From Paramus High School to CBS Sports, Spero Dedes is making waves in sports broadcasting
While growing up in Paramus, New Jersey, Spero Dedes always enjoyed playing sports whether it was football, baseball or basketball. While attending Paramus High School, Dedes was on the varsity basketball team for three years, a starter for two years under head coach Bill Whitney as it appeared Dedes would have a future in college until a torn ACL derailed those plans.
Despite the setback, Dedes would discover a passion that would ultimately end up as a career. While in the gym with a couple of his friends, Dedes noticed a microphone that was left at center court and picked it up.
“I started calling a game, announcing guys names and telling people what they were doing and how bad they looked as they were shooting,” Dedes explained to In The Zone. “I remember everyone just laughing and it became this show. I think it was the first time I saw the reactions of people of me being on the microphone and emotion it could elicit. One of those moments saying this is cool and seed was planted that night I could do this for a living as well.”
College Decision Was Not Easy For Spero Dedes
When it came to deciding on college, Dedes could only think of two universities where he would have the opportunity to flourish in sports broadcasting, Fordham University and Syracuse University. In the end, Dedes chose to attend Fordham, but it did not come easy as he had to convince his father he could succeed not only studying broadcast journalism but as a sports broadcaster.
“For me, being the son of Greek immigrants, specifically my father who came here and really started from scratch and came with basically no money in his pocket and started as a dishwasher at restaurants in New Jersey and really started at the bottom and was able to build a career in that business and eventually opened up his own diner,” Spero Dedes described.
“The thought was in my family me and my brother would take over the business so when I told him I wanted to be broadcaster it was a tough conversation. His last thing was I’m not going to spend all this money to send you to college and you are going to end up back at the diner taking over the business. I had to really convince him so I always had a fear of failure but wanted to prove to him more than anything else I could do it and succeed in the business of being a sports broadcaster and failure was not an option.”
Fordham Provided Tremendous Opportunities
“A radio station that has a 50,000 watt station in the middle of New York City, going to class Monday through Friday and then go to the radio station (WFUV 90.7 FM) and having the chance to call basketball, football games or do reports on teams. The difference with Fordham is you’re in the number one media market in the country.”
The experiences and opportunities for hands on learning extended beyond campus.
“We had credentials for the pro teams in New York so I would finish class on a Wednesday, hop on the Subway and take the D train into Manhattan and go to Madison Square Garden and cover the Knicks at night. The opportunities that you don’t get when you are five or ten years out of college, let alone while you’re still a college student”
“We were able to kind of build up our chops in terms of play by play with our One on One sports show and able to get experience doing that.” “We had an unbelievable group of sports broadcasters in New York with Mike Breen, Bob Papa and Chris Carrino who would come in every Wednesday and do workshops with us, listen to our tapes and then give us critiques.” At that point we were able to build relationships with these people who were really our heroes at that point.
When graduating from Fordham in 2001, Dedes earned a very prestigious award as the inaugural recipient of the Marty Glickman Award that was given to the WFUV Sports student play-by-play announcer that best exemplified the standards set by Marty Glickman.
Dedes Hits the Work Force
Dedes started out his broadcasting career working for WFAN 660 AM in New York handling the 20/20 updates and as the New York Jets beat reporter. In addition, Dedes was the radio voice of the Arena Football League New Jersey Gladiators.
“The Arena Football League was one of the first real jobs, it was kind of like a frontline person,” Dedes recalled. “I was a back-up and did spot duty so I would have a shift on Monday night and then it would be two days in two weeks. Then suddenly I was hired as the radio voice of the team.”
“For me the New Jersey Gladiators were like Green Bay Packers or New York Giants,” said Spero Dedes. “It was the biggest job that I could have ever imagined. It was very important because it gave me my first experience of what it meant to work for a team, building relationships and trust with the head coach, players, PR (public relations) people and business side of things. It was a crash course of what my career and next few years of my life were going to be like.”
Being able to work at some prestigious venues, all so close to home helped make his early working experience enjoyable.
“The games were at the Meadowlands, Brendan Byrne and Continental Airlines Arena,” said Dedes. “I was able to hop into the car and be there in 15 minutes so everything about that was just awesome and a really happy time in my life and good memories of those years.”
Summer Olympics in Athens
By the time 2004 rolled around, Spero Dedes kept rising up the ranks, rapidly becoming the youngest person (24) in NBC Universal’s on-air team at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Making the experience more special was Dedes had a lot of family living within driving distance of the Olympic venues.
“I knew how special it was, but when you are 24 years-old you don’t really have that kind of appreciation for what’s happening,” Dedes stated. “The good fortune when it kind of falls into your lap and just one of those unbelievable opportunities. I’m Greek-American first generation, my parents’ immigrated from Greece in the 60’s and my mother’s whole side of the family still lives in Greece. We’ve traveled to Greece as a family every summer since I was born.”
Having the time to spend with family and show them just how much he has grown, including the success of his young career, is something that Dedes will always cherish.
“It was just surreal to be there in my family’s village which was about 90 minutes from Athens. To get into the car and drive to the Athens broadcast center and then be working for NBC calling the Olympics and one of those moments I will never forget. I was able to take some of my family members to the opening ceremonies and into a couple of events. It was just so cool and one of those things I will never forget.”
West Coast Moves
A year later, Dedes moved to the West Coast, a decision that ended up increasing his sports broadcasting profile. Dedes joined the Los Angeles Lakers radio team. He experienced six years behind the mic, including the Lakers back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. I
n 2006, Dedes joined the NFL Network as a host for the show NFL Network Total Access and called play-by-play on Monday night’s during the NFL regular season. For Super Bowl XLI, Dedes was the play-by-play announcer on the international feed, alongside Sterling Sharpe.
“I’m out in Los Angeles in 2005 working as the radio voice of the Lakers and you could imagine being in LA and you have a number of opportunities in front of you,” Dedes exclaimed.
“I was able to get a job with the NFL Network based there in LA and that was really a chance to get out in front of the NFL people. That was just amazing being able to host a morning show with Warren Sapp and Marshall Faulk. I was able to do some games with Sterling that led me to having a chance to calling the international feed for the Super Bowl in 2006 which was Indianapolis vs. Chicago and that was awesome for me because my cousins and family in Greece were actually able to hear me call a game for the first time.”
Dedes Returns to His Roots
Dedes made the decision to return to the East Coast, signing a contract with the New York Knicks to do radio/TV play-by-play.
“I had a chance to fulfill a dream and become the radio voice of the New York Knicks,” Dedes recalled. “The Knicks were really my childhood team and I was a huge fan in the 90’s. To say it was dream would be an understatement and my family and friends knew how huge that was.”
Adding to his basketball broadcasting duties, Dedes has done play-by-play for Turner Sports coverage of the NBA Playoffs, NCAA men’s basketball for Westwood One and NBA-TV.
On the differences between radio and TV, Dedes explained, “Most play-by-play people will tell you radio is where we all get our start from and when you call a game on radio versus TV to are vastly different things. I actually miss radio to be honest for the simple fact that the listener is completely blind to what’s going on… I always felt that responsibility and kind of pressure to paint the word picture as clearly as possible, and when you have a great game on the radio, you know that your descriptions and energy were where they needed to be.”
Then in 2010, Spero Dedes joined the CBS Television Network where he was involved with the coverage of play-by-play on the NFL on CBS, SEC on CBS and NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
Calling His First NFL Game
The first NFL game Spero Dedes called for CBS took place back in Week 2 of the 2010 regular season between the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers.
“It’s one of those moments you remember for the rest of your career. To walk into Lambeau Field… It was one of those surreal moments that I made sure to get there early in the morning to walk around.”
Inside Lambeau, Dedes found little museums and shrines with old helmets and jerseys. On top of that there were photos from old teams and Vince Lombardi.
What makes it even better is the people Dedes has called games with. Dedes has worked alongside Steve Beuerlein, Rich Gannon and Randy Cross. Since 2017, Dedes has worked exclusively with Adam Archuleta.
“I have had the chance to work with some really talented people… Guys that I grew up watching as a kid and now a chance to work with and get to know them personally. That has been really one of the treats,” said Spero Dedes.
One of those guys Dedes has built a friendship with is Adam Archuleta.
“We have been together for four years. We’re really comfortable with each other and there is trust there that is really important and makes for a better broadcast.”
Back to the Future
The 2020 NFL season has presented unique challenges for Dedes with the COVID-19 pandemic and in terms of preparing and calling games. Their normal routines of arriving early for watching practices and talking to players and coaches have drastically changed. After this, Dedes and Archuleta would return to the hotel for a production meeting.
“Now everything is done via Zoom so that’s been a little different. You don’t have that in-person connection. We’ve met the coaches, players and veteran guys, but a lot of these first- and second-year guys we have not met and gotten a feel for them and their personalities.”
When it comes to calling games, the producers and directors are no longer on-location. Instead, they’re at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
“My partner and I are on site at the stadium on Sunday calling the game in our booth,” Spero Dedes described. “The booth is a little different with plexiglass between us. My spotter has plexiglass in between myself and him, so it’s a little bit more challenging. Now he has to point through the plexiglass at a replica of my spotting boards that I have in front of him that he can use and refer to.”
This spotting board that Spero is speaking of is a unique and essential piece to play-by-play.
“The game changer for me was a couple of years ago. I found someone based in Syracuse, New York by the name of Matt Park who is the longtime voice of the Syracuse Orangemen football and basketball teams. Matt has devised this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of having a spotting board. In the past I would sit and handwrite all my boards. Now I’m able to use a spreadsheet and input all my stuff. I have all my notes, I can tweak it and save me hours upon hours of time and it’s just a great way to organize.”
A Moment of Reflection
With all the success he has achieved including by the age of 31, calling games for three out of the four major television networks in the country, Spero Dedes is reminded of how lucky he is work in the profession and offers plenty of advice for aspiring journalists.
“Really focus on what you want to do whether it’s play-by-play or a writer,” he said. “The industry has changed so much. The biggest trait that has really served me well was just the determination to succeed.”
“When I finished and graduated from Fordham, I basically lived at the post office and FedEx station, sending out tapes every day, tweaking my résumé, writing letters to affiliates all over the country. I think I sent out 200 letters to people. You’re in this for the long run and that’s easier said than done and it takes a lot of thought.”
“There are a lot of questions that need to be asked internally and it just starts from your passion whether you are passionate about sports.”
Despite living out in Southern California these days, Spero Dedes still finds time to visit Paramus, New Jersey at least once a month. His parents still live in the house he grew up in.
“It’s a great place to have grown up in.” Dedes said. “My sister lives five minutes away in Washington Township with her husband and three kids. My aunts and uncles lived in Paramus. We had a really big family typical of Greek families and nice to stay connected with those people and spend as much time possible.”