South Carroll grad thrives on stress as sports producer

November 17, 1991|By Nancy Menetee Jackson | By Nancy Menetee Jackson,Contributing writer

BALTIMORE - When the South Carroll High boys soccer team clinched the county title in 1983, sweeper Mike Gathagan scored three goals and assisted on two others.

That same kind of intensity now helps him survive the three daily deadllines he faces as a sports producer at WMAR-TV Channel 2.

I thrive on stress," says Gathagan, who also started for two years on South Carroll's lacrosse team and played on what would be the first of nine straight county championship teams.

"I was the same type of athlete; I didn't have a whole lot of athletic ability, but I was very intense," the 25-year-old adds.

He does, however, have the ability to produce a nightly sports-cast, something he realized early. Despite his love for sports, he chose Towson State University, where he knew he wouldn't be good enough to play, because of its mass communications program.

The son of Howard and Adele Gathagan of Winfield wrote in his 1983 senIor yearbook that he wanted to be a broadcaster "to use my mouth." He knew it would be to talk about sports, too.

"One friend of mine used to say I knew more useless information about sports than anyone he's ever known." Gathagan says.

His plans crystallized at Towson one day when guest speaker Scott Garceau, Channel 2's sports anchor, mentioned the station needed interns. Gathagan called the next day and landed the internship, which he continued for two years.

Upon graduation he got a part-time job there and has been a full-time sports producer for the past three years.

"I was lucky to get the job," he says.

But more than luck has kept him employed. His workweek includes at least 25 hours sitting in a darkened room viewing games. He distills a 3 1/2-hour Orioles game to the minute of highlights viewers see on the nightly news.

He also spends considerable time researching stories, coordinating schedules, deciding which games deserve a camera crew and formatting the show.

Gathagan admits to boosting the station's coverage of Carroll County.

"You have a lot of pride in where you grow up," he says, then launches into a story about beating rival Thomas Johnson in soccer in 1982.

Gathagan compares the job of sports producer to that of an offensive lineman or a tight end - "the grunt work."

It was in college, he says. that he realized he wasn't going to be an on-air personality. He quotes Bear Bryant: "You gotta know what you don't know."

One of his shortcomings. Gathagan adds, is his Carroll County twang.

He credits another coach, Gene Brown, with his off-air success. The head lacrosse coach and assistant football coach drilled into his players the importance of being organized and prepared Gathagan says.

"I'm eight years out of high school; still if you're prepared. you're going to do a good job.' he says.

Even with deadlines looming and news breaking, he says. "I know it will get done, and I know it will come out looking like tt's been ready for four hours."

Even if it's ready just four minutes before the show, he knows anchors Scott Garceau and Keith Mills will pull it off.

Mills, in turn, praises the scope of Gathagan's sports knowledge as well as his intensity.

"He's a rather intense person," says Mills, a product of Brooklyn Park High in Anne Arundel County. "He doesn't like to do ajob unless he does it well."

Mills, whose allegiance to Anne Arundel County is well-known, says: "We have good-natured battles all the time about which is the better county. Mike's in there chipping away with his Cavaliers. He's certainly put Carroll County on the TV sports map.

The seemingly perfect job does have one drawback for Gathagan: the hours. He works Wednesday through Sunday, from 3:30 p.m. until after the 11 o'clock news, which he admits makes it tough to find time for a social life.

Although he sometimes thinks of larger markets - and warmer climates - and of producing live broadcasts for networks. Gathagan is happy where he is.

"I'm doing what I want to do." he says. 'I don't know how many people can say that."

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