Ryan Ruocco on the ‘Harmonizing Electricity’ Behind Calling Games

Fan of the NBA, WNBA and/or the New York Yankees? Then you’ve probably heard the voice of Ryan Ruocco, an Emmy-winning television and radio broadcaster and host of the “R2C2” podcast with former MLB pitcher CC Sabathia. He sat down with The Association to discuss his professional journey and life as a sportscaster. 

The Association: Talk to me about your days starting up. How did you break through?

I’ve known that I wanted to be a play-by-play broadcaster since I was 10. I always thought it would be an amazing way to feel the energy of the game. At WFUV at Fordham, I was able to learn the craft of play-by-play under my mentor Bob Ahrens and get exposed to clubhouses/locker rooms and several different people in the business. Summer after my sophomore year, I had an internship at YES and tried to showcase my work ethic, love for sports, and being a good teammate. Ashley Fugazy and Jared Boshnack at YES then offered me the opportunity to do stats at Yankee games for home telecasts. They went great. 

Michael Kay loved my work on the show and became one of my biggest and most vocal champions. He, as well as Yankees producer Kevin Smollon and director John Moore, all listened to my work at WFUV on their own and told people at YES they should listen to my on-air work. Shortly after, John Filippelli gave me the chance to do a few college games on YES and, when I was 23, my first Nets game.

Before my first game, Flip called me and said, “Don’t worry about how tonight goes. I believe in you, and I promise you are going to have more opportunities.” As it turned out, the broadcast went really well, but it was the reinforcement from Flip that enabled me to be comfortable and confident going into my first NBA telecast. 

Is there any advice you received that you’d echo to other aspiring broadcasters?

My main mentor was/is Bob Ahrens. He ran WFUV sports for two decades and taught me play-by-play. He’s a disciple of Marty Glickman and knows this business inside and out. Bob has given me many wonderful pieces of advice, but one of my favorites is: “When sh*t’s live, sh*t happens.” His point was not to freak out when things go awry because that’s part of the fabric of doing live performance. 

What would you say is the most fun part about calling NBA/WNBA games? 

There’s so much to love about calling NBA/WNBA games. From feeling like part of the league’s family to the conversations and insider stories. That said, my absolute favorite part of calling games is sitting courtside and feeling the energy of the crowd while lining up my voice to the cadence and rhythm of the game. I get this feeling of harmonizing electricity that’s hard to describe but intoxicating to experience.

You’ve been calling Nets games since 2011. They’ve advanced to the second round only once since then. What makes this current team so extraordinary?

What makes the current situation with the Nets so extraordinary is how Sean Marks and his group were able to lay the foundation to turn the team into what it is today. It’s absolutely incredible that Sean and his staff inherited a team that had so many challenges and had no picks, and somehow turned it around as quickly as they did. I sometimes think it’s underrated just how remarkable it is. 

The Nets had to do a million things right to become attractive enough to even get on the radar of the superstars of this league, and somehow, as an organization, they did all of those things. To have stars like Kevin Durant building in Brooklyn is truly amazing. For Kevin to choose Brooklyn and then RE-UP for four more years in Brooklyn. To get to watch KD, James Harden, and Kyrie play at Barclays Center — it’s just incredible. 

What’s the craziest game you’ve ever called? I can’t help but think of that Nets-Kings game in ’18-19…

The craziest games I have ever called are: (1) the insane comeback in Sacramento with the Nets in March 2019. (2) the Yankees v. Twins game in July of 2019 that ended with Aaron Hicks’ ridiculous diving catch. 

What makes you so excited about the WNBA both now and in the future?

I am excited about so many aspects of the WNBA. Our ratings this year have been up significantly, which shows people are understanding how entertaining and exciting the product is. I’m excited about Cathy Engelbert being the leader of this league because she is brilliant and is going to keep it ascending to new heights. I am most excited about the plethora of young dynamic talent both currently in the league and on the brink of this league. The stars are multiplying, and they are going to be showcasing their skills in the W for years to come.

You can subscribe to Ryan’s podcast here and/or follow him on Twitter.