BY ALEX KARTMAN | Director | Ball State Sports Link
The NBA All-Star break doesn’t just give players a week of rest. All other team personnel also enjoy a respite from the grinding 82-game schedule. Ken Sothman spent an evening of his vacation Feb. 20 visiting the students of Sports Link.
Sothman serves as pregame and postgame producer of Pacers Live on FOX Sports Indiana. He travels with the team to every game to oversee a new crew in every city.
“Seventy five percent of my job is business and the other 25 percent is being a fan,” Sothman said. “Even if the Pacers aren’t playing, I’m watching NBA games every night.”
Life at Ball State
His lifelong love of the NBA led Sothman to Ball State, where he knew a strong telecommunications program would give him opportunities.
“I always wanted to get into sports broadcasting, and I remember the first meeting at Cardinal Sports Live (as a Ball State student) not knowing anything about Ball State Sports, so I became a photographer.”
His work in Cardinal Sports Live and in classes gave him the opportunity to join a sports broadcasting pilot project in 2008.
At the time, several TCOM professors developed Ball State Sports Link as a trial immersive learning program.
“We wanted to do 16 broadcasts, a bi-weekly 30-minute recap show, and a feature a week in one semester with just 12 students.”
During his discussion with the current 40-plus students in Sports Link, Sothman advised students to gain as many internship experiences as possible.
“Get an internship where you get to do something,” Sothman said. “You have the tools here to do anything, but in an internship, you get to work alongside professionals who have been in the business 15-20 years. They can teach you about professionalism, the business and working.”
The First Job
Sothman began his sports media career with FOX 59 in Indianapolis as a sports reporter. As a rookie at the station, he was tasked with finding innovative ways to capture viewer’s attention, even covering smaller events.
“No matter what you do at Ball State, there’s a good chance you will be covering smaller events for your first job,” Sothman said. “When you make it to your first job, you’re probably going to be better at what you do than any 22-year old out there, but you need to absorb any advice from the veterans around you. You have to take in what everyone is doing around you”
Sothman demonstrated the small market mentality of his first five years on the job. He wrote down his salaries for the five years he worked at FOX 59. Beginning at $26,000, each year only grew by $1,000.
“The first few years you’re going to be working in small markets and you aren’t going to be making the Joe Buck money,” Sothman said. “If you work at it, grind and do all the small things with terrible hours, you will find a break.”
Finding His Break
Sothman found his break late one night his former boss texted.
The Pacers needed a producer for pregame and postgame shows, and the season was two weeks away. Sothman jumped at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back.
“The most important thing in my 30 minutes is to let the viewer know every single thing that is important to the upcoming game,” Sothman said. “I have more B-roll than any other pregame show in the NBA. I want fans at home to feel in the game.
“Every 30 seconds there’s an opportunity to give the fan a new fact. I want the fan to also know the whys and hows.”
In the truck he always stays prepared for the situation at hand.
“Be prepared as a producer for every situation possible. Every time I sit in the chair I have awareness to what I might do if something goes wrong or if something goes right.
“My job is to always let my director know what the next 2-3 steps are. I always am in talent headsets, reminding them what their next topic is.”
The job has given Sothman a front row seat to some of the most exciting games in recent years.
He witnessed history at Golden State, when Klay Thompson scored 60 points in only three quarters. He also gets to work with talented people in every market.
He told students to embrace the opportunity to work and meet new people.
“Get to know as many people as you can, network with as many people as you can and keep in touch with as many people as you can,” Sothman said. “Network, use social media, and talk to other sports media professionals at events you are at.”
Professionalism and Advice
Sothman realizes the sports industry isn’t for everyone. He told students to understand that now.
“When we’re working, everyone else is off,” Sothman said. “The sports industry is a lifestyle. We don’t get a normal, Monday through Friday, 9-5 life. You have to love what you do and the idea of sports broadcasting because you will give up so much in life for it.
“To be successful in this business, you have to be selfish and miss your third straight family Thanksgiving to do work.”
Sothman continues to refine his skills, by watching competitors’ broadcasts and finding new ways to format his content.
“You have to perfect your craft because your boss will expect you to be able to do everything you possibly can.”
The boss isn’t the only person to impress. Sothman prides himself as being a nice person to work for, starting with how he treats the coworkers surrounding him.
“Treat your coworkers with respect,” Sothman said. “Nothing gets people to work harder for you than small acts of respect.”
Whether it’s bringing donuts to early call times for workers to enjoy or offering to help wrap cables, Sothman earns respect from his peers every day. He was honored with a regional Emmy award in 2016 for his work producing Pacers Live.
The stresses of the job may weigh him down at times, but Sothman reminded students to maintain perspective in the world.
“There are times you have the best show planned, and everything goes wrong. If everything goes wrong, it’s just TV and no one dies.”