Bob Papa Proves To Be A Giant Among Sports Broadcasters
By Joe McDonald
New Yorkers demand honesty from their announcers. Instead of the “homers” that call games thought the country, Big Apple announcers are expected to tell it like it is. That is something that New York Giants play-by-play man Bob Papa learned at an early on in his career.
“If you travel around the country, it’s pretty much a cheering section,” Papa said. “You can’t get away with that in New York; it’s a whole different style. People know what they are watching and listening to. They want you to say like it is. There is a way to criticize without being mean or vindictive and you have to walk that balance.”
The Fordham graduate learned the tricks of the trade from a legend, the late Marty Glickman, whom Papa met a short time after he graduated Rose Hill in 1986, while he was the PA announcer for the Rams.
“When Fordham was playing Seton Hall, Glickman was the voice for Seton Hall and [Fordham’s Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics] Frank McLaughlin introduced me to Marty, who listened to a couple of my tapes,” Papa explained. “He hired me a week later to be his backup for Seton Hall and that really got the ball rolling.”
Under Glickman’s guidance, Papa moved up the broadcasting ranks and eventually had jobs with the New Jersey Nets and calling the pre and post game shows for the Giants. Management made sure that the announcer was retained when the broadcast rights moved from WNEW-AM to WOR in 1991.
“The Giants were very good to me and they wanted me to stay on, because they were grooming me to replace Jim Gordon, which I did in September 1995,” Papa said.
Gordon was the longtime voice of Big Blue who called games at the Meadowlands from the time the organization moved to New Jersey.
“It was hard because the Giant don’t have a high turnover rate when it comes to radio and Jim had a great run there,” the broadcaster said. “But he made the transition very comfortable for me and it’s been a labor of love ever since.”
Over the years, Papa has seen the Giants field both good and bad teams. For the broadcaster, it didn’t matter how the Big Blue played as longs as there was a positive story to tell.
“Marty always ingrained on me to accentuate the positive,” Glickman’s protégée explained. “If the Giants aren’t making good plays, but the other team is, then talk about the great play of the other team. Always keep a positive spin on the broadcast and not let wins or losses get in the way.”
That advice allowed Papa to have a good relationship with management throughout his tenure. From Bill Parcells, who was the coach when he started, to today’s regime, the radioman always kept it professional and in turn, the coaches respected him for it.
In fact, his professional relationship with Dan Reeves became a friendship that has lasted until this day and he sees another side of Tom Coughlin that most people do not. “Coughlin is not as tough to deal with as many people think,” Papa said. “He will joke around and he will push buttons. I think I see a more personal side, even more than the players do. I think his bark is a lot louder than his bite.”
No matter how gruff Coughlin is with the players and media, it’s his coaching abilities that will get the Giants back to the playoff and contend for a championship. Papa enjoyed being a part of two Super Bowl teams - in 1991 as pre and post game announcer and 2001 when he called the game - and has seen victorious locker room and long plane ride home in defeat.
“It’s an interesting dynamic being at two Super Bowls - one that’s a win and one that’s a loss,” he said. “You can really see the pain in that locker room and the flight home the next day. You really feel for the players, since they start working with their off-season program and to get to the end of January and not win the ultimate prize is pretty tough.”
It’s something that Papa, now 40, hopes to do again and can expect to be behind the mike at the Meadowlands for years to come. tThe sportscaster calls Arena Football and other events for NBC. He also broadcasts on the Westwood One radio network and the YES Network. But it’s his work with the Big Blue that gives him stability.
“What’s better job than to be the voice of the Giants?” he mused. “You don’t have to worry about the organization moving or turnover in ownership. They are very loyal to their people.” Somewhere Glickman is smiling down at his student.