Power Hitter Profile: Steve Gorsuch – Cameraman, Consultant, Innovator
Secretariat wins the Belmont by 31 lengths. Dwight Clark makes The Catch, propelling the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. Arthur Fiedler leads the Boston Pops in their traditional rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” during America’s Bicentennial Celebration. For most people, these iconic moments linger in memory as images on a television screen, either watched live or replayed in highlight reels and commercials. For Steve Gorsuch, however, the experience is a bit different. Not only was he there, he captured these moments on camera.
Steve Gorsuch’s profession has taken him from the racetrack in his hometown to the Super Bowl, from the anti-war protests in Washington, DC, to the Bicentennial in Boston, from hockey and basketball to golf and tennis. While Gorsuch, currently the Director of Broadcast Operations for the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, continually acknowledges the luck, respect, and support he has received, his career is defined by dedication, perseverance, and overall, a love of what he does.
From the Hometown Track to the Political Frontlines
A native of Monmouth County, NJ, Gorsuch’s career got off to a fortuitous beginning at the local racetrack. In the summer between his junior and senior year at American University in Washington, DC, Gorsuch decided that he wanted to work at Monmouth Park Racetrack.
“I walked down a hallway and saw a sign that said TV Control Room,” recalls Gorsuch, “and I said, ‘Huh, that’s interesting. That’s what I’m studying in college. Let me just walk in there.’ I walked in and the head guy in that control room said, ‘What do you do?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to do camera here.’ He said, ‘OK great, you start on Monday.’ That was basically the interview.”
Gorsuch operated the patrol camera at Monmouth Park for the rest of that summer. Although his interests tended more towards sports video and photography, Gorsuch secured an internship with NBC News in Washington, DC, during his senior year. As buses and student groups surrounded the White House, protesting the Vietnam War and Kent State shootings, Gorsuch was given a radio, told to get on the street, and send information up to David Brinkley, who was broadcasting from the roof of the Mayflower Hotel.
“It was a great time to be in Washington, DC,” says Gorsuch. “A bad time in our country, but a great time to be in the media, and certainly for a fledgling media person down there.”
Shifting to a lighter note, Gorsuch remembers that there was never much information to feed up to Brinkley. “At the time, I had long hair, so the police wouldn’t talk to me because I had long hair. NBC made me wear a jacket and tie, so the students wouldn’t talk to me because I had a jacket and tie. So basically, I didn’t get anything [except] chased and tear gassed.”
Right Place, Right Time, Once Again
After graduating from American University, Gorsuch continued to do racetrack camerawork for two more years, adding Aqueduct, Saratoga, Belmont, Yonkers, Roosevelt, Liberty Bell, Atlantic City Race Course, and Freehold to the resume.
While working at Belmont and Saratoga, Gorsuch became acquainted with the CBS Sports team covering those races for the network. Two years after graduating from college, he went to work for the company packaging the CBS Sports Spectacular, Marvin Sugarman Productions. As a cameraman for Marvin Sugarman Productions, Gorsuch covered various sports for the CBS Sports Spectacular, including rodeo and track and field, as well as the New York Nets and Islanders from the Nassau Coliseum and horseracing from Yonkers and Roosevelt.
In 1975, Gorsuch was covering a race at Yonkers when he heard that CBS Sports was hiring. Once again, Gorsuch decided to walk into the place he wanted to work and see what happened.
“I heard that the next day was the last day they were hiring,” says Gorsuch, “so I went down to CBS, walked in the door, went up to be interviewed, and they hired me on the spot. Luckily, a lot of the production people that were CBS Sports people I had worked with on CBS Sports Spectacular so they already knew me [even though] I wasn’t a CBS Sports guy.”
CBS Sports Guy to CBS Sports Innovator
It didn’t take long for Gorsuch to become a “CBS Sports guy.” From 1975-82, Gorsuch served as a cameraman for the network, covering various events including the U.S. Open and the Super Bowl. Gorsuch’s last year in this capacity coincided with John Madden’s first as a Super Bowl commentator – Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Silver Dome – for which Madden stressed the need for camera assignments when televising football.
“[Madden] took the whole camera crew and said, ‘Listen, guys. We’re going to do assignments,’” remembers Gorsuch. Instead of each cameraman following a wide receiver in motion who may do nothing, Madden encouraged the entire crew to recognize the plays and to break away in the middle in order to focus on the action. “Somewhere during the first quarter I think everybody on the camera crew realized this really works,” says Gorsuch, “Somehow, we [would get] a million angles without having a million tape machines.”
In 1982, Gorsuch retired his camera in favor of a new career as a technical director. After spending two years with Channel 2 in New York and a year with CBS Evening News, Gorsuch returned to CBS Sports in that capacity. Soon after, Gorsuch was named CBS Sports’ first “hyphenate” – a position created by CBS that fused the technical director and manager roles. While Gorsuch cites this role as one of his most challenging, he succeeded in juggling management concerns with union opinions by putting fairness above allegiance.
“When first asked how I would side with any one team, I said I’m just going to be fair,” says Gorsuch. “You’re only as good as your word.”
Taking the Reins from a Mentor and Friend
Gorsuch remained at CBS Sports as a “hyphenate” until 2003, when he was offered the position of broadcast consultant for the USTA. The circumstances surrounding the job offer, however, were tragic; Herb Swan, Gorsuch’s predecessor at the USTA, passed away suddenly at the end of 2002.
“When I worked with CBS, Herb was my direct contact with the USTA and I learned a lot from him,” remembers Gorsuch of his friend, mentor, and role model. “He and I spent many a night at the U.S. Open sitting in his office late at night just talking. I still wear a key chain on my neck which opens up the master set of locks around the tennis center — it was Herb’s keychain, and I will never not wear it.”
In order to take on the new consulting role, Gorsuch retired from CBS and formed his own consulting company, through which he managed the U.S. Open on the domestic and international fronts. In 2007, at the request of Ken Aagaard, Gorsuch added golf to the repertoire.
Keeping Ahead of the Curve
A veteran of the television industry, Gorsuch admits that the future of television is unclear. The introduction of handheld devices and 3D technology has changed the idea of television, and staying at the forefront of the industry’s evolution is pivotal.
“People want content on the device of their choosing, at the time of their choosing, and at the location of their choosing,” says Gorsuch, “The younger [generation] are the people who are going to move the industry, but they don’t necessarily want to sit in a room and watch it on a TV set.”
A Labor of Love
Working with CBS Sports on their tennis and golf coverage does not afford Gorsuch much time for vacation, but the television veteran does not seem to mind.
“I love going out there to do what I do,” says Gorsuch, after 40 years in the industry. “It’s a labor of love. If I have to go on a tennis survey or a golf survey, I really want to be there.”
Gorsuch spends what little time he has off with his wife and children. Gorsuch’s wife, Patti, was CBS Sports’ first female director of a football broadcast after working for ABC Sports as an associate director/associate producer.
All three Gorsuch children have followed their parents into the business, although Steve is quick to note that they achieved their success based solely on their own merit. Gorsuch’s two sons work freelance for CBS, with the youngest also working for Major League Baseball. Gorsuch’s daughter, a communications student at Fairfield University, is currently interning at CBS Sports.
Dedicating his professional life to sports, Gorsuch admits that the business is about rewards and sacrifices. The Gorsuch family may not be together on holidays, but as iconic moments in sports unfold on TV, there’s an excellent chance a Gorsuch is capturing that moment on camera.