Blind broadcaster shows the power of opportunity

Published 5:32 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

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I don’t often have a chance to listen to basketball games on the radio. I tune in occasionally for NC State games if I happen to be on the road at the right time, but those times are few and far between.

But despite my limited listening, I still know it’s a very different experience to listen to a game on the radio than to see it on TV or live in the gym itself. The broadcasters – usually a play-by-play caller and a color commentator – work together to paint a picture of what’s happening on the court (or field, etc, depending on the sport). They’ve got to be detailed so that the listeners can imagine what’s happening even though they can’t see it with their own eyes.

The ESPN Daily podcast, which features a variety of interesting stories with host Pablo Torre, featured a story about Bryce Weiler on its March 22 episode. Weiler has a side job doing color commentary for radio broadcasts, something he started doing back when he was still a student at the University of Evansville in Illinois. Along with his fellow play-by-play broadcaster, Weiler provides details and stats and other commentary during the game.

The catch?

Weiler is blind, and has been since infancy.

He can’t see the game he’s helping to broadcast, and yet, he does an excellent job providing all the necessary information for people listening on the radio.

Once I saw the description for the podcast, I just had to tune in! I was so curious about how Weiler was able to do the job.

ESPN reporter Sam Borden had interviewed Weiler back in January after he called a basketball game for Eastern Illinois University. Borden explained that Weiler uses his other senses, such as his keen sense of hearing, to be able to follow along with the game. Because he’s relied heavily on hearing his entire life, Weiler is able to draw more meaning out of sounds than sighted people. And, like any other good broadcaster, he also does a lot of research ahead of the game, so he knows plenty about the players beforehand.

To mention just one example of how well Weiler’s sense of hearing is, Borden described watching him shoot free throws before the game. A person would stand underneath the basket and clap, so Weiler would know where to aim. And he was able to hit a lot of the free throws, but even when he missed, Weiler was able to chase after the basketball himself just by following the echoes of it bouncing across the court.

But I thought the most interesting part of the story was not how Weiler is able to do the work, but how he got started doing it.

While Weiler wasn’t too interesting in playing sports as he was growing up, he did enjoy listening to them on the radio, following along with the vivid pictures the commentators were able to paint during each game. When Weiler was a student at the University of Evansville, Marty Simmons was the basketball coach. They met and became friends, and Coach Simmons invited Weiler to sit on the bench with the team.

The experience of getting to listen to each game in a courtside seat taught Weiler a lot more about basketball than ever before. And then, while working with the student radio station, Weiler started conducting interviews at games, and eventually made his way to the courtside broadcast booth. He wasn’t afraid to ask for the opportunity, and people like Coach Simmons helped make that possible.

Weiler graduated from Evansville in 2014, but continues calling games whenever he has the opportunity. Borden interviewed a few different people who had been the play-by-play guy during past games with Weiler. They said that working with Weiler helped improve their own broadcast skills, especially as they learned how to paint a better picture for those who can’t see the game itself.

While broadcasting is a side job, Weiler’s full-time work is as a disability consultant. He works with various organizations to improve inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities. He’s also the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Beautiful Lives Project which does similar work for people with disabilities.

I think it’s great to hear that not only did Weiler himself reach out for opportunities he was interested in, but also people like Coach Simmons and other broadcasters helped open the doors for that opportunity. Many people could have said “you’re blind, so this isn’t possible for you” but instead, Weiler got the support he needed.

Inclusion and accessibility are important. Everyone should be able to have that same kind of support, regardless of any disability they may have. Inclusion may mean doing something different than usual, but it’s worth the work it takes.

Sometimes, I think the roadblock we run into with accessibility is that there aren’t enough people advocating for that change. It’s often left to the people with the disabilities themselves to speak up alone. But the rest of us ought to step up and help out too, to amplify those voices.

Check out the ESPN Daily podcast if you’d like to hear some clips of Weiler’s broadcasting. His story is interesting, and it’s a great example of what can be achieved when we give people a chance to shine.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206