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HomeSportsLake Forest Resident Inducted Into Sports Broadcasting Hall Of Fame

Lake Forest Resident Inducted Into Sports Broadcasting Hall Of Fame

Sports Lake Forest Resident Inducted Into Sports Broadcasting Hall Of Fame Tom Fletcher revolutionized television broadcasts of pro sports, using remote controlled cameras to introduce innovative new angles.
Tom Fletcher of Fletcher Sports was the first to introduce cameras behind the backboards at NBA games. (Scott Anderson/Patch, File)
LAKE FOREST, IL — Lake Forest resident Tom Fletcher was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame last month at a ceremony in New York, marking a crowning achievement in a that changed the game when it comes to live sports broadcasts.
Fletcher and his father launched Fletcher Chicago back in 1987, working in film as well as broadcast sports. “Fletcher was a family business. It was my dad, my sister and Dan Grange. We ran it, we managed it,” Fletcher said in his induction speech. “Dan was often referred to as ‘Dan Fletcher.'”
A big break for the business game in the 1991 NHL All-Star game at Chicago Stadium, where Fletcher introduced a scoreboard-mounted camera. From there, his company was hired to work the Stanley Cup finals later that year. “Sad thing for us was: the first night, the camera did not work properly, did not have zoom and focus,” Fletcher recalled. “It had just come off of ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ — we did motion picture work as well — it was a Meg Ryan-Alec Baldwin movie and the crew had messed up the wiring on the inside.”
Fletcher described getting a call from the broadcast chief ahead of the second game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota North Stars. “I was up in the crow’s nest in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, and he said, ‘You better’ — and I’ll keep this clean — ‘You better get this camera working for Game Two, or you’re never going to work in this business again.’ I am not exaggerating. That is exactly what he said to me.”
In the 1991 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls, Fletcher Camera had the opportunity to showcase the stars of Chicago’s first professional basketball championship. “Fletcher hitched our wagons to Michael Joran and the Chicago Bulls and that dynasty [for] six years,” he said. “But the bigger dynasty that we hitched our wagon to was the NBA on NBC.”
Some of the innovative camera angles the company introduced include the low home-plate shot in baseball, in-net and behind-the-net cameras in hockey, goal post cameras in the NFL and speed shots in NASCAR. Today, the term “Fletcher Cam” has become interchangeable with “robo-cam,” according to Reel Chicago. “Tom Fletcher and his group gave us an opportunity to show views of the game that nobody had ever seen before,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Whether it was the speed shot or the rocker cam, or overhead from the scoreboard or in the net, it enabled our fans to get inside a game that up until then, many people thought was too fast to televise,”
Fletcher, who also has five Emmy awards to his name, sold his companies in 2018 but remained involved in the camera business, becoming director of marketing for the optical devices division of Fujifilm North America. “After selling Fletcher Sports a number of years ago and Fletcher Camera, I didn’t want to retire. I like this too much. This is much fun,” he said. “So I joined Fujifilm Fujinon, and I got to create lenses from scratch. I had the support of my factory to say, ‘OK, Tom-san what what should we do? What should we build?’
Ken Aagaard, the chairman of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, said in a statement that more than 150 sports television broadcasting executives took part in the voting for the 2023 Hall of Fame class, which also included Val Ackerman, Lance Barrow, Cris Collinsworth, Steve Hellmuth, Andrea Joyce, Tony Petitti and Jeff Zachary. “Once again, they elected an exceptional class of innovators and game-changers who embody the commitment to excellence, professionalism, and leadership that makes our industry great,” Aagaard said. Fletcher’s father, Archie, retired at the age of 83 before dying last June in Lake Bluff at the age of 90. Days later, Fletcher learned he would be inducted into the Sports Broadcast Hall of Fame. In his acceptance speech, he said it was hard to learn of the prestigious honor immediately after his father’s passing. “I knew my dad was looking down on me from above and helping. I knew that was going to be the case,” Fletcher said. “I didn’t know he was going to work that fast — even the next day.”



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