Voice of Patriots radio embraces a new challenge: teaching at Emerson


Bob Socci has served as the Patriots’ radio play-by-play announcer since 2013. (Courtesy: Bob Socci)

By Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor

Almost every Sunday afternoon, from early September to mid-January, Bob Socci steps into a broadcasting booth situated a few dozen rows up from the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, right along the fifty-yard line. 

From that booth, Socci’s words go out over the airwaves of WBZ-FM 98.5 as thousands of listeners tune in to “The Sports Hub” to hear every play of the New England Patriots’ games. He’s called nearly every sack, every touchdown, and every interception since 2013.

And now, from a classroom in the Little Building, there are a few more listeners—Emerson students are also tuning in.

In his first semester as a member of Emerson’s faculty, Socci is sharing his wisdom with students via a sports communications course called sports public relations—an area in which he has a lifetime of experience. Prior to joining the Patriots’ radio broadcast, Socci called Navy football games for 16 years, during which he also worked broadcast and public relations positions for college basketball and minor league baseball. 

After three decades of professional experience, Socci—who regularly receives emails from aspiring sports broadcasters and journalists—began to feel a calling to share that experience with a broader audience. When affiliated faculty member and Emerson graduate Jim Foley ‘09 asked Socci to speak to his students, Socci felt the time was right to jump into teaching. 

“It really sparked an interest in trying to give back in a more collective way,” he said in an interview with The Beacon. “Rather than just imparting some words of advice or constructive criticism to [an individual], it was a way to give back to a larger group.”

Like many journalists and broadcasters, Socci views himself as a life-long learner: he believes his expertise can be applied just as readily to his students’ work as it can to his own. 

“To me, the day you stop getting better or wanting to improve is the day you retire,” he said. “I often found that when I would provide some constructive criticism for young announcers, I was also providing a checklist for myself, a refresher course. The biggest thing is evaluating your work, listening with a critical ear.”

For Socci, the learning journey began in his early days, broadcasting and working for minor league baseball teams. He discovered the value of building relationships with everybody from team members and coaches to passionate fans. 

“When you’re broadcasting in Peoria, Ill. for a Class A baseball team, you get to know some of the people that are really avid followers of that team,” he said. “Your radio audience on a nightly basis is very small; the profile of the team is very small. But then you move up the ladder and you get to the NFL. You realize that it’s a wider audience, obviously a much bigger platform, but it’s still about the people you come in contact with.”

Socci made the transition from minor league baseball and Navy football to the Patriots ten years ago, taking over for legendary play-by-play announcer Gil Santos, who held the role for 36 years. Socci explained that trying to take over for Santos was a daunting prospect, but one made easier by his prior relationship with the veteran broadcaster. 

Socci first reached out to Santos a few years before he was hired as his successor, asking for advice and criticism. The response was honest, but positive—enough to give Socci the confidence to believe he could make it as an NFL broadcaster. 

Still, it was a daunting task, Socci said, to step into the shoes of the man with “the perfect football voice.” 

Before covering his first NFL preseason game in 2013, Socci said he received an encouraging phone call from Santos. 

“He said, ‘Just remember something. There are going to be people that don’t like the way you call games because it’s not the way I did. But remember this: there will be people who like the way you call games because it’s not the way that I do. So just be yourself.’”

Ten years after that phone call, Socci is imparting similar wisdom to his students—and emphasizing the importance of building the types of connections he forged in his early career, which he believes are vital to finding success in the sports journalism industry. 

“Relationships are at the root of everything,” he said. “For me to do what I do, I have to work with people that want to work with me. No matter how good you are, you have to build relationships in broadcasting, because people want to work with people they like working with.”

Though Socci is enjoying teaching and learning from the experience of wearing the instructor’s cap, he has no plans to abandon his radio position anytime soon. For now, he wants to spend some time giving back all that he’s learned—a process he feels is a natural stage of life. 

“I heard someone describing today the different chapters of our lives,” he said. “[They were] talking about how you spend a part of your life [working] on your career, to make that dream come to fruition, and then you spend another chapter working to excel at it. And then, in one of your final chapters, you work to give back. I think that’s where I am.”