Sports anchor Sam Ryan, a veteran of New York radio and TV, has covered some of the biggest sporting events during her 20+ year career.
Since 2006, Ryan has been the evening sports anchor on WCBS-TV. In the summer of 2009, Ryan came close to retiring from her visible post. With too much on her plate between four nights at Channel 2, weekend studio duties at CBS College Sports and most importantly her family life (two young children and a husband), Ryan needed to step back and make some decisions.
WCBS, though, didn’t want to lose their talented sportscaster. “[WCBS execs] came back with, basically, an 11th hour—like a 12th hour —what can we do to make you stay?” Ryan recalled.
After some coaxing, Ryan agreed to adjust her contract and work a shorter schedule. “I just never really thought that was an option. Basically, in television you’re either the main sports anchor or you’re the weekend sports anchor,” Ryan said.
Ryan maintains a presence on WCBS Monday through Wednesday nights. She is also the host of “Jets Flight Plan,” which airs weekends during the NFL season. Otis Livingston handles the other four days behind the anchor desk at Channel 2.
“Sam is a valuable member of our CBS2 Sports team and we’re thrilled she was able to stay with us,” David Friend, WCBS News Director, said. “She has perspective on our teams and players. She’s no out-of-towner and our audience appreciates that,” added Friend.
Ryan, who grew up in Port Jefferson and is an alumnus of New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, knew broadcasting would be her calling—in one form or another. “I actually started out doing news, [but] I grew up a sports fan and always wanted to do sports. There weren’t too many women in sports [casting] way back then.”
The Emmy-Award winning Ryan persisted, and has been seen or heard on some of New York’s top stations.
But it all started for Ryan at WHFM on the Long Island’s East End. “Twenty-two years old, working overnight radio shifts. It was basically archaic.” But despite the difficult working environment, Ryan said it made for quite a learning experience.
After some time, Ryan began the process of sending demo tapes, in hopes of landing a position as update anchor at WFAN. “When they felt I was ready, they put me on the air,” Ryan remembered.
Ultimately, Ryan was brought on board and landed in the overnight via Metro [now Shadow Broadcasting] for the first year. While there, she formed an important bond.
“Mike Francesa actually introduced me to Bob Wolff. [He] put me on the air at News 12 Long Island…for weekend sports. “I don’t think there was ever a woman doing a sportscast before.”
However, Ryan doesn’t consider herself to be a trailblazer. “I feel that there have been so many women before me… they’re the trailblazers.”
As she continues to blaze her career trail, working locally and nationally, along with the occasional fill-in shift at WFAN, Ryan works toward her dream job in broadcasting.
Using studio work at cable channel CBS College Sports, Ryan pushes herself into a role previously untapped. “It’s something that’s totally different from what I do here at WCBS…where everything is prepared [and] written,” Ryan said.
“You watch Greg Gumbel do the NCAA [studio hosting], you watch Timmy Brando do the college football show on CBS Sports, and James Brown do ‘The NFL Today.’ That’s something I’d love to aspire to,” Ryan admitted. “It takes a lot of work to really get to that point.”
Ryan feels the “CBS College” gig is helping her potentially get to “that point” someday, by getting her feet wet.
But as she looks to the future, Ryan took a moment to remember some past industry heroes.
“Jim McKay [longtime host of ABC’s Wide World of Sports] was the guy …on the national platform.” Locally, she praised the great New York Rangers announcing team of Sam Rosen and John Davidson.
On radio, “trailblazer” Leslie Visser has been an important person in her on-air growth.
“As far as knocking down hurdles, opening doors for us [women in sportscasting]…she’s just so supportive,” Ryan said. “She’s like a big sister.”
After a stint of nightly sportscasts at WABC-TV, Ryan got some invaluable experience at ABC Sports. In 2005, she served as “Monday Night Football” sideline reporter while Michele Tafoya was on maternity leave. During her four plus years at the network she was added to ESPN’s on-air roster as well.
“Basically… too much travel. Every week I was somewhere else,” Ryan admitted. “If you’re single, it’s manageable. But when you’re married with children, it’s tough.”
Of course, family is priority number one for Ryan. So much so, it led her to something else close to her heart—being the National Spokesperson for the March of Dimes.