A ten-year-old Steve Mears is listening to Mike Lange broadcast a Penguin game. Mario Lemieux is on the ice. Mears has big dreams of being just like Lange. Now, he works with him on a nightly basis after he stepped into the shoes of Paul Stiegerwald.
Question: Did you ever think you would make it this far, calling play-by-play for the Penguins?
Answer: “Really the dream was to be in the NHL in any capacity and especially, the dream was to be the play-by-play guy for any NHL team… I was pretty confident and I knew I would do whatever it took. I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. I was willing to move anywhere [and] work for peanuts.”
Q: What is it like to do play-by-play at the NHL level?
A: “It’s the ultimate reality TV show. You don’t know what we’re going to see on any given night.”
Q: Do you pre-plan calls for milestone games or do you let it happen in the moment?
A: “It varies. You never want to be scripted. Nobody wants to hear you reading from a cue card… You don’t know how these things are going to play out too. Something [New York Mets play-by-play announcer] Howie Rose taught me… [was] it’s okay to have a plan or an idea in your head, not word for word, just a plan and see where it goes.”
Q: Who was your biggest inspiration?
A: “No question, it was Mike Lange. It was the perfect confluence of events when I was 10, 11 years old… I was looking for heroes and Mike Lange brought those games to life. He was the soundtrack every single night.”
Q: Does the travel schedule ever wear on you?
A: “No, I love it! I don’t have kids, so that might be something in the future that might be more challenging… I think it would be a different answer if I had children, but I do love the travel.”
Q: Do you have any weird pregame routines or superstitions like many players do?
A: “I had heard that Bob Costas had carried a Mickey Mantle baseball card with him at all times and I thought that was so cool. I thought, well, I want to be like Bob Costas so I’m going to have a Mario Lemieux hockey card in my notebook. I think I’ve kept that card in my notebook for every game I’ve ever done. I don’t know if it’s my good luck charm, but it always goes back to Bob Costas and his Mickey Mantle card. So, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.”
Q: Do you get recognized often?
A: “That doesn’t happen too often. There is the occasional time in a restaurant where someone will recognize my voice. The main thing is with doing play-by-play, your voice is going to be more recognizable than your face.”
Q: What is your biggest fear as a broadcaster?
A: “I’m not bad with heights. I’m not bad with flying… You don’t want to have something be misconstrued. I think in today’s society, with the callout culture, people are so keen to pounce on either broadcasters or celebrities. If you’re doing a lot of speaking, you’d hate for something to be misconstrued.”