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Oct 20

Life Slogan-Sports Talk With Anthony Bonelli And Dan Valleau And More

People sometimes use words or phrases to give them strength when they are dealing with adversity. Sports teams use slogans that they feel best describe their mindset for a season. The slogan can identify season goals, or simply motivate players. The Brooklyn Nets’ slogan for the 2017- 2018 season is, “WE GO HARD.” Another way one might interpret this slogan, is saying a team will not stop until they get what they want. Chris Carrino, who just began his 17th season as the Nets’ Franchise radio play-by-play announcer, may not have voiced that this was his family’s Life Slogan, but he and the people around him exemplify the meaning of these words daily.

Children tend to mimic what they see on television. When Carrino was a child, he would watch sporting events on television with the volume turned down and record himself doing play-by-play of the game he was watching. One of the most common practices when a person is recording themselves is to listen to the recording when they are finished. When Carirno listened to his recording, he noticed something was missing; “There was no crowd noise.” In 1980, NBC Sports decided to try something different in terms of television coverage. The December 20th game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins did not have a play-by-play crew. While some people may not have been fond of this new idea, there was a young man who lived in New York who was thrilled, Carrino remembers thinking, “When I heard that they were going to broadcast this game with no announcers, I said, well that’s perfect. I can do the game and I’ll have the crowd behind me and I’ll have the effects and I’ll hear the tackles, I’ll hear the PA announcer, not realizing that if that had taken off, I would have never had the career that I’ve had. Admittedly, Carrino was not thinking that this fun activity would lead to a career saying, “I didn’t do it thinking I’m going to do this, or I want to grow up and be a sports announcer. I just did it because it was fun.”

The New York native attended college at Fordham University in the Bronx New York. During his time as a Ram, Carrino and others who were involved with the school’s radio station, WFUV were mentored by legendary radio broadcaster, Marty Glickman. Prior to attending his first workshop taught by Glickman, Carrino did research and was amazed by Glickman’s career. “And then you realize all the things that he had done in his career, how for so long he was the voice of the Knicks and the voice of the Giants, how he invented a lot of the terminology that’s used to do play-by-play. And then you learn more things about him, about his background at Syracuse as an All- American football player and track star, also him being on the 1936 Olympic Team. You know they talk about the most interesting man in the world that might have been Marty Glickman.” During the workshop Carrino made two important decisions, “I realized two things at the moment, the first time I met him; number one, I was really interested and this is what I wanted to do now, this was going to be my focus and what I want to do; and number two, I didn’t know how to do it. What I thought I knew was not what it was and I had to now forget everything that I thought I knew and listen to Marty and let him teach me what to do.”

As a senior, Carrino won an award from MSG Networks, he was named the Best Student Play-By-Play Announcer in the Tri-State Area. As the winner, Carrino was given the opportunity to broadcast the third quarter of a New York Knicks game at iconic Madison Square Garden with Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The night before he would be heard on the Knicks’ flagship station, Sports Radio 66 WFAN, New York, he received a congratulatory phone call from his mentor. As one of Glickman’s protégés, Carrino distinctly remembers the last piece of advice he received prior to hanging up the phone. As Carrino tried to do his best Marty Glickman impression, he relayed the advice using a thick New York accent. “Listen, you’re going to go to Madison Square Garden tomorrow night and do a New York Knicks game with Walt Frazier, but you do the game just as you’ve done every other game for the last four years at Fordham. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Rose Hill Gym or the Hofstra Gymnasium or Madison Square Garden, the game is still the game and do the damn game like you’ve done every other damn game.”

On April 14, 1992, the New York Knicks played the Washington Bullets. Carrino remembers being given a tour of Madison Square Garden by fellow Fordham alumnus, Mike Breen, who hosted the Knicks pregame and postgame shows on WFAN. During the tour, Carrino recalled feeling at home saying, “When I got to the Garden that night, I was met by Mike Breen…Mike found me and introduced himself, being another Fordham guy, he gave me a tour of the Garden and all the places I needed; how I get to the press box, how I get to the press room and everything I might need and he kind of looked out for me that night.”

It was the third quarter, which meant it was time for the regular play-by-play announcer, Jim Karvellas, to give up his chair to Carrino. During the broadcast, Frazier noticed that the aspiring broadcaster did not seem to be nervous, after he described a Patrick Ewing-made jump shot from the free-throw line saying, “Chris, you’re supposed to have the Gardenitis. You don’t sound nervous at all,” Carrino responded, “Oh I’ve got the butterflies, it’s good to have the butterflies though, keeps you sharp.”

People can tell when something is not right with their body; Carrino was experiencing this feeling as an upperclassman at Fordham. He noticed that the things he used to be able to do were becoming more difficult. Feeling confused, he was trying to find reasons as to why he was feeling this way. “I was a good player, especially baseball. I was an All-District player, and I was a catcher, and you know the physical nature of that. I played on the tennis team in high school. I was very physically active and athletic…In some ways it was alarming that I couldn’t do the things that I used to do, but then I’m thinking, well maybe that’s just part of getting older. It was confusing more than anything and a little alarming. My first thought was, well I’m not physically active like I was when I was a teenager. I need to work out more. So I would take time in school when I didn’t have class and I’d go to the gym and I’d go try and run or I’d go lift weights. Then I thought maybe I just need a vitamin.”

Carrino then noticed his right arm had become thinner. He had a discussion with his father who suggested that he go see a doctor. His father thought maybe there was a pill that he could take to correct this. Carrino went to the doctor who carefully examined his right arm and then said, “There’s definitely some kind of a Muscular Dystrophy.” As we sat in Carrino’s Marlboro Township, New Jersey home, more than 20 years after he received this life-changing news, he still had a perplexed tone in his voice when describing his reaction, “I was taken aback by that, I was like wait a minute, Muscular Dystrophy is what I see on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. You know, children in wheelchairs and severely disable people. I said how is that possible?” The doctor then informed Carrino that there were different types of Muscular Dystrophy.

Carrino then went to another doctor for a second opinion, who diagnosed him while he was walking down a hallway. He said, “I’m pretty sure I think I know what you have, I’m going to send you to another specialist…I think you have this thing called FSHD, but we’ll have to send you to a Neurologist to get a muscle biopsy.” When the results came back, the doctor’s original thought was confirmed, Carrino was diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD) which is a form of Muscular Dystrophy that progressively weakens the facial, shoulder, upper arm, and leg muscles in a person’s body. When Carrino asked the doctor what he could do, he was told to stay as active as he could, but there was no cure for the disease. Carrino defiantly proclaimed, “All right, well then I’m just going to continue to live my life. I’m not going to think about where this is going, I’m just going to think about what it’s like today and I’ll just continue to chase and pursue my dreams that I’ve had. I’m not going to let this stop me.”

In the broadcasting business, aspiring broadcasters often must work towards the goal of being a broadcaster by doing what people in the broadcasting business call, “behind the scenes work.” In 1992, Carrino was hired by the New Jersey Nets as a studio producer and feature reporter. As he became more experienced, he became a studio host and the backup radio play-by-play announcer.

In 2001, Carrino was promoted to the full-time radio play-by-play announcer position. Carrino’s eyes became brighter when he recalled his reaction to the promotion. “From 1992 to 2001, that’s nine years, that’s almost a decade. That’s a long time of doing the behind the scenes work, of paying your dues, and when you finally get there, it’s almost just this natural progression. You’ve done so much to get to that point. In that moment you reflect on everyone that has helped you, everything you’ve dreamed about when you were a little kid and suddenly you realize, I just got named to one of thirty NBA play-by-play jobs. I’m 31, I think I’m going to be the youngest guy in the league doing it, and I remember calling Laura, she was my girlfriend. I remember calling her and calling my mom, those were the two people I called and both of them were crying when I told them. Then it put it into perspective, when I told somebody what happened.” Carrino certainly was going hard in pursuit of his dream.

When the then New Jersey Nets made the NBA Finals in 2002, Carrino was given advice by Brian McIntyre, who was the NBA Senior Vice President of Public Relations in 2002. McIntyre told Carrino, “I hope you don’t take this for granted, because there are guys who work in this business for 30 years who never get to do what you’re doing right now.” Carrino reassured McIntyre that he would not. When the Nets returned to the NBA Finals in 2003, Carrino jokingly said to McIntyre, “By the way, I know I’m not supposed to take this for granted, but we’re here again, and I’m still not taking this for granted.”

When people work in an organization for several years, they build a reputation for themselves. Very few people knew about Carrino’s disability during his first 10 years as lead radio play-by-play man for the Nets. In 2011, with encouragement from his wife Laura, Carrino founded the Chris Carrino Foundation, to help find a cure for FSHD. Carrino said, “I always had it in my mind, ever since I was diagnosed, knowing that there was nothing that could be done, I always had in the back of my mind, one day when I make a name for myself…then I’ll put my name on something and try to help raise money and try to get involved with helping people.”

In its six-year existence, the foundation has helped fund many research projects to help researchers find a cure for FSHD. Carrino relates a quote from former New Jersey Nets Head Coach Lawrence Frank to starting the foundation. Frank was explaining how to break pressure defense, “Sometimes the ball handler has to participate in his own rescue.”

Carrino in turn said, “There aren’t enough of us with FSHD that overwhelmingly the world is going to want to help us. We have to go out and we have to: number one, do the things that will lead to treatment or a cure, like raise money, and get scientists involved: the other part, and I try and set this example, lead a good life, put into the world what you want to get out of it” Referring to the charity, he said, “We don’t have millions of dollars to give out, but what we do is we feed seed research that then leads to breakthroughs.”

When Carrino started the foundation, there were no pharmaceutical companies doing research about a possible drug that would help people with FSHD. According to Carrino, now there are over 20 pharmaceutical companies working on a drug to help cure the disease. This is another example of how the Carrino family exemplifies the words used in their Life Slogan.

A baby boy is sometimes given his father’s first name, this creates an instant connection between the baby boy and his father, even before the little boy does anything that a proud father will remember forever. Christopher Carrino was born in 2004. Throughout his life, as any child does, he has learned so much about his father. Yes, some might say Christopher has learned several things about the broadcasting business, or sports, but that is not all he has learned about. Chris and Laura have watched their now 13-year-old son, become an integral part of the team that is searching for a cure for the disease that makes it difficult for his father to do certain tasks.

Fathers and sons share special moments together, in the case of Carrino and his son, they have shared unique, but special moments together, “Sometimes it upsets me to think that having the limitations physically that I’ve had over the years, not being able to do the kinds of things that fathers and sons do. When he was little and growing up I couldn’t go and run with him, throw him batting practice from 60 feet, or put him on my shoulders at a parade or something. I couldn’t do those things and it used to really bother me.”

Watching their child grow can be one of the most rewarding things parents can do. Sometimes children show their parents that they understand and appreciate what they have taught them. Every year the foundation has a dinner as one of its fundraising events. Prior to this year’s dinner, Christopher informed his parents that he would like to speak at the event. When his parents asked him what he wanted to talk about he said, “I don’t want to tell you, I just want to do it.”

When the proud father recalled his reaction to his son’s speech, there was a prideful tone in his voice. “I didn’t see him working on it, I was a little worried that when he got up there he wasn’t going to be prepared, but he was ready, he was prepared, he was nervous but he did it and it was very impressive…I know he was mirroring a lot of what I always say, but to see this person who just absorbed all this his whole life and now has the confidence to get up there and just speak from the heart to all these people, it’s a little bit of an affirmation for me and my wife, that what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do is having a positive effect on the world and it’s represented in my son and what he’s able to do.” Another member of the Carrino family is emulating their Life Slogan.

Besides his work with the Nets, Carrino also works on both radio and television for various networks. In 2008, he was part of the NBC Sports Olympic broadcasting crew. In Beijing, Carrino served as a play-by-play announcer for both Men’s and Women’s Basketball. Currently, Carrino is the lead play-by-play announcer for Compass Media Networks NFL National game of the week. During the NFL preseason, Carrino works on the New York Giants’ radio network, WFAN, this is also where Carrino began his broadcasting career as an intern in 1991.

Decades after Carrino was mentored by one of the pioneers in broadcasting, he is sharing the knowledge he has gained throughout his career with aspiring broadcasters. In July, Carrino and his Nets radio partner, and friend Tim Capstraw, began the Chris Carrino & Tim Capstraw Sports Broadcasting Camp. The Nets radio duo took over the teaching duties for the first-year section of the camp after the founders of the camp, Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle decided after 15 years to step away.

When beginning a new venture, people sometimes feel several emotions. Carrino said, “When I talked to Dave Popkin (Camp Director) about doing the camp and Tim, I had a little bit of reservation because I didn’t want the kids and parents to think that this was some sort of a ‘come to our camp and your kids going to be a professional broadcaster,’ because it’s such a difficult profession to make a living in. I didn’t want to give the wrong impression or want them to think that if you pay me I’ll make your son into a sports broadcaster, I would never want that idea to be in peoples’ heads when they come to our camp. But what I saw in the opportunity is, I like to teach, I think I’m a pretty good teacher, the things that Marty Glickman taught me, I think I’m able to teach them and inspire young people. I thought the camp was an opportunity for kids to learn about the business which is fun for them, it’s a little inside information for them that I think they enjoy and I think we’re teaching them lessons that go beyond being a professional sports broadcaster. To become a more effective, confident communicator will help them in every walk of life, in anything that they do and that is my first priority with the kids at the camp.” Carrino and Capstraw teamed up, this time off the radio or television airways, to teach young people the importance of hard work in life.

Creating a culture takes time, it is essential to reinforce the concept of that culture regularly. The Carrino family has created a culture, one that perfectly embodies the words in the Brooklyn Nets’ 2017- 2018 slogan, "We Go Hard." Chris may receive most of the accolades and praise, but as he said, “It takes a team; no one accomplishes anything in this world by themselves. Whether it be people who have influenced you in your life, inspired you, maybe in the case of you and I, people have to physically help us do things. It takes a team to get you through. It’s like the Call of the Wild, the Jack London book written about the dogs, it takes the pack to help you.” The Brooklyn Nets will only use these words for inspiration for one season, but the Carrino family can use it as a Life Slogan.