recognize good play from the opponents. In spite of all that, when your team is struggling it's still a fun job but just not as fun. I have to say that cautiously, because mine is a job that I think a lot of people would gladly try to do for free. But it's a great job if the team you're broadcasting is winning. When a team is losing, coaches and players tend to be a little more irritable and harder to deal with. But I never approach the games any differently whether they're winning or losing."

DD: ASU is one of the few universities that's located in a large metropolitan area and competes for the sports fan's dollar with all four pro sports. From your vantage point how much does that affect ASU athletics or do you believe that it's just a matter of ‘if they win they will come'?

TH: "I think it's a real challenge competing will all four pro sports – no question about it. For whatever reason, whenever college teams and pro teams co-exist in the same market, more fans and media tend to follow the pro teams. For whatever reason, and I don't think it's right, I've always gotten the sense that people perceive pro sports to be more significant or even furthermore that there's something less sophisticated with following a college team. For example, if the Phoenix Suns are doing well, it's almost a socially significant thing to be seen at a game or it's trendy to be a Suns fan. The following of college teams seems less sophisticated because a lot of colleges are located in areas that have no pro sports."

"When I was working in T.V. my goal was always to go to a major market, and when you say major market as sportscaster you're taking about a mainly pro sports market. You don't want to get to Tallahassee, you want to get to Miami. As a result, the college teams located in markets of pro sports teams have to work extra hard to get their share of ticket sales, fans and media coverage. But if you have continually winning teams – they will come. I always said that if ASU football was good, to the point that you could pencil them in for 7-8 wins a year, and I'd like to think they're close, I think ASU football could rule this town and market. It would be interesting to see what would happen here if ASU basketball was as good as a program like Arizona."

DD: You did TV coach's shows in the past, and for the last few years they haven't been in existence. Is this something that you miss, and do you believe it will come back in the future?

TH: "From what I understand it's more of a Fox network policy more than anything like lack of interest. Fox Sports Net has become ASU's local T.V. rights holder, much like channel 3 used to be, but for whatever reason they have a policy that they don't do coach's shows but rather have the Sun Devil Insider show or what used to be Running with the Devils. It's not only here, but it's everywhere else where Fox is tied into a local college team. I enjoyed doing them and I'd do them gladly again. I think they're beneficial to the program. I know what Rob Evans would love to do a show. I don't know about Dirk Koetter because his week is so busy and tightly scheduled. Maybe he would like it, I really don't know."

DD: What is your favorite and least favorite Pac-10 venue to visit?

TH: "I've always liked the trips to the Northwest. I lived in Seattle for a year and half, and that area is beautiful. Your three most prototypical college towns in the conference are at Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State. I always enjoyed those college towns. I don't have a least favorite, but I'm not a fan of Berkeley. It's so condensed and the traffic and parking are a real headache, but it's a beautiful campus. I know ASU fans would probably want me to say Tucson is my least favorite (smile), but we get along with the folks at Arizona and I enjoyed those visits because they're usually high intensity games."

DD: Sitting in the broadcast booth, they're probably some instances where you sit next to the ASU Coaches' booth. Any stories you can share from all your years of being in close proximity to the Sun Devil staff?

TH: "You don't really hear a lot, unless they pound on the table if something goes wrong or there's a penalty. The best story, and it does have a sad twist, happened during the Arizona game in 2000 where ASU won 30-17. That was the game where Bruce Snyder was already fired, and as the last game seconds ticked away then tight ends coach Robin Pflugrad hand wrote a sign and hung it up on the window so we could see it and it said "Will Coach for Food.' I thought it was funny and also sad in a way because this staff was on its way out."

DD: You touched a little about the rivalry, which to us here in the Grand Canyon State is pure hatred and that's probably an understatement. Again, from your vantage point how do you view this rivalry and what impact if any does it have on the broadcast?

TH: "It's a rivalry unlike any I've seen. I've been to other parts of the country, and this rivalry doesn't get enough play nationwide as one of the great ones. I haven't been to other rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, but I can't believe a rivalry filled with more hatred and animosity as ASU-Arizona. At times to me it's really scary and it's gotten out of proportion. You'd like to se those schools compete passionately on the field and have respect for each other, but it doesn't seem to be that way with the fans. We've seen some ugly episodes like the 1996 game there, the 2001 game here. It is what it is and that intensity is what makes it such a great rivalry."

"Other than Jeff showing his true anti U of A colors in his remarks (smile) during the game, I don't know if it has any impact on the broadcast other than you get more focused and enthused for the game. You know it will be a great spectacle that will unfold in front of you and it's fun to be part of."

DD: Can you give us a quick synopsis of all three major sports, with football winding down and basketball and baseball about to start in the future?

TH: "In football, the season hasn't gone quite as I hoped. I didn't know what to expect from this team in August, but I was hopeful they would win 7-8 games. With all that they have been through, the injuries, playing poorly against Oregon and Stanford, it would be a nice way to end the and beat Arizona and win the bowl game. With the transfers at defensive line, the outstanding contributions they got from both quarterbacks, hopes would be high for next year."

"Men's basketball – it will be a work in progress, as coach Evans says. They'll obviously miss Ike Diogu greatly and it all hinges on how quickly the newcomers can come in and develop. They'll be a unanimous decision to finish last in the Pac-10 and you really can't argue with that in pre-season, but be hopeful that it will be better during the season. If memory serves me correctly, every time they were picked to finish last in the Pac-10 not only did they not finish last but they went on to the NIT tournament. If they can do that this year, it would be a tremendous accomplishment for Evans and his staff. They will lean on Kevin Kruger and Serge Angounou, but I really believe it comes down to the newcomers to contribute right away."

"Baseball is the one constant – they have been good every year I have broadcasted them. They have been in the post-season every year I broadcasted and had a spectacular post-season run, that was really the highlight of my broadcasting career. The incredible run they had in Omaha – it was like a magic carpet ride. They look like they signed another top ranked recruiting class and have a lot of highly touted recruits that will start playing this January. Again, just like basketball, the degree of their success will depend on how the newcomers can contribute and establish themselves. Coach Murphy and his staff do a great job and you know it will be another fun season."

DD: Last question, you've been around Sun Devil sports for nearly 20 years now. Did you ever think what you'd be doing if you weren't the Voice of the Sun Devils?

TH: "Probably still grinding out the three minutes of sports news on some local T.V. station and that would be nowhere as nearly as enjoyable or satisfying as being the Voice of the Sun Devils. This job is a dream come true for me. I've just been really thrilled and honored to have it."

Many thanks to Big E Sundvl and KK Devil who assisted with the questions for this interview.

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