Omaha is five days into the 2019 Men’s College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. The games have been tight and enjoyable. For those who have been unable to make it to the ballpark are hopefully still able to follow, through the power of radio. Most specifically, they can listen to the play-by-play given by John Bishop of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on 1620 The Zone AM.
Broadcasting caught Bishop’s ears while growing up, starting in grade school.
“I was interested in sports and loved listening to the commentators,” Bishop said. “I wanted to be involved in sports.”
One broadcaster that caught his attention was Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer Harry Caray.
To first get his foot in the door, Bishop interned for Husker Radio while a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he met his good friend and colleague Kevin Kugler. After graduation, Bishop got a full-time job at KILN in Lincoln where he was program director and hosted the morning show “Jack and John in the Morning” with his co-host Jack Mitchell.
In the summer of 2012, Bishop took the job at 1620 The Zone KOZN Omaha to do “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” with Mike’l Severe. Bishop was replacing his friend, Kugler who was leaving for the Big Ten Network. Two years later his co-host left the show for the Omaha World-Herald, doing his own show “The Bottom Line.” Since then, Bishop has been hosting “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” with Josh Peterson.
Working with a younger co-host, Bishop loves the “old versus young dynamic.”
“The perspectives are different,” Bishop said. “It helps with our philosophy of the “progrum:” sports are fun. At the end of the day we’re still talking about sports.”
Part of that philosophy is to engage with the listener and “help them relax.” Doing a 2-6 p.m. show, most listeners tend to be stressed from work or Omaha traffic. That is why they have special daily segments such as “Dumb Debates” on Wednesday; “The Draft” on Thursday; or their listeners favorite, “One Beer Friday” which starts at 5 p.m. every Friday during their “Blowthrough Hour.”
When Bishop is not engaging with fans and talking Husker or Bluejay sports, he’s calling Creighton men’s basketball and baseball.
“I love traveling with the teams, getting to know the players, sharing stories and laughs,” Bishop said.
When baseball comes to Omaha in the middle of June, Bishop also will cover the Men’s College World Series, reunited with his best friend, Kevin Kugler.
“It’s like a week long college reunion,” said Bishop. “You can hear the fun we have over the air.”
If you’ve been listening to their coverage over the past years you can also get a theme from them. Last year’s theme was playing “Conway Twitty” over the loud speakers during a rain delay. This years theme has yet to be determined.
Preparing for the CWS is a lot of work, something Bishop does a month in advance during the conference baseball tournament and then more intensely days before talking with those who cover the teams, watching a lot of ESPN and reading. His hour drive from work to home every day also helps him prepare.
“I have my own regime,” Bishop said. “The drive can be relaxing. I think and process what to talk about. It’s also good to unwind.”
Mostly, he prepares for that fan experience. Because 1620 The Zone AM is owned by NRG and are the official station of the NCAA, he does a national broadcast.
“The plan is to have fun,” Bishop said. “To share the experience of the CWS and hope the listener comes to Omaha one day.”
Recently Bishop called the games on his own due to Kugler losing his voice. Bishop didn’t change anything about how he did the play-by-play. Although he said it was different without having Kugler in the box, his experience helped him.
“I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of other games before. You just feed of the energy of the ballpark, from the crowd and the players,” he said. “Instinct kicks in.”
He gives credit to Jeff Leise and Damon Benning, both who filled in for Kugler the past two days, who had no time to prepare for this event.
Bishop hopes to help create College World Series memories for those listening or attending on their own, like he has. His favorite memories include seeing the Nebraska baseball team in their first ever CWS, or last year, when he did on-field coverage of the championship game.
“I was next to the Arkansas dugout,” he said. “You knew something was going to explode.”
After the momentum shifted, he moved to the Oregon State dugout. Bishop said he could feel the change in energy between the dugouts.
Bishop’s drive has kept him going over these years in broadcasting. He has never been at a point where he has rethought his career.
“Confidence and believing in what you do, no one can get in your way,” he said.
A great mentality he brings with him every time he steps in from of the mic.
Fans can continue to listen to Bishop through tomorrow, or Saturday, if there are any games in the box, and during the championship games when he does on field coverage.