Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lessons about Stage Fright from the Kentucky Derby Announcer

This year, Tom Durkin, who has called the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown horse races on network TV has decided not to renew his contract on NBC Sports. Why?

Stress and performance anxiety.

Listen to this interview from last Wednesday's All Things Considered on NPR:

When Melissa Block asks Durkin why he quit, he answers:

"For three months a year, I'd be walking around with this pit in my stomach...the stress leads to bad health... I tried everything I could to treat it with hypnosis which I've been doing for 20 years."

The interviewer then brings up the 2009 Kentucky Derby, where a horse comes out of nowhere and wins. She asks whether that was one of his nightmare scenarios.

Turns out, Durkin's nightmares are not the kind that actually happen in real life. He explains:

"I have crazy nightmares. Most of the time, I can't get to the announcer's booth or someone has spray painted my binoculars and I can't see through...One time in my subconscious mind I was calling the Kentucky Derby and a Norwegian cruise liner came down the stretch and I couldn't see the horses! Those are big ships, too. Can't see many horses behind them."

I wonder what would have happened if one of these things had actually happened during a race, and Durkin lived to tell the tale. If someone had actually spray painted his binoculars (or freighted a cruise ship onto the track), perhaps it would take some of the anxiety out.

Perhaps it is the possibility and not the reality of this type of nightmare that makes it so scary and anxiety-producing.

From the Green Room: The next time something unexpected trips you up during a presentation, be grateful. That is one more stressful situation you no longer have to be afraid of!

From the

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