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Discussion in 'Our Errors are Mistakes: The Media Forum' started by ConigliarosPotential, Aug 4, 2017.
So, um, I think I owe you an apology
Yeah, it's not like Redskins-Saints was one of the three best games in the NFL this year or anything. (Maybe Rams-49ers in Week 3 and Texans-Seahawks in Week 8...are there any other candidates?) As a Falcons fan, I'm pissed at the result - according to ESPN.com, the Redskins had a 99.6% win probability with five minutes left, and I started getting Super Bowl LI flashbacks after that - but I enjoyed the hell out of that game from start to finish, and I bet Buck and Aikman were happy to be in New Orleans and not Minnesota.
I had two glitches when narrating the RedZone highlights packages where I looked one highlight ahead on my sheet and said the wrong names before correcting myself, and I had an embarrassing moment at the end of the game where I called Alvin Kamara "Chris" (which will make any UK-based readers of this thread wince). But I think I'm getting smoother and smoother in my presentation and feel like I'm cranking everything slowly but surely to where I want to be. Which is nice.
I've actually got next Sunday off - my daughter has a lead role in a one-night-only West End show in London, and it would be a family catastrophe if I missed that to present another NFL game. I'm calling KHL games on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday this week; the latter ends at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, and my wife and kids are taking the train down to Leeds and will meet me there so we can all drive down from there to our Airbnb accommodation in London. Of course, the nature of this business is that I'm worried about getting Wally Pipped by my replacement, although I know the guy they've hired to fill in for me, and while he's got a very good football mind and excellent knowledge of the game, he's more of an analyst than a presenter, and he's also got a regular gig (co-hosting a Sunday night NFL radio show on talkSPORT in the UK). So I'm not *too* worried...although I suspect I'll spy on his work a bit after the fact and see how good he is at my job.
Just went back and watched my pregame performance from yesterday...and it's depressing to notice my delivery isn't quite as smooth or polished as I think it is. At one point I referred to the Lions playing at Soldier Field against the Browns (ugh) while looking at the Week 11 schedule, and there are just too many pauses and stutters for me to feel like I'm really good at this yet. It's not like I can really practice this either, except by doing it over and over again.
One interesting thing I've realized recently is that whereas in a game commentary I have a chance to feel my way into the broadcast with low-pressure pregame stuff, when presenting a game my job *is* the pregame, and I really have to hit the ground running. A few weeks ago, I noticed my mouth going really dry just before the start of the Saints-Bucs game I presented, and so I've taken a note to make sure I'm better hydrated at the start of those NFL games in a way that I haven't needed to be for my hockey and soccer games in the past.
Incidentally, I mentioned Joe Buck's hot-mic antics yesterday...just after I wrapped up my pregame show and introduced Buck, Aikman and Andrews, we had a few seconds to spare and so went to a 15-second promo after a quick montage of pregame shots from the Superdome. There was an audio glitch on our side of things, though, and instead of switching to our canned music and the promo audio, the sound remained on Buck and Aikman...and what we heard was the following:
--Buck (slurring his words as if drunk): "Is there any room service still available?"
--Aikman (ignoring Buck and presumably speaking to a producer): "I mean, I seriously can barely read the numbers."
--Buck (still sounding drunk): "Have you got any cheesecake?" [just like that drunk guy in Groundhog Day asking at the fast food drive-through if they had any flapjacks, actually]
--Buck (finally sounding normal): "Why are you so serious there? I don't need you to count backward the whole way..."
And then the live broadcast began a few moments thereafter. Presumably that last bit came with the producer counting Buck down from 10 to 1 or from 5 to 1 for the start of the broadcast...anyway, it's not noteworthy that I could hear what Buck was saying over the satellite feed as such, but I did find it interesting how goofy he was being right before the start of the game. Maybe forced jocularity is Buck's way of coping with some of the issues I've just noted above regarding myself, and that's how he stays loose and ready to go from moment one of his commentary.
Well, I later had the chance to watch all of my halftime performance from yesterday...and I was actually very happy with it. So maybe I'm slightly further along than I'd thought.
This became relevant during my KHL commentary game today, a real barnburner between Ak Bars Kazan and Avangard Omsk. (Kazan fell behind 2-0, then scored three goals in a row, then hit the post with two minutes left, then conceded the tying 6-on-5 goal with 42 seconds left, then ultimately lost in what was my first KHL penalty shootout.) I thought I was doing fine during the first period, but I went back and watched some of the first-period action, and I realized I was a bit quiet at times, and it was hard to hear some of my commentary over the crowd. My initial reaction was that this was a technical issue with my sound level that might require fixing in the control room, but then, when I got a bit more excitable, I sounded just right...which to me meant I needed to find a way to stop mumbling. This is an issue I've faced before in my commentary, and my next thought was that I'm just going through one of those periods where I'm down on myself and don't like the sound of my voice, and that it's just something I'll work through eventually. However, my next thought was that I did actually like the sound of my NFL halftime performance yesterday - so why not come out in the second period and try to use my NFL halftime voice? Be decisive at all times. Stay enthusiastic. Say less. If you can't say something enthusiastically, don't say anything at all. And you know what? That approach worked really well. For the rest of the game, I felt much more in control of my performance and able to find the right "swing thought" (in golfing parlance) to consistently keep my energy level where it needed to be. And when I went back to listen to myself after the second period and after the end of the game, I could really tell the difference.
One of the real problems I have as a solo commentator working in my current environment is that I get precious little feedback from other people, and I have to figure out all of this stuff myself. I mean, can you imagine an actor in a Broadway play getting no notes from his director and having to figure out what works by trial and error, night after night? Even the sparse feedback I've received from Agent Tim has been along the lines of "think about doing this" and "think about not doing that"; none of it has been along the lines of "here's a tip for how you might do this". I can tell myself that I need to stop mumbling, or stumbling over certain words at certain times, but what can I actually do to avoid those issues? The best thing I think I can do is keep listening to my broadcasts and trying to learn both positively and negatively from what I hear; e.g., I've gone back and listened to my calls of the two Higuain goals in the Milan-Juventus match hundreds of times by now, partly because I'm a self-centered egoist but also largely because by fixing those two calls in my head I hope to be able to repeat them - and more specifically, what made them good - on demand. But that doesn't really qualify as actual, you know, coaching. I wonder what other commentators do. (I certainly wonder what other commentators at DAZN do who aren't inclined to go back and listen to their broadcasts after the fact like I keep doing...could it just be that I'm a super-slow learner?)
Darren/CP, first, let me thank you for living your life publicly with this web-community. May you reap the most significant (IMHO anyway) benefit of such a life - you are more likely to do praiseworthy things and less likely to do what you wouldn't want to share. Second, you were genuine and quite brave as an opponent-fan in early February. This group of opponent posters - you, Wingack, et al. - serve an amazing purpose, namely to keep the rest of us forcing to deal with the difference between sports-hate and ordinary life-hate. I guess I should add that the death-reporting here, especially in the most tragic instances such as young Mr. Flores, also keeps us at least minimally connected to real life even as we are trying to let sports take its place so that we can retain some balance and some relaxation.
I've got a comment and two questions for you. The comment is that - remembering your recent mention of Wally Pipp - Wally Pipp continued his baseball career in Cincinnati after his days as a Yankee ended, so feel free to embrace the possibility that some talent you scouted (Pipp did scout Gehrig and brought him to the attention of the Yankees) will have a career greater than yours. I'm retired now, and there are few things better in my life than seeing how my "trainees" surpassed me.
Now for the questions. First, I've always wanted to ask an announcer whether it's possible upon accepting a new post in some distant city to become as much of a "homer" as your boss will demand of you. Are announcers like the athletes themselves, immediately shifting their primary loyalties to their new team, or are announcers governed by "fake it until you make it"? Second, can you picture yourself ever freeing yourself from half the travel requirements and becoming the announcer for one team - I guess it's a matter of whether you view all your travel as a fringe benefit or a burden.
I wish you lots of success, and may your daughter grow up with your balance of self-confidence and self-inquiry!
FWIW, I didn't scout the guy who is replacing me next week, and I've had nothing like the career Pipp had with the Yankees at this point, so while your point here is taken more generally, I'm not sure it applies here.
That aside, thanks for the kind words. Re: your two questions, I don't think it's difficult at all for a commentator to quickly become a homer for a new team - as soon as you're in a new city and putting yourself around its fans and its players and coaches on a regular basis, it's easy to want them to do well and feel good about themselves. How long did it take you to start rooting for the sports teams at the university you attended when you were a freshman? (Assuming you went to that sort of school, of course.) As for the second question, yes, I could absolutely see myself become a one team guy; if anything the travel would probably increase rather than decrease, as I'd wind up flying all across North America and not just driving to Leeds with the odd sojourn to Vienna, but working as a salaried employee for a team or television/radio station has many benefits of its own relative to the freelancing life I live at present. Also, traveling with colleagues is generally rather more fun than having to go everywhere (and organize everything) on your own!
After this bit of introspection, before I left the studio last night I really did stop to ask myself what I might practically do along these lines. And as a tentative first step, I thought I'd text Conor McNamara - the BBC soccer commentator who presented my Milan-Juventus game a few weeks ago, and who I also chatted with on Sunday (he was in the studio to call a pair of Serie A games, including Juve's 3-2 loss at Sampdoria) - and ask if he wouldn't mind starting an email conversation along these lines. In the four minutes it took for me to walk back to my hotel after sending that text, he had already emailed me and offered to help, so I wrote him back before going to bed asking for some general advice and also a specific question about keeping one's vocal intensity levels consistent throughout a match. He responded this morning and couldn't have been more gracious, saying that when he first joined the BBC, it was a relief for him to discover that he wasn't the only person thinking the same sorts of things I've been thinking myself. The real revelation is that the BBC does employ a commentary coach of sorts who works with most of their top commentators and pundits; Conor has worked with him several times and says he's got a real ear for commentary and how to help make you better. This coach (who also moonlights as a commentator, presenter, producer and after-dinner speaker himself - I know both his name and his voice from BBC radio) does some work on a freelance basis, and Conor offered to introduce him to me; I'm wary of paying through the nose for any tuition, particularly given what I'm earning at the moment and the fact that so few people would likely notice any improvements I might make, but I've asked for that introduction all the same. Because *I* will notice and feel better about any improvements I make, and hopefully others eventually will as well, and maybe this might have the indirect advantage of being a good networking opportunity.
Meanwhile, I'm calling the SKA St. Petersburg vs. Yugra Khanty-Mansiyisk game today. When these two teams faced each other in September at Yugra, SKA won 9-1, and coming into this game SKA's record is 31-3 and Yugra's is 10-22. If that wasn't enough to demotivate me, I made the huge mistake of doing prep work on the game until well after midnight last night, to the point where I thought I might just stay up and watch the start of the Falcons-Seahawks game (1:30 a.m. start in the UK). I have watched prime-time Falcons games before and been able to switch off after a quarter or at worst at halftime, but that game last night was so watchable, I couldn't get to sleep at halftime and wound up staying up for the entire thing. Which may have been just as well, given some of the noises I heard while I was still awake that might have woken me up - including someone drunkenly shouting into a megaphone around 3:30 a.m. - but of course I was so jazzed up by the ending that I couldn't drop off straightaway thereafter, and so I've had maybe three-and-a-half hours' sleep. Definitely a game for me to just battle through ahead of my drive back to Scotland tonight.
FWIW, the SKA-Yugra game yesterday looked like a blowout in the making, with SKA up 4-1 after two periods...and then Yugra got two goals in the third period and had some 6-on-4 power play time at the end of the game with a chance to tie. They didn't quite get there, but it certainly became interesting enough to hold my attention!
I've now exchanged emails with the BBC commentary coach, and it looks like that's going to happen. We're going to start with a phone call and see where we go from there.
Man, I'm in a foul mood today ahead of my next KHL commentary game (Jokerit vs. Admiral Vladivostok). A high-spec laptop I was planning on buying this morning, after first making sure I couldn't get it at a reduced price in the Black Friday sales, went out of stock overnight at the place from which I was going to buy it, and I can't find the same machine at anything like the same price elsewhere. My drive down to Leeds was into a low sun the whole way and took that much more out of me. When I got to my hotel near the studio, there were no parking spaces available for me to use, so I've had to park my car much further away from the hotel and the studio. When I tried to log onto the PC in my commentary booth, all the login details had been changed, which means all the browser favorites and proxy servers, etc., I'd set up have all disappeared...and the printer in the office is no longer mapped to the computer (which needs to be sorted out ASAP). And now I've discovered that DAZN is featuring the Falcons game on Sunday, when I'm not around to present it! Ugh. I wonder if I can harness this negative energy in a positive way for my broadcast in just over an hour's time...
Sorry if this is too personal, or if I missed it earlier, but I'm curious how long you've been doing this, especially how long you've been doing it fulltime. You mentioned in an early post that you were calling soccer matches more than 20 years ago, and you've intimated a few times that it's not currently as lucrative as you'd like. If your career stays at its current level (i.e., no major network promotions or pay raises), are you content to keep grinding, or have you set yourself a personal deadline for "making it big" before going into the insurance business with Dad, like Tom Brady?
I've only been doing this full time more or less since I started this thread - I worked a few soccer matches for ESPN International back in 1997, but after that my next professional commentary gig wasn't until August 2014 (when I started my CHL job in Vienna), and it wasn't until this August that I started getting regular gigs outside of the CHL stuff. I don't think what I'm doing at present is doable indefinitely at this pay rate and travel schedule, but I think I can give it at least a few years like this to wait and see what happens; I don't have a set deadline as such.
I tried something slightly different in my KHL broadcast on Saturday, which was to start from a lower intensity level - beginning with my sound checks at the start of the game - and try to stick to that baseline level more consistently (except when things get exciting). I think the main issue with my commentary at present is that my standard intensity level is so high, when I fall below it - e.g., when trying to say something as an aside - I become almost inaudible. My hope is that by starting lower, I can still go nuclear when I need to, but hopefully the listener doesn't experience such extreme variation. I didn't have too much time to listen to the broadcast, but I'm pretty pleased with what I've heard so far.
My wife and kids met me outside the studio after the game on Saturday - I was able give them a quick tour of the studio and my commentary booth (and let my kids have each have a shot on the headsets and microphones) before we set off for London, which they seemed to enjoy. I've now got my schedule through to the end of December; it isn't as packed as I'd like it to be, and in particular I'm frustrated a) that I'm not getting to call the outdoor "Winter Classic" game this Saturday between Jokerit and SKA St. Petersburg even though I'm coming down on Sunday for my NFL duties, and b) that our two analysts, Ron Shudra and Paul Adey, are working several matches together this week when I am available. They very much seem like a "break glass in case of emergency" pairing, but anyway...I can probably use the rest, so it's not a big deal, but there are a few bigger gaps than I'd like in the schedule.
Meanwhile, Agent Tim asked me the other day if I could do him a favor and record his match broadcast of Real Madrid vs. Malaga from this past Saturday with a view to helping him get a demo reel he can send across to BT Sport (with a view to getting him some soccer commentary work there). I don't think he quite realizes how big an ask that is of me - my current laptop is barely powerful to cope with capturing 3-5 minutes of onscreen video without pausing or glitching, never mind a full 90-minute match, and while I do have a new gaming laptop on order, to do this I'd basically have to leave my laptop focused on recording his match for two hours and nothing else. So I kinda blew him off at first, then felt bad about it (he is sort of responsible for my current commentary career) and offered to try and help out if and when I get my new laptop up and running. I haven't heard back from him since, but hopefully that silence is not borne of anger!
We've also chosen our NFL game for this upcoming Sunday - we're stuck with Chiefs at Jets, which I suppose at least has some real car crash potential.
I'm willing to bet someone here could help him out with recording something. Hell, there may be pirate-stream sites on the web where he can just download it himself! What network / geography is he broadcasting on? It's not like Real Madrid matches are some backwater.
It's on DAZN, just like my stuff - the site isn't really pirate-able, as far as I can tell, and I've never see any illicit broadcasts originate from it. Not that I'm an expert on such things, but I do look around from time to time...
(Agent Tim did respond to my email from earlier this evening, btw - not a malicious silence at all.)
So you need a canadian to DVR something and then rip it to digital format? Yeah, that does seem like a challenge.
I had a really good day presenting the Chiefs-Jets game (the Falcons loss to the Vikings notwithstanding). First of all, it was a wild game with at least a dozen highlight-reel plays in it and quite a few lead changes, so that was nice. But I also had what I'm pretty sure is my best NFL performance thus far: I absolutely nailed the pregame show, was solid at halftime, and really good during our three highlights inserts during the second half and also through the postgame show. The only thing I did wrong, really, was botch my signoff at the very end of the broadcast, but that's not really the equivalent of failing to stick the dismount in a gymnastics routine. I mean, it wasn't completely perfect, but it was pretty close to where I want to be. Also, my new laptop works perfectly in the studio, and I was able to record all of my segments from today, which will be invaluable both in fortifying my highlight reels and when I eventually work with that commentary coach I had referenced previously.
Today starts a very busy period for me - here's my schedule over the next week-and-a-half:
Today: Drive down to Leeds, present the Chiefs-Jets game
Tomorrow (4 Dec): Drive to Manchester Airport, fly to Vienna
Tuesday (5 Dec): Possibly visit a Christmas Market or two in Vienna, then call SC Bern vs. Vaxjo Lakers in the CHL Quarterfinals first leg (and voiceover two highlights packages)
Wednesday (6 Dec): Fly back to Manchester, drive to Leeds, *and* call Ak Bars Kazan vs. SKA St. Petersburg.
Thursday (7 Dec): In Leeds, call Spartak Moscow vs. CSKA Moscow.
Friday (8 Dec): Call HK Sochi vs. SKA St. Petersburg, then drive back to Scotland.
Saturday (9 Dec): (at home)
Sunday (10 Dec): Drive down to Leeds, present another NFL game, possibly drive back to Scotland (if the NFL game is a 1 p.m. Eastern start)
Monday (11 Dec): Possibly drive back to Scotland (if the NFL game is a late start), fly from Edinburgh to Vienna
Tuesday (12 Dec): Call CHL Quarterfinal second leg game (and voiceover two highlights packages)
Wednesday (13 Dec): Fly back to Edinburgh, drive home
Then things are a bit quieter - nothing until the NFL game on 17 December, and then another gap before two more KHL games on 21/23 December and the NFL on Christmas Eve.
Oh, I meant to ask...would any of you be interested in watching my segments from today's game? I can probably make them available in a day or two if you are interested, but not I won't rush.
I'll take the silence to my previous question as a "no".
I arrived in Vienna on schedule yesterday, and although I was tempted to have a quiet evening in my hotel room, I figured it was finally time to be a tourist for a while: sometimes you have to work hard to have fun. So I went to the State Opera (Staatsoper), buying a €3 standing room ticket in the upper gallery to see Daphne by Richard Strauss - not my favorite opera, as it turns out, but still great value for money as ever. And then today I worked hard in the morning to prepare both for my CHL game today and my KHL game tomorrow, particularly after I found out that my direct flight from Vienna to Manchester tomorrow has been cancelled, and that I'll have to change planes in Frankfurt and hope for minimal delays along the way to ensure I get to the office on time for the 4 p.m. start. That preparation allowed me to escape and see a tiny bit of Vienna, including a tour around the biggest Christmas market and also a free half-hour organ concert at St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche), near St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom), which is held most weekdays at 3 p.m. and is a great place to relax and be in awe of what mankind can create. If you're ever going to Vienna on a budget, I highly recommend both the standing room opera tickets and the free organ concert - that was my third trip to the opera and my umpteenth visit to the Peterskirche, and they're both really fantastic.
Anyway, my CHL game today features the best team in Switzerland (Bern) against the best team in Sweden (Vaxjo), so I'm very excited about that; I'm less excited about the 8 p.m. start time, which means I'm not likely to be back to my hotel before midnight, which means I'm almost guaranteed to get around four hours of sleep tonight thanks to the unexpectedly early start on account of my flight change.
I'm thoroughly exhausted after a hard 24 hours or so, but a few quick notes on my current trip:
--I've had a pair of 3-2 wins to call over the past two days: Bern over Vaxjo yesterday, SKA St. Petersburg over Ak Bars Kazan (in OT) today.
--Yesterday my voice was surprisingly husky - I didn't notice it at all in the moment, but listening back a slight rasp is definitely there, if not an altogether unpleasant one. My health has been very good since I started full-time commentary work, touch wood, but there's no guarantee that will last forever.
--Last night I got about three-and-a-half hours of sleep. Not optimal, but I fought through today well.
--Today I learned that the CHL isn't doing English guide commentary for the semifinals - only the final. Translation: I don't get to travel to any cool venues in January. (Probably more trips to Vienna.) Which sucks for several reasons, although I can understand the logic; I assume it's a cost issue, mostly.
--I tried to talk at some length with my color commentary partner today about the Russian Olympic hockey situation in the aftermath of the IOC ban, but it was stilted insofar as I'd done my research and he hadn't. It may actually be easier for do the topic justice myself tomorrow, when I'm back on my own.
--My vocal approach of starting from a lower base and making sure I never go below that base seems to be working very well so far. My next project is, to quote Rusty's advice to Linus in Ocean's Eleven: "Don't use seven words when four will do." I had a goal call today where I should have just said, "Shirokov...scores!" instead of "Shirokov, in all alone - he scores!" I have to stop adding extraneous words at key dramatic moments.
--Our featured NFL game for this Sunday is Chiefs-Raiders. Chiefs two weeks in a row, but I can't complain - it's a rematch of that amazing three-untimed-downs finish in Oakland earlier this season, and it's two teams tied for a divisional lead this late in the season, which given the parameters we're working under this season is pretty nice.
It's funny how some days I feel in great form and some days I just don't. Yesterday I had CSKA Moscow vs. Spartak Moscow; you'd have thought a Moscow derby would be a big occasion, but I just felt sluggish right from the start - not helped by CSKA's indecipherable uniform numbers - and just never felt up for it. (Didn't help that the game was pretty non-descript, a 3-0 win for CSKA.) Then today, even though it was a bigger mismatch on paper - HK Sochi vs. SKA St. Petersburg - I was up for it and felt really on top of the entire broadcast. That was true even before Sochi took the lead in the second period, hung on after Kovalchuk tied things up for SKA, and then Sochi scored the winner five minutes from the end and hung on for the final whistle.
That was the tenth time I've commentated on SKA this season. Their record is now 7-3 in the games I've called, which is pretty good...until you consider that in the games I've not called, they're 30-1. I referenced this in my commentary when the score was 1-1 in the third and wondered if perhaps my presence might be an omen, and so it came to pass!
Meanwhile, the weather forecast for Leeds and most of northern England on Sunday is heavy snow and possibly a bit of ice. So that will be fun for my drive down and back on Sunday for Raiders-Chiefs...why can't that be the weather in Kansas City instead?
It turns out that the weather yesterday wasn't bad at all - a few minor flurries, but nothing to stop me from setting a new personal best in terms of driving time from Leeds back home after my NFL assignment. Chiefs-Raiders was a clunker, but I did fine despite our RedZone editors combining highlights thicker and faster than they ever have at halftime and throughout the second half. Some truly breathless voiceovers for me yesterday! I was amused when the sound engineer complimented me after the game on how I kept my levels constant throughout the broadcast and therefore made his life easy for him, given that this is the main issue I've been trying to remedy in my play-by-play commentary. (I'm not convinced, FWIW.)
I'm now in Vienna for my last CHL game of the calendar year - I've got the second leg of Vaxjo (2) vs. Bern (3), and because we're calling three of the games live instead of two, I now only have to voice over the highlights of my own game. So tomorrow would be easy except that I have some corporate communications work to do on deadline while I'm here, and the hotel I'm back in for this trip has had WiFi difficulties all year and is having them again now; it's too patchy for me to expect to get the work I need to get done during the day here, so I'll probably have to head up to the studio before lunchtime and do my work there instead of waiting until the late afternoon.