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Laker Broadcasting still going Strong, and so is he

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Find out anything and everything that a TV viewer might want to know about the upcoming game. Then condense it into something understandable in 10 seconds or fewer.by: VERN UYETAKE - John Strong has come a long way since he founded and co-anchored Laker Broadcasting, a student-run online sports program at Lake Oswego High School.

From your spot on the couch, the job of a sports announcer might seem easy — but that’s only because John Strong works so hard to get it right.

Strong is a play-by-play broadcaster and NBC’s lead voice for Major League Soccer. Occasionally he has time to think about things other than sports, but it’s not easy.

“I don’t have an office,” Strong said. “On any given week, I’m leaving on a Thursday, flying home on a Sunday. There’s really no typical hours. There is no typical day.”

Does the average sports fan realize how many hours of preparation a two-hour game requires? Strong doesn’t care; he’s too busy working.

It’s already paid off.

Earlier this year, Strong, 28, got his dream job with NBC. But if you’re a dedicated fan of Laker football (or dedicated foe) you should already recognize Strong’s voice.

Strong got his start in the fall of 2002, when — as a senior at Lake Oswego High School — he founded and co-anchored Laker Broadcasting, a student-run online sports program.

Strong had spent his summer looking for internships and traditional broadcasting opportunities. When he came up empty, he decided to create his own.

With the help of a friend, Strong set up a website that would let them broadcast an Internet radio feed — live — from the stands of LOHS.

But first they needed to ask permission.

“The (school administration) had no idea what we were talking about,” Strong said.

As Strong remembers it, web streaming was a new technology back then. Live feeds — either video or voice — were unheard of, and podcasting was just catching on.

“Later, (then-LOHS Principal) Bruce Plato admitted to my mom that he finally said ‘yes’ because he figured we wouldn’t do anything with it,” Strong said.

They secured a little money from the PTA, and got permission to share box seating with Superintendent Bill Korach.

They even had their own URL to distribute — a long one. Now they only needed something to talk about.

“You’re trying to communicate a sometimes complex thought really, really quickly,” Strong said.

“The viewer can’t go back and reread the last sentence if they didn’t figure it out the first time. You only have one chance.”

Strong remembers that first year as a mix of technical difficulties and on-the-air awkwardness — yielding what he described as “hilariously low quality” audio recordings.

During their first game, a second-half injury to the other team’s quarterback forced Strong and his co-anchor to stall for more than 30 minutes.

He doesn’t remember it as being the most polished impromptu analysis ever. But he has the same attitude toward errors then as he does now.

“You identify mistakes, and you work to correct them,” Strong said. “Remember that when something happens, it’s off to Pluto. It’s an electronic wave that just disappears.”

The experience — bumps, stutters and the occasional feedback screech aside — gave him the sort of preparation he couldn’t find anywhere else.

Korach said he remembers Strong as a “very personable, great kid.” Strong’s creation, Laker Broadcasting, offers a lifeline to the local games fans can’t attend and provides career experience for the students — one of whom went on to work at PBS, Korach added.

“What John Strong started has really lived on in a very significant way for kids,” he said.

Laker Broadcasting was Strong’s start as a play-by-play announcer — but he was far from finished.

After majoring in journalism at the University of Oregon, Strong started working full-time for KXL radio. The station re-branded as 750 AM “The Game” during Strong’s employment.

Later, Strong served as a play-by-play announcer for the Portland Timbers. It was his largest audience yet, but that didn’t scare him. He was — and is — always studying his competition.

“I’m terrible to watch a game with,” Strong said. “I don’t want to have a conversation. I don’t want to talk to you. I only want to listen to the announcers.”

Even as his career flourished, Strong still checked on Laker Broadcasting’s growth, offering advice, mentorship and occasional career opportunities to interested students.

Samantha Saldivar, another Lake Oswego High School alum and Laker Broadcasting grad, provided Friday night LOHS football updates for Strong during his time at KXL.

“John is someone I think I’ll always look up to no matter what point in my career I’m at,” Saldivar said. “There aren’t many people in the broadcasting industry who stop and remember that they used to be the little guy, too. John does.”

Today, Saldivar works as a broadcaster for KWVA 88.1 FM Eugene and as a writer for Oregon Sports News.

As for Strong, his journalistic achievements mirror the success and longevity of the high school journalism program he founded.

Today, Laker Broadcasting — which now boasts both radio and live video feeds of LOHS sporting events, multiple cameras, and possibly sadly, a bit more adult supervision — is still going strong.

— Reporter Jillian Daley contributed to this story.



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