Interview: Cavs In-Game Host Nicole Cuglewski

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Nicole Cuglewski, the Cavs' in-game host, graciously spent some time chatting about her job, her other job, her other other job, polka, and more. Get to know the woman that keeps you entertained during Cavs games. Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavs.

VG: How did you get the gig?

Nicole: This is my fourth season now. Back then, I saw they were hosting auditions. The first audition was at St. Ed's. I don't know how many people showed up. We took a look at a script and gave it a read. Then they narrowed it down and we went to the Q. There was a small group. They paired us up with a guy because they wanted to see how we would interact because they were also looking for a PA announcer at the time. Then they had us run through a mock game.

VG: Is there a difference in the level of nervousness between that first season and now?

Nicole: Before I do every hit, I still get a little jittery. But for me, those are good. They give me energy to do the job. Once they go away, I think it means I don't care, so I'm glad I still have them.

VG: What's your day job?

Nicole: I work at American Greetings as a marketing manager full time. I work on a brand called Photoworks where users can upload digital pictures onto hardbound cover books mousepads, coffe mugs, etc.

VG: And you also sing, so you're basically a Renaissance woman.

Nicole: I do a bunch of random stuff. I do the spots for Mr. Hero, I also host a show on Time Warner called "Helping Hands" where we highlight area non-profit groups. I'm also getting involved in producing since I have a writing background.

Vince: Tell me about your love of polka and how that started.

Nicole: I'm 100% Polish, so polka has always been a part of my life. My father had a polka bad, and when I was about 2 1/2 years old he was performing at a wedding and I got up on stage and grabbed the mic for the first time. The bug bit me then. It's amazing where polka has taken me. My grandfather, whom I never met, was known in Cleveland as the "Polka Baron." He hosted a polka show on WZAK before it became more urban, so he was pretty well known in the area. He had this broadcasting career, and there's me, and I have it in my blood as well. I've performed on polka albums, I've got a bunch of autns and uncles in polka bands. There's something about it that's comforting. At a lot of family events they ask me to sing.

VG: Have you nudged the people you work with at the Cavs and tell them they should play more polka at the arena?

Nicole: No, I don't. Only because not everybody has an appreciation for it. I don't know that it would fit the atmosphere.

VG: Well, maybe you should write a polka song if the Cavs win it all this year.

Nicole: I don't think it would be any good, although I could try to write it in Polish, but then no one would understand it.

VG: How far can you throw those little basketballs?

Nicole: I'll be honest. I used to play fast pitch softball. I played third base and had a decent arm. Since I don't play now the strength in my arm isn't where it used to be. I think I can throw pretty well for a girl, but I can't get it up into the club level. Maybe if I practiced.

VG: You ever play with the machine that shoots the balls out into the upper deck?

Nicole: No. I'm going to leave that to the pros.

VG: What's your favorite in-game contest?

Nicole: I really like the ones where we incorporate kids.

VG: How much of the game do you actually get to see?

Nicole: I really don't watch until maybe 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

VG: Take me through game day.

Nicole: For a 7 p.m. tipoff we have a pregame meeting between 4 and 4:30. From 4:30 until about 5 I'm going over notes for the game. About 5:30 is dinner and by 6 we're starting pregame stuff out in the concourse welcoming everybody. Once we're done with that I do some reads at the scoring table, then go back to the lockerroom and then it's tipoff and that's when the craziness ensues.

VG: Do you watch the games when they're on the road?

Nicole: I do. It's kind of interesting because I interact with Fred McLeod and Austin Carr when they're here, but I never really know what they're saying on the air. So when they're on the road I listen.

VG: Howie Mandel is a notorious germaphobe, and yet, when you were on Deal or No Deal you got him to kiss you.

Nicole: Twice, actually. I don't how I got him to do that. I'm sure he used a lot of hand sanitizer afterward.

VG: You work for the Cavs, you have a full time job, you sing... anything else?

Nicole: I do freelance video work too.

VG: Does your husband ever get to see you?

Nicole: It's all about time management.

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