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A tribute to four trailblazing sportscasters

Jimmy Myers
A tribute to four trailblazing sportscasters
(from left) Allen Platt, Eric Clemons, “Coach” Willie Maye, Chris Collins COURTESY PHOTOS

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Allen Platt, Willie Maye, Chris Collins, and Eric Clemons are Black men who have held the title of sportscaster in Boston radio, television and national platforms. All four men have gained distinction for their work despite being denied the proper recognition they so richly deserve. I choose to honor these four for “paving the road” for today’s edition of African Americans who hold the title of sportscaster.

I start with Platt, one of the first people I met when I came to Boston University in September 1968. We have worked together on and off the air for more than 50 years. I credit him for his ability to improve on his craft constantly. He has excelled as an analyst and play-by-play man in multiple sports over the past four decades. Currently employed at BNN (Boston Neighborhood Network), Platt has been a fixture on the Boston media scene for much of his adult life. But there is much more to this man other than his work in sports.

A graduate of Boston English High in 1968, when it was an all-boys school, Platt attended Boston College, graduating with a degree in sociology in 1972. He has used his degree to forge a career of high achievement in human services. He has spent the last 15 years working at Bay Cove Human Services. As he approaches retirement from his day job, he reflects on his sportscasting career with these statements.

“I grew up in a sports family in the 1960s — the halcyon years of the Boston Celtics. That was where my love of sports began,” he says. “I got into broadcasting as a fun thing. But as the years passed, I grew to love the craft.”

Platt stayed on the local Boston sports scene despite offers to move up in the business. His response: “I stayed home [in Boston] to raise my children because that is what fathers are supposed to do.”

I am honored to say that I was the first guest Platt interviewed on his first talk show on WILD in 1975. Mr. Platt, we have come a long way since that day, and I am honored to call you a friend and colleague.

Next up is Maye — better known to his fans as “Coach Willie Maye.” I met Maye in my early days at WBZ Radio. I knew I liked him from our first meeting. He was confident — not cocky, but sure of himself. He became the first of my many interns, and vaulted from that position to a sportscasting career that has now spanned more than four decades. I recently asked him how he got the name “Coach Willie Maye.”

It came from his days as a worker in the Boston Youth Sports Program at Madison Park High School, where his mother, Patricia Maye-Wilson, taught English, reading, and special education for nearly 30 years before her passing in 2009.

“My mom was my heart,” Maye says. “She inspired me to go after what I wanted in life. What I wanted happened to be a sportscasting career. During my early years at WILD radio, many of her students would hear me on the air during our morning show and would call the station asking to speak to ‘their coach’ — me. I worked with many of these young people, educating them in much more than basketball and sports. I educated them in life. The nickname ‘coach’ just stuck. I wear it as a badge of honor and as a tribute to my mother.”

Maye became a nationally known sportscaster for his work at WEEI AM 590, heard on more than 100 stations across America, and Boston Sports Channel. He worked for 15 seasons as the sideline reporter for Boston Celtics games, covering three Olympics, Super Bowls, NBA Finals and other sports events.

“I was the inaugural sideline reporter for the Celtics,” he says. “I truly enjoyed the position and serving Celtics fans with more in-depth reporting than the usual sideline blather that you hear today. My biggest regret was that I was not given the opportunity to move up to a higher position with the Celtics — studio host, play-by-play or color analyst,” says Maye.

Maye paid his dues and should have been treated better, but like so many Black broadcasters, particularly Black men, he had to endure insulting moments to do his job.

“The level of ignorance was glaring — like the time I was hassled by a Red Sox official who wanted to see my credential, which was in plain view. I was stunned by his arrogance, yet I showed it to him and asked the question, ‘Do you listen to my station WILD?’ The moment passed, but the memory of ignorance remains to this day,” says Maye.

Today, Maye is a public address announcer for college and high school events and teaches a new wave of young announcers.

I have a much longer relationship with Platt and Maye, but equal admiration and respect for Chris Collins and Eric Clemons.

Collins, from Peabody, Massachusetts, made his bones in places like Alexandria, Louisiana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other media outlets, but is most known for his 18 years of outstanding work at the New England Cable News Network-15 anchoring sports, with 10 years as a primary anchor.

He spoke to me recently about the hardships of the media business.

“The long hours of doing two 30-minute sportscasts a day — the 1 a.m. hour of the morning did a job on my homelife, killing my marriage. There is great regret in that. I miss covering live events, but I don’t miss the drudgery of those long and exhausting hours,” says Collins.

Despite the hardships of this business, Collins is quick to say, “If the right opportunity presented itself, I would consider it. I have gained maturity during my many years of work, and I am still young enough and strong enough to do the job if the right one comes along.” In the meantime, he will continue at his job as a senior partner in the Tower Hill Financial Institution, handling significant Black and white Clients. He is also one of the chief architects of the company’s sports leadership program.

With multiple Associated Press and other awards on his resume, there should be job opportunities for this very talented broadcaster.

Last but certainly not least is Clemons, who is the first Black weekend sportscaster in over a decade since my on-air resignation from WBZ-TV on Dec. 2, 1979.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Clemons now is semi-retired after 30-plus years in the industry. His story is like that of Platt, Maye and Collins in that he had to endure indignities to advance in the business.

“Coming to Boston from ESPN, I never felt accepted by my Channel 7 colleagues,” he says. “One incident that brought things into perspective was when I secured an exclusive interview with Boston Red Sox star outfielder Jim Rice. My sports director refused to run the interview, telling me to ‘run it on weekends in your sportscast.’ … Mr. Rice did not give many interviews, so I thought this could be good publicity for the station. But my sports director made it plain that he would not run the interview during the weekday sports telecast. … I ran it on my weekend sportscast, and it got positive reviews.”

After three years, Clemons would move on to Fox NFL Sunday. He put in four years there and another five years at Fox Sports Network before becoming Sports Director at WVUE-TV in New Orleans.

“The best part of the New Orleans job was being director of an all-Black sports department. And we got work done before management pulled the plug on our budget,” he says.

Clemons looks back today and reflects, “At the end of the day, the job is not that serious —it’s just sports. I am proud to say that despite all the on-the-job drama, I never brought my job home to my wife. I left it where it belonged.” Clemons and his wife Renita have a marriage that has survived 40 years. “Leaving work at work is one of the keys to keeping your marriage intact. That is some of the best advice that I can give to young people in our business today.”

As he approaches age 65 on Nov, 10, Clemons, also known as “Baby-Boomer Cruiser” on YouTube, is quick to tell any employer looking for a professional sportscaster, “Don’t dismiss us because we are old. We might be old, but we are not cold. I still love sports for the different scenarios that it presents daily.”

The author of a must-read book, “Inside … But Out! — a Black Man’s Journey into the Life, Times and Trials of Big Time Sports Television,” Clemons still has words of wisdom to impart. You can say the same about Platt, Maye and Collins.

The world needs to listen and learn.    

Allen Platt, Black sportscasters, Chris Collins, Eric Clemons, Sports, sports radio, Willie Maye