While long-suffering Nationals fans may be enjoying every second of their first place season, no one may be enjoying it more than Charlie Slowes. The longtime radio voice of the team, Slowes has also logged some long seasons for the Tampa Rays (pre-playoffs), the Washington Bullets (few playoffs), the Baltimore Orioles (some lean years) and the New York Mets as well as a host of other stops in the minor leagues along the way.
A native of The Bronx, New York City, and a 1983 graduate of Fordham University, Slowes began his career at KMOX Radio in St. Louis where he worked amongst broadcasting greats Jack Buck and Bob Costas. He has also worked for ESPN, NBC Sports, CBS Radio Sports, Mutual/Westwood One, SportsPhone and the minor league AAA Tidewater Tides.
We caught up with Slowes to see how he is enjoying life at the top, and what it’s like to call games in The Nation’s Capitol:
You have certainly had some unique stops over the years with teams that have been on the start-up or the rebuild. How hard has it been to always stay balanced and positive?
Unfortunately, lots of practice with this one with some bad clubs in the NBA, an expansion baseball team in Tampa Bay, an expansion-like team moved from Montreal to Washington. But you always approach a game fresh and in your mind, feel like the game you are broadcasting is the “Game of the Day.” When a team isn’t playing well, trying to entertain with your partner on air can be important to keep an audience. If you can get people to listen when your broadcasting a bad club and like you, they’ll love you when they win.
Calling games in The Nation’s Capitol is certainly unique, you never know who is listening in. have you gotten some interesting constructive criticism or do you have any people on The Hill or the White House who have been loyal listeners?
We know we have a huge listenership in the military and the government but do not get much feedback. One of our most important listeners was President George W. Bush, the former owner of the Texas Rangers and huge baseball fan. I’ve been told by secret service he would listen to games on XM while on Air Force 1.
You long had a passion for hockey since your college days at Fordham. Do you have ambitions to still call games in other sports or are you more dedicated to the rituals of baseball these days?
I would have to say I’m committed to baseball for the long term. It does make it tough to call other sports on any regular kind of basis because of the overlap of seasons. Being away so much and working so many days during the season, I’ve wanted the off-season to be with my family. The off-season goes by very quickly.
Speaking of Fordham, how valuable was the experience in college as you look back on your career, and the other people who have gone on to be successful in the time you were there?
We all loved our time at WFUV, doing our sports reports, One-on-One Talk Shows and of course, play-by-play of Fordham sports. We had so much fun and the experience was invaluable. It was our college life for 4 years.
Having been in DC as the voice of the Bullets (now the Wizards) and the Nats, what are the differences for you in coverage, style etc?
Play-by-Play for the two sports is very different. Basketball is a rapid fire, fast-paced play-by-play with little time for interaction. Baseball has more down time and you have more time for stories and interaction with your partner. I love them both. Baseball is twice as many games in the same length of season, so that’s the biggest difference. The grind is much tougher. In the NBA, you have stretches in a normal season where you can have 3-4 days off in a row. In baseball, you can go 3 weeks without a day off.
The world is probably a little different now with the Nats in first, are there conscious changes you have made with Strasburg, Harper and Company in the way you broadcast vs. in other years?
The story line are there now, you don’t have to look for them. The focus, the fan interest, it’s all blowing up right now before our eyes. The club has talent and depth and a chance to be good for a long time. Broadcasting games for an elite team will be a first for me. It’s take awhile to get here.
Who are some of the more enjoyable athletes you have been around in your career?
Certainly in the NBA, Charles Barkley is at the top, along with Manute Bol. Very funny. From baseball, Robert Fick was one of the funniest guys to have in a clubhouse, Adam Dunn would be right there, too. I ‘ve dealt with so many who just been good guys to deal with, the list would be very long.
How do you spend your offseason…is there an offseason in sports these days for anyone in the business?
My off-seasons have been spent being a husband and a father. The family gives up a lot for you to have one of these elite play-by-play jobs. It’s hard to balance during the season so have to be there when you’re not working. That’s why I don’t take on much during the off-season.
The environment has changed since you started in the business, what things would you have to have done differently in your climb to success if you were just starting today?
I like the way it happened for me looking back. There are more opportunities for jobs now with cable TV, the internet and social media so the road now could be very different. I think everyone wants to go right to television in recent years but radio gives you such a great background and base to be an on-air broadcaster.