Photo Credit: Fox Sports PR

Noah Eagle Talks Sponge Bob, the Clippers, and Condiments

Noah Eagle grew up in Essex Fells and is an alum of West Essex High School (Class of 2015) and Syracuse University. He got his first full-time job as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers after passing a unique test: Flying across the country for a one-on-one meeting with former Microsoft CEO and current Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in Seattle, while still a senior in college.

He is the first and only play-by-play broadcaster of Nickelodeon’s NFL broadcasts, has worked NFL games for Fox and NFL Network, college football and basketball for Fox Sports, and tennis for the Tennis Channel. This fall, NBC announced that he will be paired with Todd Blackledge to call their weekly Big 10 prime-time football package.

You could say broadcasting is in his blood. His father Ian Eagle has been the voice of the Brooklyn Nets for over a quarter century and has been broadcasting the NFL and college basketball on CBS for almost as long.

Noah agreed to an interview 2023 style, over Twitter DMs. Over the course of a few weeks in February surrounding the Super Bowl and an historic Clippers game, Noah and I exchanged messages:

David Tratner: How does your approach and preparation change doing an NFL game on Nickelodeon vs. any other game on a regular network? I watched some of those Nick broadcasts with my pre-teen son, who has a decent knowledge of football, and he was into it. You’re young, but you’re not 12. Do you prep by listening to TikTok Radio and checking SnapChat trends to stay current for your target audience? You’ve made it look easy, but it can’t be.

Noah Eagle: Great question. The approach at its core is always going to remain the same — consider the audience. They dictate what you need. For a normal broadcast, you want to capture the essence of why anyone is tuning in. Storylines, background, drama. On Nickelodeon, our audience consists of younger people who maybe don’t have that built-in knowledge. As a result, my preparation still includes background and storylines, but they’re skewed for a different audience. For example, when we meet with players we ask them about superpowers they wanted or dream job as a kid outside of football. I’ll then go back and rewatch some of my favorite Nickelodeon shows. I say this is for work, but it’s definitely also just fun for me 😉

DT: I can imagine you finish watching a team you’re prepping for and then pulling up an episode of Sponge Bob! Speaking of staying young, let’s get to the story you’ll be telling all the Syracuse broadcasting classes you’ll be guest-speaking at over the next 20 years. You’re still a senior at Syracuse and you get the call to audition for the Clippers TV job. Take me through the process of applying, getting the call to audition, the experience, and then getting the radio gig. PS- Are you working or enjoying the Super Bowl?

NE: I attended my first Super Bowl as a fan which was fantastic. I had a professor (at Syracuse), Olivia Stomski, who was still pretty active in the industry on the West Coast. Some of her co-workers were part of the group looking for Ralph Lawler’s replacement on Clippers TV. When they asked for some younger potential candidates, I was just one of a few names she submitted. I sent her my reel and resume and several weeks later received a call asking me to fly to LA. The following week, I made the cross-country trip, interviewed with the team, did a mock broadcast audition with Corey Maggette, and took a red-eye back to Syracuse.

I heard back that Steve Ballmer, the owner of the team, wanted to meet with me in Seattle the following week. I met with Steve one on one for about 90 minutes and took another red-eye back to Syracuse. I graduated a few weeks later, moved back to New Jersey, and got a call about a week later from Gillian Zucker, the Clippers’ team president offering me the radio job. It changed my life on the spot!

DT: We can probably do a full podcast on your meeting with Mr. Ballmer, but you should save that for your memoir. There is a meeting I want to bring up because you got a bit of publicity when you and Ian were on the same NBA game when the Nets played the Clippers in February and you were both behind the mic (Ian on YES, Noah for Clippers radio). But back in 2018, Syracuse played at the University of Miami in men’s hoops, and Ian was doing the game for CBS and you were on the call for the Syracuse college station. I remember seeing that broadcast and Raf (Ian’s long-time basketball broadcast partner and NJ coaching legend Bill Raftery) having some fun with it on the air. What do you remember about that game and what did it mean to you?

NE: It was one of the most special moments of my life, let alone my career. I remember it wasn’t a given that I’d get to do the game. I was a junior and normally those types of opportunities (flying to Miami in the middle of winter) are reserved for seniors. Fortunately, I explained the situation to our sports director, Sean Salisbury, who’s a good friend of mine. He helped make it happen along with sacrifices from a couple of other guys a year ahead of me. Without them, none of it comes together. It was a whirlwind once I got there. When I arrived at the game, CBS asked me to interview my dad. I didn’t have a ton of time to prepare anything. I sat down, grabbed the mic and they said ‘go.’ That’s exactly what I did — I just went as if we were sitting at the dinner table together. It was amazing. Having him, my mom, my grandparents, and the Rafterys in the building made me feel incredibly comfortable. I truly look back on that as the first moment I genuinely felt like I was heading in the right direction.

DT: Speaking of Raf, you got to work with him in 2021 on a college basketball broadcast for Fox Sports, ironically on a game between the two New Jersey schools he coached, FDU-Madison and Seton Hall. And then last summer you worked with Dan Fouts (Hall-of-Fame quarterback and Ian’s CBS NFL partner while Noah was growing up) on the Los Angeles Chargers preseason games. Two, really good guys with off-beat senses of humor who knew you as a kid hanging around when they worked with Ian. Was that strange for you? For them? Any good stories out of those experiences?

NE: I think there was definitely a moment when we all stepped back and realized how crazy it truly was that we got to do it. Weird probably isn’t the right word for it. It was remarkable. It was incredible. Most importantly, it was comfortable. Because I had known them for so long and been around them in many settings, the chemistry was pretty easy. I already knew what to look for and how to approach calling a game with them. Plus having my dad as a reference as somebody who had done hundreds of games with each broadcaster was invaluable. I hope I get the chance to do it again soon!

DT: You and Nate Burleson (former NFL receiver, now co-host of CBS Mornings), your Nickelodeon partner, get a regular season game on NFL Network. Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings during Week 15. Turns out to be historic. The Colts lead 33-0 at halftime and the Vikings storm back to win 39-36 in overtime completing the greatest comeback in NFL history. Your “Miracle in Minneapolis!” call on Dalvin Cook’s impossible 64-yard, catch-and-run touchdown was an instant classic. Please take me through first what you (and the crew) were thinking and discussing as you took the headset off at halftime with the possibility looming of 30 minutes of “garbage time.” And what will your lasting memories be from that ridiculous fourth quarter and overtime?

NE: If I’ve learned one thing during my time with the Clippers, it’s never to give up on a game. I’ve seen them complete some of the most improbable comebacks including the second-largest in NBA history of 35 points (in DC against the Washington Wizards). At the same time, you need to be prepared to fill if needed. Our discussion at halftime was mostly about which conversations we thought would keep the audience most engaged. We put those in our back pocket and waited to see if the Vikings could make it at least fairly interesting. We also knew that Indianapolis had given up a ton of points in the fourth quarter in their prior game against the Cowboys. It’s funny how it all comes together — I saw a bunch of tweets from people (during the second half) telling me how stupid I sounded basically saying the game wasn’t over and then profusely apologizing when my ‘prediction’ came true. Overall, that game will probably be one of the most fun, craziest I’ll ever call no matter how long of a career I truly have!

DT: Thank you for such thoughtful answers. I can do this forever but I promise we won’t! In the fall you will be the voice and face of NBC’s Big Ten prime time Game of the Week with Todd Blackledge. I know there’s a Clippers season to finish (and with Russell Westbrook now on board, who knows where that goes). Maybe some tennis gigs in the spring? Other assignments perhaps in the interim. Have you had a chance to think about the magnitude of the Big Ten gig and the amazing atmospheres you’ll be immersed in each week?

NE: I’ve definitely dreamed about some of the environments we’ll be going to. Especially when you consider they will be prime time games, you know the energy is going to be at a different level. I got a taste of B1G football this year at Iowa, Rutgers, Maryland and Penn State. It’s definitely a different level, especially at the top of the conference. Add USC and UCLA into the fold in a year and it takes it to another stratosphere. I truly can’t wait to be there but more specifically with our amazing crew of Todd, Kathryn Tappen, producer Matt Marvin, director Charlie Dammeyer and so many more. Should be a once in a lifetime experience!

DT: The Clips lose 176-175 in double overtime to the Sacramento Kings last week. The second highest scoring game in NBA history. Kawhi Leonard has an amazing third quarter. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox were unconscious. The Kings come back not only in the fourth quarter but from down six in both OTs. The Clips had buzzer-beater attempts fall short at the end of regulation and in both OTs. As you wake up the next morning, how do you process a game like that? What’s the takeaway? As Richard Deitsch would say, feel free to take as much space as you like. Thank you.

NE: I woke up feeling exhausted. I think everyone did. More importantly, I felt fortunate. Despite the loss (and trust me, it stung), it’s another all-time classic game that I was lucky enough to be in the building for. The Clippers have provided those in spades. To say I was there to witness it is incredible. Now the attention turns to the more important task at hand — a strong finish and hopefully a deep playoff run!

DT: Let’s get to something important with the final question. Al Michaels proclaims to have never had a vegetable. Ian Eagle repeatedly has said he’s anti-condiment. So here it is: Where are you on ketchup, mustard, relish and mayonnaise? Did you have to wait until college to put ketchup on fries and mustard on a hot dog? Do you have a delightful food quirk that you will be talking about with one of Deitsch’s kids on a podcast in the year 2050?

NE: Ha! Excellent question. I am the least picky eater in my family… but that’s not an impressive feat. I would say the main things I got from my dad are no salad or coffee. I’ve never had them before. I’m sure one day that will change. I don’t necessarily seek out condiments but if they’re already on the sandwich/dish, I’ll still eat it. I’m pretty easygoing. 🙂

Noah Eagle

Noah Eagle