HOUSTON – Despite getting in just a couple hours before the Panthers are set to take on the Texans, Kenny Albert’s locked in. He’s checking his meticulously detailed player charts, having sidebars with his spotter, Ben, and cracking jokes with partner Rondé Barber. There’s a dedicated “Kenny” button, similar to a cough button, on the sound board that allows Barber to chat with Albert, and vice versa. The pair gets plenty of use out of it after kickoff.
This is all part of the show for Albert, and belies the fact that he was on a redeye coming from Los Angeles after calling the Errol Spence Jr./Shawn Porter fight the night prior. Just a few days later, he will be back on the call for Fox in Houston as the Astros make their run through the Divisional Round. Albert is in a dizzying run that will see him call NFL, NHL, MLB playoffs, NBA, and boxing in a multi-week stretch, and the most surprising thing is that he hasn’t managed to shoehorn more cities — and more sports — into the mix.
“There hasn’t been a situation where I was looking at Kenny like, ‘What do we do here?'” Barber says. “Because he’s seen it all. He’s done it all. He’s worked with so many different types of animals on all the sports. I think his adaptability, just because of the different experiences he’s had, it makes him invaluable in my mind.”
By his count, the 51-year-old has worked with more than 200 analysts in his career, and that number is constantly growing. He’s been on the broadcast for all four major sports (including his work on MSG broadcasting Knicks games), along with college basketball, boxing, and Olympics coverage. There’s the general sense that if a game is being played, a mic is present, and Albert is in the general vicinity, he’d find a way to call it. To Albert, it stems from his high school days on Long Island when he volunteered for a girls basketball game he was already covering for the school paper as a sophomore.
They had two cameras and no announcer, so Albert filled in, and got the Cox Cable producer’s card after the game. That led to around 100 events over his next three years of high school, including basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, as well as some basketball and football for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
“Obviously, I didn’t get paid, but didn’t really care at that point,” Albert says. “I just felt like I had a three-year head start on anybody else my age who wanted to get into it who probably would not have the opportunity until college.”
Albert attunes his ability to cover multiple sports to having two uncles and his father, Marv, as broadcasters as well. All three were around hockey, basketball, and boxing, and a couple of them managed to get some football work in over the years. Kenny tagged along and helped prepare stats for Marv when he was little, and saw how the various booths operated from sport to sport. As he puts it, it was part DNA and part learning through osmosis. And this part of the calendar is where it all comes together.
“Sometimes in a strange way I feel like during those periods of the year,” Albert says, “and it’s usually in October when so many sports collide at once, for some reason, I don’t know if I’m more focused, even more organized than usual – and I’m pretty organized for the most part – but I feel like I get things done even quicker, if that’s the right word. Maybe it’s just because of the amount of time I’m planted in hotels where you might even get more work done than at home, but for whatever reason, I seem to thrive in those situations preparation wise, when there are a lot of things going on at once. Maybe you’re just more focused. That could be part of it.”