By Karen Eden
One of the biggest lessons I learned in my broadcasting career didn’t come from me, but from my co-anchor, the renowned wrestler Kurt Angle.
You see, Kurt was homegrown from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had just won Olympic gold for wrestling when I was getting my first major-market TV break alongside him.
I had worked a good 10 years in the business before finally making it in the “big leagues” of broadcast news. Kurt, on the other hand, was brought in as a promotional coup. The management was hoping that Pittsburghers would tune into our brand-new news program to see their history-making golden boy do sports.
I’m not telling you anything that Kurt wouldn’t tell you himself. It was a disaster in the making! As I sat with him night after night, I watched someone who had never anchored before try to pull off being a professional talent. Poor Kurt. He would get so frustrated reporting at times that more than one “s” bomb made it on air.
Then his greatest nightmare happened. Kurt’s monitor went down while he was in the middle of a sportscast. He didn’t realize that he was supposed to be flipping the hard copy script while reading the prompter, just in case something like this would ever happen.
I could feel his panic as the main anchor and I tried to help him find where he was at. If you happened to tune in that night, you would have seen a pale, sweaty sports anchor literally saying nothing while looking in the camera. And that was pretty much the end of Kurt Angle’s news career.
It was a horrible time for Kurt, but not really his fault. Why would anyone have someone who had never anchored before in his life just jump right into the 12th-largest TV market in the country?
By that time, I had paid my dues in the business. I worked years in various small and medium markets to finally have “arrived” in my career. I wouldn’t have expected Kurt to know broadcast news any more than I would have known how to wrestle. It was quite cruel to put him in that situation in the first place.
But it’s also a lesson that I often extend to my students at the end of a hard class. The truth is, I was afforded the time to make my mistakes before getting to the “big leagues.” And trust me, I did! I’ve looked into the wrong camera, gotten my timing messed up, and been distracted a thousand times before learning how to stay cool anyway.
Kurt never got that chance. He was never able to hone his craft, and when he was offered a job in a city of three million viewers, he wasn’t allowed to make mistakes at that point.
In my martial arts system, you get a black belt after you put in the time, and that starts at a minimum of four years of training. If I wasn’t so adamant about that, I could make a lot more money in about half the time. But then, I would be putting my students in the same position as my friend Kurt Angle. They, too, wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to make their mistakes and get good at what they do.
Well, if you know who Kurt Angle is, then you know that he ended up doing well for himself in the long run. Soon after his disastrous news career, Kurt went on to sign a very lucrative wrestling contract with the WWE.
Years later, I would walk into KMart and saw my kind and gentle friend as I knew him, but in the form of a collectable doll! I picked the box up and smiled. This toy version of Kurt Angle has proven my point. You can only be good at the things you were allowed to make mistakes in.
You can contact Master Karen Eden at [email protected].
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