To see the smooth delivery and easy, genial manner in which Ron Burke works in front of a camera today, you wouldn’t know it all started with a subtle push and a twitchy leg. Comcast SportsNet’s veteran sportscaster enters the living rooms of sports fans throughout the Delaware Valley armed with over two decades of Philadelphia sports knowledge.
More importantly, Burke, 47, has become that familiar face–the morning friend you can turn to in disseminating the previous day’s Phillies, Flyers, Sixers or Eagles’ highlights. He’s a trusted Philadelphia sports media staple that’s an energetic straight-shooter with an understated approach, a refreshing rarity in today’s world of contrived gimmicky styles.
Burke calls Broomall home, well more specifically, his home-away-from-home, which is originally Richmond, VA. It’s there that the polished pro first got his start on a high school stage as a homecoming king candidate, beginning with a splendid rendition of Martin Luther King’s unforgettable “I Have A Dream” speech.
Only there was one glaring issue in what would eventually launch Burke’s career—he never spoke publicly before.
“It’s my senior year of high school, and a teacher asked me if I’d enter my name and I agreed to it,” said Burke, in his silky melodic voice. “There was one big portion though to get there, the talent portion. I couldn’t sing, and hadn’t mastered a musical instrument. So I tried public speaking, and picked Martin Luther King’s 'I Have a Dream' speech."
He continued, "It’s powerful and I just remember being terrified. I wasn’t the guy who did that kind of thing. I wasn’t the most talkative person in high school. I was a good student, but totally content on not being called on. All of this for me was a sharp detraction from the norm.”
So Burke easily absorbed the speech. He started by delivering it behind a lectern and as he reached the meat of the speech, he came out from behind the wooden shield and grabbed his audience with an empowering interpretation.
There was just one problem …“My leg was shaking as I gave the speech,” Burke recalled laughing. “I was drenched in sweat, my leg is visibly shaking and I had to give this speech two more times. I’m thinking there is no way I’m going to get through this. But here’s what happened. The second time I felt better, and by the third time, I was very confident. I was pushed into doing it but I found a passion, and it unleashed this belief that I could do something that was completely foreign to me. It was an epiphany that changed my life.”
Though a future in broadcasting was a budding thought, something else also had a hold of Burke during that period of his life—baseball. Burke, a starter for his high school team, attended James Madison for communication arts, yet tried to latch on James Madison’s baseball team as a walk-on. He reached the final cuts. That’s as far as it went. It’s then that it hit Burke where his future crystallized. The thought, however, was bittersweet.
“It was really, really sad because I loved playing baseball and a part of my life was changing. I had no strong expectations of playing baseball professionally, but when it ends, it’s tough to accept because baseball was such a big part of my existence,” Burke shared. “I did get a better direction where I was going. Ultimately, I started to take greater stock in developing my broadcasting career. But it was hard parting with baseball. I can say I’m okay with the trade-off though.”
Burke came to Philadelphia in 1988 at Channel 10, which had media institutions like Larry Kane, Al Meltzer, Harvey Clark and Bill Baldini. Burke was just 24 at the time, and about to immerse himself in the crazy world of Philadelphia sports.
“I didn’t have any pre-conceived idea about Philadelphia before I arrived here. I was only 24, but I was bombarded in a good way by Al [Meltzer] and the veterans around me about the teams in this market,” Burke said. “This is a special place for sports. More so than any other large city because people in this area care about their teams. They wear their teams on their sleeves; sports are in the marrow of the fans here. I landed in a great place where people have a passion for sports.”
Burke worked for Channel 10 for eight years, until NBC took over the CBS affiliate and made wholesale changes. He was part of the first Comcast SportsNet crew in 1997 when the network launched locally. He left to do brief stints with NBATV, a station in New York City, before he rejoined Comcast SportsNet in January 2002 until the present.
Burke’s lived in Broomall with his wife and two daughters since 1994.
"Richmond will always be home to me, it’s where I’m from. That’s where my family and associations helped to develop me as a person and who I am,” Burke said. “But I have been blessed to find another place in Broomall that’s like home. It’s where I’ve raised my daughters and it’s a community that has something for everyone. It’s the closest thing to home for me. It’s the perfect location of everything we need, and for everything to get you through the day.”
The daily dose of a Philadelphia sports fixture, whose leg doesn’t shake anymore—“It hasn’t done that in a while,” Burke said laughing—it's Burke's face we’re turning to, to tell us who won and who lost from last night's game.