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Diary of a commentator

Discussion in 'Our Errors are Mistakes: The Media Forum' started by ConigliarosPotential, Aug 4, 2017.

  1. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    2,499
    So, this morning I got the call to make my TV commentary debut for DAZN tomorrow - I'm heading down to a London studio to call the Ligue 1 season opener between Montpellier and Caen. (That's French soccer, if you're not @Titans Bastard or another European football junkie.) I know at least one member - I'm looking at you, @InstaFace - who wanted to be kept informed about my commentary schedule, so I thought I'd start a thread here and maybe make some notes and tell some stories as I move forward. If this is a bad idea and nobody is interested, I'm sure this thread will die a quick death...but I'm told I may be in line to call NFL and NBA games, Italian and Spanish football matches, European basketball and/or possibly some ATP Tour tennis, in addition to separately starting my fourth year of commentating on the European Champions Hockey League (which begins in three weeks). So who knows, maybe this will be of interest to some of you.
     
  2. pedro1918

    pedro1918 Member SoSH Member

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    3,120
    That sounds awesome. Congratulations and good luck!
     
  3. snowmanny

    snowmanny Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    That is very very cool.
     
  4. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    27,721
    Best of luck, sir!
     
  5. Detts

    Detts Member SoSH Member

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    2,647
    You are going to kill this. Relax and enjoy.
     
  6. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

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    5,129
    This is great, I'd love to read more.
     
  7. Reverend

    Reverend for king and country Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    28,091
    Break a leg.

    Seriously--you're an Atlanta fan on a Boston board and weathered the football forum without going under and didn't even walk away. You got this.
     
  8. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I'm subscribing to this thread*










    *how does one subscribe to a thread?
     
  9. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

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    That's great. Can you tell us a bit more about the network? From what I found it's not available in the US, but is in Canada and Europe? From your planned schedule it sounds like they move around the announcers between everything they have, which should be pretty fun for you, if kind of stressful if you're not an expert on something they throw you on. Good luck!
     
  10. Reverend

    Reverend for king and country Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    28,091
    Private Youtube/Vimeo video for the SoSHers in your (OP poster's) life?

    If you can think of a better place to get notes, I'd like to hear it. :)
     
  11. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    2,499
    Right, so...

    I know quite a lot about football (soccer), but when I got the call yesterday morning, I only knew the basics about French football, and the only player on either Montpellier or Caen I'd ever heard of was Stephane Sessegnon, who had played for Sunderland and West Brom a few years ago in England. So I spent most of yesterday doing research, and by the time I went to bed after midnight last night, I had created the file full of facts and figures attached below - it was in Excel, but I've converted it to a PDF here - along with a separate Word file with other background material and potential items I might use to fill dead air. (I'm enough of a geek to somewhat enjoy making and color-coding worksheets like these in such a way that I can immediately find a fact to use in the heat of battle.) I also downloaded several French football podcasts to listen to during my journey by way of additional research and getting some French pronunciations into my head.

    The problem was that by the time I'd finished doing this, I was so amped up with adrenaline that I couldn't get to sleep - and then when I finally did get to sleep, I woke up less than four hours later, well before my alarm was due to ring. I was beginning to think I'd been set up to fail: foreign league, unfamiliar players, no sleep, seven-hour drive ahead. Luckily I didn't crash my car on the way down and did absorb some information from the aforementioned podcasts, and I arrived more than three hours before kickoff, so I had plenty of time to familiarize myself with the studio. This setup is rather weird insofar as my booth wasn't soundproofed or indeed surrounded by any walls or glass at all; instead, I and the commentators around me calling the other French matches this evening (who I could hear when the crowd in Montpellier was quiet) were effectively in cubicles. And instead of using a microphone attached to my headset, for the first time I used one of these old-style handheld mics that apparently are better at eliminating background noise and only picking up what you speak directly into them:
    upload_2017-8-5_22-26-44.jpeg
    The one thing I really wish I'd been able to do was script my introductory material to perfectly fit the running order. I wrote what I thought were a few good lines - "Hello and welcome to Night 2 of Ligue Un, Round 1" and "These two clubs are both craving the security of mid-table obscurity this season" - but they were in an opening paragraph which was about 10 seconds too long for the top of the broadcast before the lineups appeared on the screen, and I simply ran out of time to time-test what I'd written and also script some lines to accompany the pregame lineup graphics. If I were more familiar with French football and the teams in question, I could have winged it and done OK, but as it was I got a bit flustered, and also nobody told me there would be a minute's silence for the recently deceased Montpellier club president - I knew he'd died recently and had material prepared on him, but I hadn't introduced it in a timely fashion and wound up speaking over the first 10 seconds of the period of silence.

    The good news is that once the match got underway, I found my voice and from there I think everything went very well. I think I did a good job in calling the game's only goal, the only disallowed goal and the one other he-should-have-scored moment, and I think my pacing was good as well in knowing when to describe the action vs. analyzing the game as a whole vs. dropping in informational tidbits. (I'll maybe talk about that process more in a future post.) The bad news is that I don't think I'll have access to my own copy of the broadcast any time soon unless I get some VPN software that allows me to pretend I live in Canada, subscribe to DAZN and access its On Demand service myself - I think that's the best way for you guys to follow me as well, if you're really interested - but I knew that was coming and recorded some of my broadcast myself in the form of a video of the monitor I took using my smartphone. Some people hate listening to themselves, but I always want to go back and here what I've done well and what I've done badly so I can learn from it going forward.

    Anyway, I don't know if this is all *way* too much for you guys to want to read, but it sounds as though some of you might appreciate the meta aspects of this. I'm pretty sure I'll write less next time, anyway!
     

    Attached Files:

  12. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

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    That's actually really interesting, to me at least. Congrats on getting the first one done, I'm sure it will get more comfortable and natural from here.
     
  13. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    2,499
    Yep, that's about the size of it. It seems to be styling itself as the "Netflix of Sports" for cord-cutters, with the goal of acquiring the rights to enough sports in the countries where it's operating to make such a venture financially viable. I highly doubt that approach will ever be viable with regard to "home country" sports - a lineup of NFL, NBA, Premier League, La Liga and Ligue 1 as shown here (on the website of the company that actually pays me here in the UK) can work in Canada, but you're not going to get even an Amazon or Netflix to buy rights to a major American sport in America, to the Premier League in the UK, and so on.

    Anyway, to answer your latter question: I won't ever be employed commentating on something that I don't know well enough to feel comfortable calling. I'm enough of a sports nut that I follow just about everything - I know something about many sports and a lot about quite a few sports, but I don't know *everything* about any one sport. That means I can fake it until I make it: I can do well enough on a Ligue 1 broadcast to sound like I know what I'm talking about until my knowledge base eventually picks up to where I need to be. I've called live games or done demo tapes in soccer, baseball, ice hockey, NFL, college football, NBA, European basketball, tennis, handball and snooker, and I could easily call at least five or six other sports if given the chance. If I have to try and master a new sport or a new league in 48 hours, then yes, it can get a bit stressful. :) But my dream job as a kid was always to be Al Michaels or Dick Enberg or Pat Summerall or Jim Nantz - an all-rounder rather than a one-sport specialist - so I can hardly bypass the chance to do something like this, even if I'll probably get paid somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times less than the likes of Michaels and Nantz will this year.
     
  14. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Oh, and many, many thanks for all of the kind things you've written in this thread so far. They were particularly appreciated late last night as I had my nose to the grindstone!

    I think you just click on "Watch Thread" at the top right of the page, don't you?
     
  15. Dick Pole Upside

    Dick Pole Upside Member SoSH Member

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    4,048
    Congrats, CP. Sounds very challenging, but for a self-described sports nut, I'm really happy for you. It sounds really fun, so make it so!
     
  16. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    So...upon returning home, I tried using VPN to get a DAZN account, which worked fine right up to the point at which I tried to pay for a subscription: I need a Canadian credit card. There isn't anyone here who lives in Canada or otherwise has a Canadian credit card who might be willing to help facilitate or share a subscription, is there? (It does seem like quite a good deal to me - $20/month or $150/year for the full NFL GamePass experience including RedZone along with the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, Spanish/Italian/French soccer, KHL hockey and Guinness Pro14 rugby, among other things, *and* there's a one-month free trial.) If so, please do PM me.

    I do find it pretty insane that I have to beg, borrow and steal to access my own work like this, but that does seem to be an occupational hazard. I know that in the past I've paid for one-day and one-week subscriptions to the Champions Hockey League for exactly the same purpose (or to watch other games in the competition that would help me prepare for my next assignments), but at least in those situations I did it to get faster access to videos that I could eventually get for free. Maybe it's because there aren't too many other commentators as keen on self-improvement as I am?
     
  17. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    2,499
    So, with many thanks to a co-conspirator who can remain anonymous if he chooses to, I've now been able to access DAZN and watch my commentary. The last time I commentated on a soccer match, it was for ESPN International in 1997...and I was doing color commentary, on a Mexican 2nd division match. (Mike Hill, who some of you may remember, was doing the play-by-play with me; I guess I was the very definition of a replacement-level color man.) So for what was effectively my first match, I'm pretty pleased with the results - I wasn't perfect, but I think I can build on this.

    FWIW, here's a five-minute clip which includes what were probably three of the four most interesting moments in the entire match - you can start at the 2:00 mark if you want to skip some of the scene-setting stuff:



    Comments and suggestions for improvement are always welcome!
     
  18. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Sounded like a pro! Very good job with some difficult names. And knowing what the finger pointing was about shows good research
     
  19. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Thanks, Lose.

    On the subject of difficult names, I do have a question about which I'd appreciate everyone's feedback. I often come across European names that I know are pronounced differently in English - and particularly in North America - than they are in a player's home country. Just to give example, I've commentated many times on the brother of NHL player Viktor Stålberg: that surname in North America is almost always pronounced "STALL-berg", whereas in Sweden the "å" is more of an "OH" sound, so it should somewhere between "STOHL-berg" and "STOH-al-berg". Do you think a commentator's job is to pronounce a player's name correctly as the player and his family would pronounce it, or should you go with what has become the accepted and familiar pronunciation in the English-speaking world? (I suppose a related question would be to ask whether you would pronounce the first word in "Paris St. Germain" as "PAR-is" or "PAR-ee"...it's a tricky one.)
     
  20. Cuzittt

    Cuzittt Bouncing with Anger Dope

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    Players names should be pronounced as close as one can to how the player themselves would pronounce it. It is, afterall, their name.

    When it comes to cities, countries, and other things of that nature... I would generally go with the English speaking world. That being said... Paris St. Germain in an interesting counterpoint... I would almost certainly say PAR-ee in this case to avoid the back-to-back s sounds.

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using SoSH mobile app
     
  21. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

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    I would aim for how the player says the name, I've heard Bruins announcers say they talked to the player and this is how he says his name for some of the more interesting ones when they first play for the team. I would go with accepted pronunciation for the audience in the case of countries, cities, etc. You wouldn't call the German national team the Deutchsland Nationalmannschaft during the game, right?
     
  22. timlinin8th

    timlinin8th Member SoSH Member

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    997
    This reminds me of the 2011 NHL Awards when some Real Housewives bimbos were put on the spot to announce Martin St. Louis as the winner of the Lady Byng. The anglicized version of his name was jarring considering the sport.
     
  23. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    That's just ignorance - everyone in hockey knows that he should be called "SAN lou-EE". But take a player like Bobby Nystrom, of NY Islanders fame: the "y" in Swedish makes more of an "oo" sound, so he's really "NOO-strom" and not "NYE-strom". If I went to Long Island and talked about the famous Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal scored by Bobby "NOO-strom", most hockey fans would think I'm a complete idiot.

    I don't get to work with a color commentator often, but last year I did call 10-12 games with John Tripp, a Canadian with German heritage who briefly played for the Kings and Rangers and then moved to Germany (and became a citizen who eventually played in the Olympics for Germany). Really nice guy, but he wasn't great with pronunciations. He would mention Viktor and Sebastian "STALL-berg", and I'd know he was wrong...do you correct him on the air? Of course not, although I did stick to the correct pronunciation as I knew it even though it meant we were both saying the same name differently. And don't get me started about trying to pronounce the team in southern Sweden from the city of Växjö; I know from consulting online guides and also now having been there in January that Växjö rhymes with the last two syllables of "Quebecois", but everyone in our studio (not just John) has pronounced it in their own different ways, and I don't really want to make an ass of myself by insisting upon the truth as I understand it. I reckon that many American play-by-play guys we think of as idiots sound idiotic in no small measure because they are trained - or told - to take a lowest common denominator approach and agree with the famous athlete sitting next to them nearly all of the time, even when they know better.

    Incidentally, I have a peculiar affinity with this subject, insofar as at least 95% of all people trying to pronounce my surname get one of the vowel sounds wrong unless I correct them. I never correct them unless they have to say my name on air, but I certainly sympathize with foreign sportsmen in particular who come to America and just politely accept the linguistic indignities regularly heaped upon them. I bet Mr. Nystrom now calls himself the wrong name all the time...and I've had some interesting discussion with my kids about this aspect of their identity.
     
  24. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Meanwhile, I've got my next two assignments: Troyes vs. Nantes (Ligue 1) on the evening of 19 August, and then Vissel Kobe vs. Yokohama (J-League) the following morning at 10:30 a.m. UK time. Anyone here know *anything* about Japanese soccer?
     
  25. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

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    I'm pretty sure the ball is still round, but don't quote me on that.
     
  26. Reverend

    Reverend for king and country Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Have you checked in with @Titans Bastard?
     
  27. SydneySox

    SydneySox A dash of cool to add the heat Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    I know a bit about the J-League because the A-League constantly play them in the Asian CL.

    But, like, not enough to help you sound like you know what you're doing.

    So yeah that doesn't help.
     
  28. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Hey, did you know Lukas Podolski now plays for Vissel Kobe? So there will be at least one player on the pitch on whom I can offer some of my own views and expertise, which is nice. Oh, and I'd forgotten that Claudio Ranieri is now the Nantes manager, so that will certainly be good a talking point in my first game next weekend (albeit one I shouldn't overplay).

    One of the great aspects of knowing I have regular commentary work forthcoming in a specific sport is that every match in that sport I watch is now a potential learning opportunity. When I was younger and had just moved to the UK, I watched almost every football match and highlights program I could find because it was so new and interesting to me (and most of the commentators were really good); more recently, that joy has faded somewhat, and I've struggled to watch "Match of the Day" and the like unless the results that weekend went favorably from my perspective. But now, it's all much more interesting and helpful: e.g., watching Steve Wilson call Chelsea v Burnley on "Match of the Day" last night helped me realize that I should try to be more of a color commentator in analyzing post-goal highlights than I did in the Montpellier-Caen clip I posted above. Even listening to the short introductions to each match is helpful in giving me ideas for my own intros, and just letting match commentary wash over me will help me via osmosis as I subconsciously track the stuff I like and dislike. Hopefully I can absorb these lessons into my own commentary style relatively quickly!
     
  29. Dummy Hoy

    Dummy Hoy Angry Pissbum SoSH Member

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    4,666
    This is really cool. Congrats and hope you continue to make the best of this opportunity.
     
  30. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I made the huge mistake of discovering this thread just before I was about to go to bed last night. Suffice it to say that my application has already been submitted, and that I didn't get much sleep at all. I'm sure I'm a longshot, but what's the worst that can happen?

    Believe it or not, the hockey season is already upon me: following my trip to London this weekend, I'm off to Vienna a week from today to start commentating on the new Champions Hockey League season. I'll be interested to discover how quickly I transition back from soccer to hockey, as the sports are similar enough in flow and concept that mistakes in terminology (e.g., "goaltender" vs. "goalkeeper") seem like they might be easy to make. I'll probably need to detox myself from soccer by watching some of my CHL commentary videos from last year, this highlight reel being a particularly good candidate:

     
  31. Koufax

    Koufax Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    3,618
    US hockey in winter, Scottish golf in the summer? Sounds like a plan. Best of luck with that, Darren.
     

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