If there was a shortcut to success, KNBR sports anchor Kate Scott didn’t pursue it. Her approach to a sports journalism career is surprisingly traditional for someone with such unconventional goals. Rather than chase higher-profile jobs around the country, the Cal grad stuck around, quietly establishing a booming career in her Bay Area backyard.
She has called high school football games, earned a prestigious position with KNBR, worked as a Pacific-12 Conference play-by-play announcer for women’s basketball, softball, soccer and volleyball. And now this: Week 2 of her audition as an NFL radio play-by-play announcer when the 49ers and Broncos meet Saturday in Denver.
Scott, 33, is substituting for longtime 49ers announcer Ted Robinson, who is on assignment in Rio de Janeiro. And while she isn’t out to poach someone else’s job, she hopes the experience leads to an opportunity with another club. This is her dream, she says without reservation, and she hopes this is her time.
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“When (KNBR sports director) Lee Hammer called last April and said the 49ers wanted to talk about this, I was scared to death,” she said from Denver. “I talked it over with my wife (Nicole), and I called Lee back the next day. And of course I had to take it! I am at a critical point in my career. Women in television don’t work as long as men because it’s a visual medium. Only a few, like Michele Tafoya and Mindi Bach, work into their 40s and 50s, and that’s because they’re already established. I know where I need to go, but you have to get that call.”
We all heard this coming.
Scott’s voice is pure butter.
One of the more interesting facets of her emergence in an aggressive, competitive Bay Area sports market is her ability to counterpunch callers and some of her own colleagues with potent, yet civil responses. She lends – dare we say – an element of civility to conversations that can deteriorate to kindergarten level.
“It’s like a boys locker room,” KNBR morning co-host Larry Krueger said, “but Kate is not overly sensitive. She is not afraid to tell you what she thinks. She’ll go back at me, she’ll go back at Gary (Radnich). I’m an aggressive person, so I like that. She’s smart and aggressive and honest. And another thing about Kate. So many personalities in our business are mercurial and volatile. She’s solid and professional, the same person every day.”
The 5-foot-6, athletic Scott grew up in Clovis and played every sport imaginable. She excelled at soccer and initially planned to attend college on an athletic scholarship, but after she tore knee cartilage her senior year of high school, she enrolled at Cal and in the sports journalism program. Her career ascension includes numerous internships, the freelance TV and radio opportunities that led to a full-time position with KNBR, and these two weekends, two NFL games.
Scott’s desire to call NFL games intensified after she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle four years ago in San Francisco. Left bruised and unconscious, with damage to her back and legs, she has no memory of the crash.
“I never let on how serious it was,” she said, “but that was like a big wake-up call. How much do I want this? How much are you willing to put into it? There was fear, too. ‘What if I mess up?’ But after you get hit by a car, other things are not so scary.”
To prepare for the games, Scott, who is the third woman to provide NFL play-by-play, has attended most of the 49ers minicamps and practices in Santa Clara. As part of her ritual, she went old-school, buying index cards and writing down pertinent details of every player.
The initial response has been overwhelmingly favorable, she says, though as every seasoned journalist learns, the explosion of social media mandates thick skin and ready responses.
“Ignoring the ugliness was hard when I first got into the business,” Scott admits. “You have to ignore a lot. But the reaction to the game (49ers vs. Texans) has been kind of shocking. I expected big blowback, a lot of negativity. A woman calling a man’s game? It hasn’t happened, and that’s been encouraging.”
Slow, steady, inevitable. That’s called progress.