Sam Flood ’83, executive producer for NBC Sports, is a decorated individual. Thus far in his career, he has won three Eclipse Awards and 26 Emmy Awards.
At the College, Flood had always been an athlete. Although he played baseball for a short time, he was mainly involved with ice hockey – a team that he eventually captained. It was not only his time in competition that prepared Flood for a career in sports, however. By the time he graduated, he had become “the voice of Williams baseball” and had also covered football for the WCFM radio station.
“I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do [when I graduated],” Flood said, “but I knew I wanted to be in sports.”
With his experience at the College, Flood chose to enter the media side of athletics.
In the grand scheme of things, his experience was minimal. In a field where most had strong sports journalism or broadcasting backgrounds, Flood entered the work force with a degree in history from a liberal arts college. His nonstandard education helped fuel one of the producer’s greatest assets: his spirit of innovation. Among other inventive approaches to sports broadcasting that he pioneered, Flood is known for introducing the “Inside the Glass” approach to hockey broadcasting.
This technique introduces a new analyst whose job is to do everything an analyst in the booth would do but far closer to the game. Therefore, the analyst is far closer to the danger of the game as well. In a 2015 interview with NBC Universal, when the position was still quite new, Pierre McGuire described the role.
“The perks of being inside the glass are that you get to hear what the players are saying, you get to feel the hits and you’re mere feet from it all,” McGuire said.
Though risky and unusual, Flood knew this perspective was worth the effort of bringing it to audiences.
Flood credits his ability to come up with such ideas in a large part to his unusual background. “I was coming at it from a different perspective than the typical broadcasting major,” he said.
With a different mindset from so many around him, Flood pursued ideas that may not otherwise have been considered. In addition to what he achieved with “Inside the Glass,” Flood has also shown his pioneering nature through such initiatives as the “Wednesday Night Rivalry” franchise in hockey and the popular NFL studio show “Football Night in America.” Flood’s innovations have helped to grow NBC’s viewership and acclaim, and led Sporting News to name him the 39th-most influential person in sports in 2016.
From NASCAR to horse racing to the Tour de France, from pregame shows to 12 Olympic games, Flood seems to cover it all. Yet his range never stops him from keeping audiences – or himself – engaged. When asked whether he had a favorite project, Flood answered, “It’s every sport I’m involved in.” Regardless of the event, for someone like Flood, the commitment is the same; there is a duty to the sport and to the network.
“No matter what I’m doing, my job is making sure the right story is being told,” he said.
This universal commitment can be seen in the treatment of events of vastly different magnitudes. There is an enormous difference between one of the many NHL games Flood is responsible for covering each season and the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, which he produced in both 2002 and 2006. Behind the scenes, however, this difference seems much less marked. Of course producing two such unlike events is not the same, but, at the heart of it, it is always about telling a story.
“I go to events big and small, depending on what’s important to us,” Flood said.
If something is happening in sports that the world needs to know about, NBC needs to be there. In Flood’s words, “We have to be where the stories are.”
So he has been, from his days on WCFM to now, with one of the nation’s largest sports networks. Flood’s career will continue to take him wherever sports have a story to tell as he asks and attempts to answer the question, “What can make us [NBC] better?”