By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“I always was a huge sports fan,” recalls Aaron Levine of the reason for his career choice.
Levine was once a contestant on an ESPN reality show “Dream Job.” The premise of the show was for aspiring sportscasters to compete on the show with the winner getting a contract to be a sportscaster on ESPN. Even though he was the runner-up, you can argue that he still has his dream job. As sports director for Q13, Levine is the primary sports anchor for evening broadcasts and heads up Seattle Seahawks sports programming on the network.
Levine’s mother, who is Filipino, nurtured his interest in sports at an early age growing up in Calabasas, Calif., a city north of Los Angeles. Levine grew up rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers. He scored an internship, at age 16, at the Fox Sports News affiliate in Los Angeles working for its highlights department. He also worked as a stringer for the Los Angeles Daily News, attending local high school games and writing brief summaries.
He continued his pursuit of his dream while attending Stanford University. A golfer, Levine attempted to walk on to the Stanford golf team. Although that did not work out, it left him the opportunity to write for the Stanford Daily. Levine earned a degree in History, as Stanford did not have a broadcast journalism program.
In order to learn more about broadcast journalism, he took a class between his sophomore and junior year at NYU over the summer. In 2004, there came the chance of a lifetime—a casting call for a reality show on ESPN which would give the winner a chance to be an ESPN sports anchor.
“Of course I had to enter,” recalls Levine. Over 10,000 people attended talent searches nationwide and Levine was one of 12 selected to compete.
“Ignorance was bliss,” Levine said of his experience. “I wasn’t trained to be on camera. I hadn’t had a lot of experience at all… Had I realized the magnitude of what I was doing, I probably would have stumbled.” Levine came up just short of winning, as he was runner-up to winner Mike Hall.
Even with the loss, Levine saw a silver lining. “Best thing that ever happened to me is that I didn’t win the show… I wasn’t ready.” Levine believed that he needed more seasoning as a broadcast journalist.
“He (Hall) won a job on ESPN, and I won a free ticket to Bakersfield, California,” Levine joked. In hindsight, Levine saw the job in Bakersfield as an opportunity in disguise. He was able to report on all facets of sports for the region.
He recalls being a “one-man band” driving around Bakersfield in a “clunky old sports van that I thought was going to break down.” He covered a variety of sports, including high school sports, minor league hockey, and baseball. It was an opportunity to be a “jack of all trades.”
“I always knew that Aaron would do well regardless of the job,” stated Chris Boicelli, assistant news director for 23ABC in Bakersfield, where Levine worked. “He has an unwavering love of sports and it comes through in his telling of the story. He’s always been courageous enough to try something new. I can only imagine how far he will go under his terms.” KBAK news anchor Kurt Rivera said, “That’s the sign of someone who is a true professional, knowing there is always something to learn from, never settling for what he already knows. I miss him here.”
After two years in Bakersfield, Levine received a job offer with a Fox affiliate in Portland, Ore., but he had an opportunity for a lunch meeting with a news director in Seattle before moving. He took a detour to Seattle “to plant a seed for the future” prior to starting his job in Portland. Levine had sought an opportunity with KCPQ 13, but was informed that no spot existed. But the lunch meeting persuaded management. “I’ll never forget that before I hopped onto the plane,I got a call from the news director saying, ‘We don’t want you to go to Portland, we want you to come work for us in Seattle.’” Levine took the offer in January 2007. “I consider myself extremely lucky for getting the job here.” Levine has been with the channel ever since.
He was promoted to sports director for KCPQ-13 in January 2009. His responsibilities now include anchoring the nightly sportscast, including Sunday night’s QitUp Sports, Seahawks Gameday, Seahawks Saturday Night, and his weekly Sunday night editorials.
As his position has expanded, he has been able to work in some entertainment to his sportscasts, including having his mom as a guest to pick NFL football games. Levine’s idea for including his mom on the show was due to David Letterman. On Letterman’s Late Night show, he brought in his mother in on various skits. “One of the biggest reasons I’m a big sports fan is because of my mom,” said Levine of his mom who scours the web for sports news.
“The best thing about my parents is that I can call them on a Sunday and read them my commentary.”
As far as advice for the young aspiring sports broadcasters, Levine advises internships. In the event that this cannot happen, he indicated that just talking in front of a mirror or turning down the volume of a sports game and giving your own version of the play-by-play helps with practice.
And here are some fun facts:
Favorite event he has covered: Seahawks winning the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl parade
Favorite interview: Richard Sherman
Favorite local golf course: Gold Mountain Golf Course in Bremerton
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.