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Sophomore meets Miami Heat superstar; ousts Shaq from hiding
One Quinnipiac student, in only five years, already knows what it is like to be a play-by-play sports commentator, work for an elite news association and meet Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neil.
Meeting Shaq was somewhat accidental. Twenty-year-old sophomore, Max Winitz, a broadcast journalism major, used his common sense and good luck to allow the NBC-owned station WTVJ in Miami to be the first to capture the basketball star on tape during his first-ever trip to South Florida last year.
Ever since he was a child, Winitz knew that he wanted to work in sports.
“I used to play the Roger Clemens baseball video game when I was a kid and act out the play-by-play,” he said.
Fast forward to when Winitz first began putting his talent and aspirations to good use in a television production class offered at his high school, Gulliver Prep, in Miami.
“Senior year was my big year,” Winitz said, who loves fishing and is a lifelong Marlins fan.
It was during this year that he went from being behind the scenes to in front of the camera as the school station’s morning sports anchor. His performances won him accolades from teachers and repeated invitations to be the master of ceremonies for sports banquets and to do commentaries for the school’s football games.
It also earned him an internship at one of the most prestigious news stations in his area.
“I called up Tony Segreto, who is a big newscaster in Miami,” Winitz said. “He suggested I apply for an internship, which I did.”
He won the summer job, during which he worked at the station’s news desk.
“The news desk is where all the breaking stories come in,” he said. “I answered phones, did paperwork and shadowed reporters.”
Little did he know that the high point in his time with the station was yet to come.”One highlight was when I got to meet Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat while shadowing a reporter,” he said.
Winitz said that Mourning was surprisingly down-to-earth.
“He was a really nice guy,” he said. “He signed autographs and is really down to earth.”
Later, he would be involved with yet another major sports figure.
“It was Shaq’s first time coming to South Florida and every news station wanted the first shot of him,” Winitz said. “NBC had picked up the location of his car on the helicopter, but Shaq was nowhere to be found.”
That is, until, Winitz realized exactly where the Miami Heat all-star was getting a check-up.
“I was watching on TV as they scanned the buildings surrounding his car,” he said. “I recognized my family doctor’s office, who is also a physician to the Heat, so I called them up and told them that he was there getting a stress test or a physical or something. And, of course, he was.”
When news of Shaq’s location reached the station, it interrupted regularly scheduled programming to go live on location.
“They caught him walking out of the office,” he said, “and ended up being the first station to broadcast his appearance. I didn’t get a lot of credit for it, but it was pretty cool.”
Although Winitz has no plans of returning to the station this summer, he is continuing to gain experience in the field. At Quinnipiac he was the chief political consultant for the university’s cable news channel, Q30, during the presidential election. He has since left Q30. His continuing dream is to someday become a news anchor.
“I could end up in Omaha, Neb.,” he said, “but I’m very confident that I can achieve that goal. I’m a lot like Ron Burgundy from ‘Anchorman.’ It’s my all time favorite movie because I can relate to it.”
He is also used to the publicity.
The walls of Winitz’s room are covered with framed articles from newspapers about his efforts and even one from QU Daily highlighting his experience meeting Alonzo Mourning.
For now, Winitz is on a self-proclaimed “hiatus” from broadcasting and is just enjoying his college experience. But he still hopes to one day become as famous as his role model, Tom Brokaw.” Tom Brokaw is and always will be my idol when it comes to this business,” he said.