July 12, 2023

Inside a day in the life of Bruce Beck: ‘Hardest working man in show business'

Inside a day in the life of Bruce Beck: ‘Hardest working man in show business'

By Andrew Marchand, NY Post - This article originally appeared here

It is all there in the “bunker.” That’s what Bruce Beck calls the office in the basement of his White Plains home. The pictures on the wall tell the story of decades of sports, New York and Beck’s role in it all.

There is a photo of Beck with Derek Jeter. There is Beck with Joe Namath. There are Pelé, Muhammad Ali and Eli Manning. Over there is Beck and Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner.

But there is more than just famous athletes on the walls of Beck’s office. In the bunker are the reasons why Beck, 66, has outworked everyone in his field to put his name with all-timers like Marv Albert, Bill Mazer, Len Berman and Warner Wolf as New York City sports institutions.

In the bunker, there is the shrine to his late parents. His father, Felix, was a renowned mortgage banking CEO. His mother, Doris, became the first female mayor of Beck’s hometown of Livingston, N.J., in 1975. Their example still guides their son.

Bruce and his wife, Janet, have two sons, both married, and six grandchildren. The grandkids’ colorful artwork is hung proudly in the bunker.

There is a tribute to beloved figures who have died, such as Wellington Mara, Post photographer Anthony Causi and Mets PR woman Shannon Forde. Their lasting light is a reminder to Beck each day.

The pictures tell the story of why Beck is still an integral part of New York sports and why he is the last of the truly impactful local sports anchors. Certainly, he is the top one in New York, and perhaps the country.

Beck may not have the distinctiveness of Albert, the smoothness of Berman, the trivia of the late Mazer or an all-time catch phrase like Wolf’s, “Let’s go to the videotape.”

What Beck provides for WNBC is the most hustle and heart in the business.

“I love doing the broadcast,” Beck said “I love doing the interviews, but being around the people. That’s kind of the joy of it.”

‘Hardest working man in show business’

Last month, I spent a day with Beck, going to Giants practice in New Jersey, the Subway Series games at Citi Field and then to 30 Rock for his broadcast. He has been covering New York sports for more than four decades with 26 years at NBC, including the last 14 as Berman’s successor as the lead sports anchor.

I rode shotgun with him for the day to see how he still makes local sports TV important.

When my fellow sports writers at Giants practice and Citi Field saw me, following Beck around, nearly to a man and woman, they said he is “The hardest working man in show business.”

That is certainly part of it.

The thing that makes Beck special is that he doesn’t have to do it the way he does. He could be a rip-and-read guy, meaning a desk jockey who just stays in a nice, air conditioned studio and reads the scores.

Berman largely read a teleprompter, reciting the news at 6 and the highlights at 11 with a nice dinner in between. It worked for him, but it was a different time.

Beck has remained vital to WNBC because, on the day I spent with him, he was out the door at 9:15 a.m. and did not return home to White Plains until 1 a.m. He sleeps four or five hours a night.

“There is no time,” Beck said.

Dynamic duo

Beck and his cameraman, Jimmy Roberts, are like a Batman and Robin combo. They were in the same NBC orientation class in 1988 and have spent decades having each other’s back. Roberts says he spends more time with Beck than he does with his wife. The two are everywhere.

“He loves to build relationships,” Roberts said. “He and I, it is the same thing, it’s about relationships — players, coaches, owners, GMs, and just accommodating people.”

At each venue, they know everybody, from the PR folks to the security guards to the people serving food in the cafeteria. The relationships make up an extended sports family.

Together, Beck and Roberts have produced thousands of reports. Beck uses his trusty manilla folders and sharpies, because that combo is wind and rain resistant. His reports have an energy that sounds like an engine revving up. He understands his local audience consists of broad sports fans and treats them with respect with his concise accuracy.

By night, the folders end up in the bunker, which has files from everyone in New York sports.

‘Welcoming presence’

At the Giants’ minicamp, it was easy to see and hear why Beck is beloved. The Giants’ senior director of football communications, Dion Dargin, credited Beck, unsolicited, for supporting his journey, which began as an intern from Detroit in 2015.

“He has this welcoming presence about him,” Dargin said. “Even as popular as he is, he treats everyone with respect and empathy. He’s not like super high maintenance. He’s not like, ‘I’m the TV guy, treat me special’ or anything like that. I think that’s what makes him unique.”

This, combined with the fact Beck outhustles his rivals, allows him to make connections. When I traveled with Beck, it was the second day of minicamp. On the first day, there were other TV reporters out there, but, by the second, it was pretty barren, save for sports writers.

In Beck’s schmoozing, he picked up two phone numbers. One was for tight end Darren Waller, the Giants’ big personality and offseason pickup, and the other was for receiver Jaylin Hyatt, the Giants’ third-round pick this spring. No one else on local TV has those contacts.

Those are the building blocks to get players to stop for a big interview or to come in for Beck’s Sunday night half-hour show, “Sports Final.”

Glue guy

In June, after we spent from late morning til mid-afternoon at the Giants’ camp, there was no time for a real lunch, because we had to hurry to Citi Field for the Yankees and the Mets. The clubhouse opened at 3 p.m.

We just picked up a sandwich at Bagel Buffet, just a field goal away from MetLife. Beck ate while he drove. He arrived at Citi Field in time to snag one-on-ones with Jeff McNeil, Adam Ottavino and Clay Holmes after he had snared Francisco Lindor, Mark Cahna and Jake Bauers the previous day.

From there, it was back to the studio for the evening news, where he is a leader.

For years, Beck was the No. 2 to Berman, but, though he is the star now, an Olympics fixture and has his own Sunday night show, he remains a glue guy.

When Natalie Pasquarella arrived at WNBC in 2015 as a weekend anchor, Beck welcomed the Ohio native, making her feel like she was home.

“It’s like you’re one of his family members,” Pasquarella, now a lead weeknight anchor, said.

He even starts families. Beck is Jewish, but he became an Ordained Minister through the Universal Life Church nearly a decade ago when one of his producers, Michael Hilzenrath, asked him to officiate his wedding to his now-wife, Jenna. After that, he married Roberts and another one of his producers, Dan Kerber, to their wives.

The lessons of his parents

The Bruce Beck story is about family. It started with his parents and continues with his rock, Janet, his wife of 42 years.

“It’s not easy to be married to a sportscaster — especially me,” Bruce said.

Anyone successfully married to someone in sports learns how to sacrifice because the teams’ schedules can dictate your life. So hip or dental surgery had to be planned a certain way.

“That’s a challenge,” Janet said.

Janet figured out how to chauffeur their sons to Little League, because Bruce was often on assignments. But Bruce always found enough time for his top priority, his family.

During phone calls from the road, you could hear the love in the voices of his adult sons when they called “Bubba,” his longtime nickname that has been picked up by his grandchildren. They all call each other every day, between assignments, plans to make, advice to seek and kibitzing to do.

“I’ve never met someone whose family is more important than they are to him,” Kerber said. “The theme of family translates to work where he wants everyone to be included.”

Kerber added that when an intern starts in the department, Beck will often ask a question to which he knows the answer, designed to allow the new person to feel involved. It is a Felix and Doris Beck touch.

Beck is passing the Beck lesson to the next generation. He has a forthcoming camp for aspiring sportscasters. It is a week long, but takes a year to plan. On our ride, Janet, who runs the back end, called to discuss catering. Beck searched far and wide last year when they were low on hamburgers.

Beck wants everyone to leave the camp happy. It is who he is. It is what he does. It is how he was raised.

“Felix Beck taught me that you treat the president of the company the same as you do the janitor,” Bruce said. “It’s great philosophy and it’s not in any way negative. It only means that you treat everyone the same.”