Off Base
Q & A With Patrick O'Neal

March 18, 2011, 7: 38 p.m. Yeah, I promised to wrap the series in yesterday's post, but no such luck, sports fans. Sorry to disappoint. We're gaining traction, and have another two or three coming. Who knows, maybe I'll get to interview a media player named Rex before this over.

I was thinking of concluding with a scintillating back-and-forth with myself, since no one's coming forward to pick up the mantle (hint, hint). We'll see about that.

Our subject today is Patrick O'Neal, of Prime Ticket. While he's all over Los Angeles sports television, I follow his Dodgers work primarily. And I've always been impressed. He's smart without being smart-ass, is always up on Dodger doings, and when he watches a ball game, he just plain gets it. That comes across both in his player interviews and in his tandem work with Steve Lyons.

And by the way, for the record, Lyons gets criticized loudly and often elsewhere, which I think may be a professional-jealousy thing as much as anything else, but I appreciate his work. Rag the man for game coverage if you like, but before you, imagine carrying on a three-hour conversation with Eric Collins without slipping into a coma (or actually requesting a medically-induced one) first.

I miss the team of O'Neal, Lyons and Kevin Kennedy of a couple years back. That was a great mix, but Dodgers Live is excellent still. I rarely miss a show, and I think Mr. O'Neal deserves some attention.  A unique talent, and a native son.

Here's the Q & A: Let's start with the rundown on your career highlights, stops along the way and your various responsibilities.

Patrick O'Neal: "Career: I started with Fox Sports Radio as an overnight update anchor in September of 2000. My shift was Monday through Friday, midnight to 5:00 a.m. It was national radio, and I was one of the first anchors hired by the start-up network. It was also basically my first broadcast experience.

I had worked sideline for the tennis tournament at UCLA that ran on Fox Sports Net the previous summer, but the radio gig was full-time and full-tilt. Eventually I got a little better at doing the updates and the program director gave me a crack at hosting my own show, which was the overnight spot on Saturday. I worked six nights per week, 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. On a few occasions I'd work 12-to-9 while filling in. It was crazy, but there's no better way to learn the ropes.

Within a year I was co-hosting the 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 am slot, Monday through Friday, along with the updates, so I was given more responsibility. Plus, I kept the Saturday overnight host chair. This is where I feel I truly learned to be prepared, because if I wasn't, it would be apparent on a national radio show. And those times I wasn't prepared taught me a tough but valuable lesson. When the terrorists attacked on 9-11, we turned the station into news reports 24/7 for a couple of weeks, and I had to jump in as a news anchor, which was also a tremendous learning experience.

In April of 2002, I took a part-time TV job with Fox Sports Net as national update anchor. I hosted three updates an hour airing throughout the day. At the time, I was still doing the radio job, which was a difficult but rewarding schedule. Eventually an opportunity for me to work full-time for FSN came along, I said goodbye to my radio career, and took the TV job. At FSN, I hosted "Totally Football," "The Ultimate Fantasy Football Show," "Fox Sports One," "AFL Weekly," "Minnesota Sports Tonight" (aired from Los Angeles) and whatever else they asked me to do.

In December of 2004, I moved to Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2 (eventually Prime Ticket), as one of the anchor/reporters for the Southern California Sports Report. Having grown up in Los Angeles, it was a dream for me to cover the local teams I grew up pulling for. So I left the national side of FSN and joined the regional team here in L.A.

I won a Los Angeles Area Emmy award in 2005 for Best Sports Reporting, and was nominated for the award four straight years. The Southern California Sports Report eventually went away, and we turned our network into live pre and post game shows for all our team partners. 2010-2011 is my sixth season as the sideline reporter for the Los Angeles Kings, and I also host Dodgers Live. I've been a reporter for the Lakers, Clippers, Angels, Trojans, Bruins, and even the Galaxy during the past several years.

In 2005 I worked some national games for Big Fox. I was the field reporter during the 2005 NLCS, for games three, four and five in Houston. I was the first to interview Albert Pujols after he hit the homer to send the series back to St. Louis. I also was the sideline reporter for two NFL games, and the in-studio host for Saturday baseball, while Jeannie Zelasko was on maternity leave."

BS: Did you go to broadcasting school?

PO: "As for my training, I did some radio in high school (a boarding school in Pebble Beach, called Robert Louis Stevenson) and in college at La Verne, but that was just for music. I started out as an actor back in 1989, and that was my career for around 12 years. But during that time I wasn't landing but for a few jobs here and there, so I worked as a production assistant on commercials, and as a bartender. I lived in New York City from 1991-1995, tending bar at the Paramount Hotel and at a place called the Auction House. Fun times."

BS: If you had your druthers, what would you like to do at Prime, and in your career? Play by play; Vinny's job, perhaps?

PO: "I am very happy with the job I have. I've done some play-by-play for Big West Basketball [three of the past four] years, and I'd like to improve in that area. But each day is different; that's the beauty of sports. It's a great job, and I just want to continue to grow and not take anything for granted."

BS: What's it like to work with Steve Lyons, and in the past, with guys like Kevin Kennedy?

PO: "It's great to work with different analysts. It's a great way for me to learn. I've had the pleasure of working with Rick Fox, Norm Nixon, Steve Lyons, Kevin Kennedy, Pooh Richardson, Mark Gubicza, Don MacLean, Michael Cage, Kurt Rambis, Jim Fox, Marty McSorley and even Derek Fisher, among others. It's fun to pose questions to the guys and make some TV with them. They're all different, and my job is to make them look good. I try, anyway."

BS: "You're an L.A. guy, right? What are your favorite teams? MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLS (God forbid)?

PO: "My favorite teams are the Lakers, Dodgers and Kings. That's who I grew up a fan of. But I want to be clear; I am a fan of whatever team I am covering. It makes my job easier when they win."

BS: Which athlete would label the best interview? Most cooperative?

PO: "All athletes are different, so it's tough to say, but the best interview occurs when the athlete is cooperative and starts by saying 'yes.' When you have to plead with them, it's difficult. In general, the NHL guys are the best, followed by the NBA, and then MLB. Hockey players are by far the most accessible, and they get that we have a job to do."

BS: Can you share your fondest memories as a sports fan and/or as a broadcaster?

PO: "Fondest memories as a broadcaster would have to be the Kobe 81-point game [January 22, 2006]. And the Lakers winning the last two championships, being in the locker-room doing interviews.

There have been some exciting moments with the Dodgers too. Interviewing Manny Ramirez after he homered on hits bobblehead night. I also had a fun interview with him when he served as the interpreter for Angel Berroa [in 2008]. The Dodgers locker room celebration in 2008, getting drenched with beer, and interviewing all the players after they clinched the division.

The Kings run last year was exciting for me, especially after four years of their losing.  And the Albert Pujols interview, as well as my two games on the sideline. They didn't go down to me much, but it was still fun to be there. That's just a handful of moments out of hundreds, really."

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