Bram Weinstein looked at the 18-year-old students he was teaching in his writing class at American University and asked them what they wanted to be. He quickly realized that few had any idea.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Weinstein, the newly named play-by-play announcer for the Washington Football Team.
At the age of 5, he began silencing the family’s radio and television during games so he could do the announcing himself. Back then, he pretended to be Frank Herzog, the longtime voice of Washington’s football team.
Starting with the upcoming football season, Weinstein’s voice will be heard by more than his family. Becoming his favorite team’s play-by-play announcer is “a dream job,” he said. “I cried when I got this job, for like a half hour.”
Weinstein, 47, grew up in Silver Spring and attended Springbrook High School and Shaare Tefila Congregation. Since graduating from American University, he spent from 2008 to 2015 at ESPN, where he described himself as a “snarky anchor.” He’s been a sidelines radio reporter for the Washington Football Team and had his own radio show.
Since learning he will replace Larry Michael, who retired amid a Washington Post report of a culture of sexual harassment amid the team’s management, Weinstein said he has been on an incredible high.
He is now preparing for a job that might not even happen this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic. And if it does, Weinstein wonders, what will the role of a play-by-play announcer be when there is no one in the stands? Worse yet, what will it be like to call a game at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium where, at least as of now, only half the seats can be filled?
“It’s a really unusual time to do this.”
Weinstein is a lifelong fan of all Washington teams, but the football team has always been his first love. “Outside my family, this is the entity I have spent the most time with. They feel like family to me.”
While he knows the team and its history as well as quarterbacks know their receivers’ patterns, much is new this season, from the head coach to several key players. Because of social distancing, Weinstein is not even sure he will have the chance to speak with the athletes. Meanwhile, he is studying the National Football League’s rulebook and is planning to learn all he can about both his home team players and the opponents they will face.
Weinstein hesitated when asked how the team will fare this season. There’s a new coach, no off season, a team that has barely played together, no preseason games and many new staff members, he listed as if he is bracing himself for a long season. Perhaps, he said, veteran teams that have played together for a few years will have a better season.
But he has high expectations. With such excellent young talent, “collectively it’s promising,” he said. “The defensive line, it’s almost embarrassing.”
Many sports announcers have a signature line, but Weinstein does not and isn’t striving to come up with one. He believes that if he gets one, “it will just happen organically.”
He is happy with the team’s new name and said he would be fine if Washington Football Team became its permanent label. However, he admitted he has an attachment to the former name, generally regarded as a slur against indigenous Americans, and its history. “It was never intended to be racist,” he said. “This is a multibillion dollar brand. You don’t change that in the blink of an eye.”
Weinstein is married and the father of two children. The family attends Temple Sinai in Washington.
“My Judaism is very important to me, and it always has been,” he noted. It taught him respect, although he admitted that is particularly difficult when it comes to Philadelphia Eagles fans. “They are really a piece of work,” he said.
As for Judaism’s role when he is in the booth calling an amazing catch or yet another missed opportunity, Weinstein said he believes in “separation of sports and church.”
If the season is intercepted by the global pandemic, Weinstein said he’ll be OK. “Hopefully in 2021, we’ll get our world back.”
Suzanne Pollak is a Washington-area writer.