Today marks one year since the popular Scott Clark completed his farewell tour at WABC/Channel 7. The sports anchor says the decision to leave was solely his—with a major assist from his wife Heather.
“The station was fantastic about it,” Clark tells FishbowlNY from his Michigan lakefront house.
So instead of taking the proverbial gold watch at 25 years of service, Clark retired, a decision that he contemplated for several years.
“In the beginning of my career, I had always thought of 50 [when] I’m going to retire,” Clark admits.
But, once Clark hit the big 5-0, he was still under contract. By the time that deal expired, Clark was 52. However, the veteran sports anchor wasn’t mentally prepared to step away.
“There was another deal on the table, and it was a very good deal,” Clark says.
As the five-year pact was winding down, Clark didn’t have the cold feet. He was ready.
“I was getting pretty good thoughts…my mind, body, and soul were officially saying ‘I think this is it. We’re done,’” Clark recalls.
Once the days dwindled to a precious few, Clark knew there would be no false alarm this time. But as early as baseball’s Spring Training in 2009, being sports anchor was starting to take its toll.
“There was a thought in my mind before I left,” Clark says. “I can’t wait until I get back [to New York].”
But Clark wasn’t a well-known figure on television sets because he “mailed it in.” His passion for sports shined on a nightly basis. He says each newscast provides excitement, whether it was the writing, anchoring, or his special features.
“But there were certain things that were beginning to wear on me, physically and mentally,” Clark admits. “It was basically the 30-day runs of the Yankee post-season. And it started affecting me.”
He recalls the Knicks and Rangers championship runs of 1994, exciting for the moment, but stressful to cover.
“We worked over a month and didn’t have a day off,” Clark says. “We didn’t seem to have an hour off.”
The tough schedule and his advancing age ultimately led Clark to walk away with no regrets.
“You’re putting together five to six packages every day. You’re on the road. You do a late night show. You get two hours of sleep and then you’re on a plane…then you’re working another 16-or 18-hour day.”
One way to eliminate some of the job stress is to reduce the workload. For example, a personal request led to WCBS/Channel 2 rejiggering its sports anchors in 2009. Sam Ryan, who has since left for the MLB Network, was “cutback” to three nights, along with her CBS College Sports hosting. Otis Livingston was upgraded to four nights.
However, Clark, a TV purist, says the main anchor is a five-night-a-week gig.
“I just don’t think that works,” Clark says. “That’s not what this job description is…I couldn’t compromise the position and feel good about it.”
He says there was no offer to adjust his schedule.
“It’s a young man’s game,” Clark admits.
While Clark loved his job, he recognizes that the local newscast has changed drastically since he came on the scene at WABC in 1986.
“Sports is taking a backseat, and getting a little further back,” Clark says.
That is clearly evident at WPIX/Channel 11, which yanked its sports division. Scores are given by the news anchor in a one-minute segment at the end of the broadcast (WPIX has reinstated a per diem sportscaster on weekends). On rival Channel 5/WNYW, using sister station WWOR/Channel 9 sports anchor Russ Salzberg, the newscast ends with his brief sports report.
“Fortunately, they never took my standard time away,” Clark says. “I had more time than any other local sports guy while I was there.”
During Clark’s time, audiences stayed glued for his long-running features that included The Highlight Zone, (in-season) Armchair Quarterback, and Out of This World.
Part of Clark’s longevity was gearing his reports for the masses, not the typical sports fanatic that accounted for about only 20 percent of the audience.
“My greatest accomplishment was when a 56-year-old woman, a grandmother, would come up to me and say, ‘I hate sports, but I love your sportscast.’” Clark recalls. “That was my mission.”
But Clark wasn’t only on the receiving end of love. Although a native of Lima, Ohio, Clark had a deep affection for this city and its residents.
“I got to feel like a New Yorker, and when 9/11 occurred it just embedded my soul even more,” Clark admits.
Regardless, Clark says he does not miss the Big Apple’s fast pace and clogging traffic.
“I miss the groundswell, I miss the excitement,” Clark adds. “I can’t say that I miss it. That wouldn’t be honest. I enjoyed that, but I don’t miss it.”
Instead, since retirement, Clark, 58, has spent most of his days golfing or renovating a South Carolina summer home.
As for missing the limelight, Clark doesn’t. But acknowledges if the project comes along he would explore it.
“If I do nothing from here on out, that’s ok too. Unless I wake up saying, ‘God, I gotta do something,” Clark laughs. “I don’t think that I’m going to get there.”
Video courtesy of WABC-TV