J-School Senior Gains Rare Experience Covering Spartan Sports During a Crisis

Eric Bach is a senior Journalism student from Coldwater, Michigan. Bach will be one of the first to graduate from the MSU J-school with the new Sports Journalism minor. He serves as the Sports Broadcast Director for Impact 88.9 FM and will be graduating in the Spring of 2021. 

"You know it's just us and the cardboard cutouts."

Journalism Senior Eric Bach gained a unique perspective as one of the only MSU students who has attended MSU basketball and football games over the 2020-2021 academic year. Bach has been calling play-by-play at MSU athletic events for the past four years as a part of 88.9 FM Impact Sports. However, during the global pandemic, the atmosphere in which Bach typically calls these games has not looked anything like it usually does.

"It's very weird. So, when the game ends, we go to break, and then we come back and do a post-game show, and it's dead silent in the Breslin Center,” said Bach. “The lights are dimmed, and it's like the game never happened. And we feel like when we speak and do our post-game show that we are being too loud."

This surreal environment hasn’t stopped Bach. Despite the changes in the arena, he has been able to compartmentalize and really focus on calling the game. “The amount of fans in the stands doesn't really have a whole lot of effect on the job that I do during the game," said Bach. "But then the game ends and you can take a breath and step back, you’re like, wow, this is really wacky.” In addition to calling games in empty stadiums, sports coverage for Impact Sports has drastically changed, specifically in travel capabilities. 

Bach recounts trips he took as an underclassman to the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York to cover Spartan Football. "That has just been completely halted this year," said Bach. "All the MSU road game broadcasts take place in our conference room in the station."

While certain aspects of Bach's coverage of Spartan Athletics have been cumbersome this year, there have been a few positives that have come out of everything. One of those happened in the post-game press conferences hosted on Zoom. Bach described how it is easier to assert himself as a reporter when asking athletes questions on Zoom instead of trying to get called on during an in-person press conference. In a physical press conference, he would sometimes be skipped over as a student, but the digital sphere has leveled the playing field, giving his participation the same weight as experienced reporters. 

Even before he got to MSU, Bach knew he wanted to do sports play-by-play. However, he credits the Sports Journalism minor and opportunities at ComArtSci for taking him to the next level. 

"I took Dan Dickerson's play-by-play class in the spring of 2019, my sophomore year, and that really helped me hone it," said Bach. "That was the first actual feedback I've ever gotten on play-by-play." Bach also commends the journalism classes that he took with faculty member Joanne C. Gerstner, noting that she provided him with incredible access to interview MSU student-athletes.

After graduation, Bach hopes to turn his ComArtSci degree into an opportunity to become a play-by-play voice for a professional baseball team. He already has a position lined up as Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations with the Morehead City Marlins of the Coastal Plain League.

By Joe Strother