Diary of a commentator

CP, just wanted to again offer that your running commentary is an interesting read. I may not check this as often as BBtL, though always enjoy "catching up" with you.
Thanks for the positive feedback!

I'm in the second intermission of my game, which Cardiff surprisingly leads 2-1, and on my way back from a bathroom break I looked into the booth next to mine and saw Cardiff drawing their game...with Fulham, in the English Championship (soccer). Cardiff City, to be precise, playing in the football match: how hilarious is it that two games in two different sports from Cardiff are both being broadcast from Vienna - and commentated upon in two different languages?
 
Cardiff hung on to win 3-2, scoring halfway through the third and then conceding a 6-on-4 goal with two seconds left on the clock. I felt like I had a rather better game tonight, in part because of a plan I hatched earlier today: I sent an email to my contact at the new NHL franchise in Seattle (for whom I'd love to become gainfully employed in a few years) with my schedule of forthcoming games this week and next week and how he can tune in if he's bored and wants some morning or early afternoon hockey out on the Pacific coast. I suspect he won't tune in at all - and might not even respond to my note - but I'm now in a position where I feel like a potential employer might be watching me at any moment, which can only lead me to remain focused and try my best 100% of the time. Not that I would ever do anything other than give 100%, of course, but it's the difference between a golfer trying his best in a practice round and trying his best in a tournament: you're just going to have more adrenaline and natural focus in the competitive situation, right? So that's kinda fun.
 
You know how it's tough for sportsmen (e.g., baseball players) to play a day game immediately following a night game? I guess that's true for commentators as well - I didn't get back to my hotel until after midnight last night, and today the first puck dropped at 3:30 in the afternoon. Färjestad Karlstad of Sweden managed to defeat Ambri-Piotta 2-1, scoring the winner with four-and-a-half minutes left; it was a sluggish game, and I felt it in the booth. Just a little bit off my game all day - a bit sing-songy, a tiny bit tongue-tied, just not quite enough adrenaline. The game itself didn't help, but I would like to have done better.

I did debate staying a bit longer in my hotel and aiming to get to the studio only an hour before the game (or less), but in the end I arrived about 1:45 before the game, and I'm glad I did. I was in a booth I don't think I've ever used before, and the telephone-type cable in this booth that I use in all of the other booths to connect my laptop to the internet was far too short to reach around my laptop. I can only assume nobody had ever tried to use that cable before! Luckily, the technical guys managed to find a male-to-female extension connector and another length of cable to sort me out, but this is entirely why I'm always either very early or way too early to arrive before my broadcasts: you really never know what might happen in a television production.

Anyway, I stopped at a mall for a burger on my way home - the first food I've purchased since leaving for Edinburgh Airport, having brought a fair amount of food with me - and have put some college football on my hotel TV while I prepare to record all of the stats from today's games. I actually left the office just as my colleague Francis was arriving; the flip side of having an early start is having an early finish, and today that is very much appreciated!
 
In my CHL game today, Cardiff scored a goal in the second period against Graz where the Graz goalie gave up a soft rebound and left the puck in front of the net for an easy conversion. I had just watched the first 15 minutes of the Arsenal-Tottenham match during the first intermission...did I reference the North London Derby and the nearly identical goal which Christian Eriksen had just tapped into the net for Spurs? Yes, yes I did.
 
That was much more satisfactory, both in terms of the game I got to call and my commentary performance. Cardiff won again, this time over Graz and this time in a penalty shootout which went all the way to the seventh shooter - the lone penalty converted in the shootout was scored by Cardiff's Sean McMonagle, three times a member of the all-ECAC Academic Team during his years at Brown University. Cardiff scored three goals in the second period and led 3-2 until Graz equalized with about four minutes left in regulation; the 3-on-3 overtime was pretty boring, actually, but the shootout was good fun despite the lack of goals. And I think I fixed most of what I was doing wrong yesterday: I'd listened closely to the various ESPN college football broadcasts I'd been watching yesterday, and what the good commentators all do - and what I sometimes struggle to do - is keep the volume of their voice exactly the same even as the inflection changes. It's a harder skill than you might think to perfect: try it sometime, maybe for half an hour around the house or even at work, keeping your voice within as narrow a band of volume as you possibly can.

Anyway, with that my work is done for a few days - I'll do some more prep along the way and maybe write some more scripts for the tennis video game I'm working on, but otherwise I'm taking the train to Innsbruck (via Salzburg) tomorrow and hopefully soaking up some Alpine scenery before I return to Vienna on Thursday.
 

Don Buddin's GS

Member
SoSH Member
ESPN does a fair amount of college basketball games with remote announcers.and what usually gives it away is the lack of a live shot of the announcers sitting at the site.

I’m friends with Mark Adams from ESPN and he said they refer to them as “remies” and they are done from a booth in Bristol. He had never done one and the first time he was assigned a remie he told his partner they should bring the same energy as if they were in the building—same hype, same pre-game fist bump— everything they normally do on site.

When he and his partner were done they handed it off to Reece Davis and the College Gameday guys.When they walked on to the Gameday set Davis said to Mark “What are you guys doing here? We thought you were at the game.”
 
ESPN does a fair amount of college basketball games with remote announcers.and what usually gives it away is the lack of a live shot of the announcers sitting at the site.

I’m friends with Mark Adams from ESPN and he said they refer to them as “remies” and they are done from a booth in Bristol. He had never done one and the first time he was assigned a remie he told his partner they should bring the same energy as if they were in the building—same hype, same pre-game fist bump— everything they normally do on site.

When he and his partner were done they handed it off to Reece Davis and the College Gameday guys.When they walked on to the Gameday set Davis said to Mark “What are you guys doing here? We thought you were at the game.”
My assumption was always that only the more recognizable talent were worth showing on camera, not that the announcers were in Bristol instead of on location. But I do know how (relatively) easy it is to call basketball off-tube, so I'm not surprised to hear that this happens a lot for college games in particular.
 

h8mfy

lurker
Jul 15, 2005
284
Orange County, CA
We mostly do Remi shows now for our NBA coverage on NextVR. Saves a ton in staff travel, but there are definitely kinks to work out, primarily around syncing the audio with the video.
 

h8mfy

lurker
Jul 15, 2005
284
Orange County, CA
Remote Integration. We can control all the kit in the truck (camera switch, gfx, replay etc) from our TOC in Newport Beach

And FYI - I always have you in mind, CP, for if we need UK-based talent.
 
Remote Integration. We can control all the kit in the truck (camera switch, gfx, replay etc) from our TOC in Newport Beach
Thanks - I never knew that. I've only ever heard to it referred to as "off-tube commentary" over here; maybe they use the Remi term here as well, but I've never heard it, and I guess why would anyone tell me that? I've always thought it funny/weird that I (think I) know so much about actually commentating and preparing to commentate and so little about the terms everyone in sports TV production uses and how little I even know how to ask and/or what is appropriate to ask! Maybe I should hook up with you for a "Sports Production 101 for Dummies" course...
And FYI - I always have you in mind, CP, for if we need UK-based talent.
That's very kind of you as well. And heck, I wouldn't need much of an excuse to at least temporarily make myself US-based talent for a gig... ;)
 

h8mfy

lurker
Jul 15, 2005
284
Orange County, CA
I will keep your flexibility in mind

We don’t have good talent for NHL so you never know.

Happy to try to answer any questions, feel free to send me a PM
 
I'm back in Vienna and checked into my hotel, having taken the direct train (4 hrs 15 mins) from Innsbruck this morning. I had a fantastic time while I was away, but always tempered by the fact that I had to get back to work today and couldn't spent as much time hiking around mountain peaks or otherwise taxing my body as I might have liked. My mini-holidays can't be too active if they're going to exhaust me for a commentary game!

I did what was left of my prep for tonight's game on the train despite there being (unlike on UK trains) no power outlets for me to use; always a frisson of excitement when you're working on a time limit before your laptop switches off! I like to read my scripts aloud as I write them, too, but obviously that wasn't happening today...so I'll have to do them shortly, before setting off for the studio. I'm calling the late game between Graz (AUT) and Frölunda (SWE) - start time 8:20 p.m. CET - which should be interesting because the defending champs and three-time winners Frölunda picked up only one point from their first two group games, both of which were at home. So if they lose again tonight, they could be in serious trouble. I'm hoping this should be a fairly straightforward game for me to call, given that I know Frölunda very well and that my most recent game last Sunday also involved Graz, but given that only one other commentator is working tonight and not two, I have to voice over four highlights after I'm done and might possibly miss the last subway train back to my hotel. Night buses aren't really my thing.

Night buses notwithstanding, I like a lot of things about working in Vienna, but one of the biggest downsides is the lack of a color printer which is readily available to me. That means I can't print out up-to-date team sheets for each team reflecting the latest roster movements or game logs, so I have to get a bit creative. The other night in my Innsbruck hotel, I went through each of my roster sheets I'd printed off for the games this week (before I left Scotland) and added handwritten notes showing the game logs - who didn't play, who recorded goals/assists and how many, etc. - so I should be safe as long as nothing too weird happens. But sometimes teams bring in youth players or otherwise catch me off-guard, and my only recourse here is that I brought with me a guillotine of the sort used for slicing paper neatly down lines; if needed, I can use that to slice a roster sheet in half and add another piece of paper with any new players' details in the gap. Not exactly optimal, so hopefully it doesn't come to that.
 
Heh...I rattled through all four of my highlights voiceovers so quickly - including a single-take job on one of the games I didn't commentate on live - that I caught the last bus which stopped by the office at 11:29, never mind the last subway train around 12:07. Doing the highlights has been really fantastic this year: in past years, a lot of newbies who were just learning the trade and were at times terribly inefficient were supporting us, but this year I've worked with complete pros from start to finish, and it's made such a difference. I don't think I've had one complaint in that department this year so far, which makes nights like tonight really work.

Anyway, my live game was a laugher - Frölunda must want to hire me to commentate on all of their games. They outshot Graz 45-17 - at one point I think it was 32-6 - and won 5-1 despite being tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. Dwight King, the two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Kings, scored Graz's goal, but remember the name Lucas Raymond: he's only 17 years old, he scored Frölunda's last two goals, and he's projected to go as high as #2 or #3 overall in next summer's NHL Entry Draft. (And despite the name, he is actually Swedish.) Graz was given a masterclass, and although the outcome was never in doubt after Henrik Lundqvist's brother Joel scored twice for Frölunda in the second, it was still an easy and fun game to call. That's partly because I knew both teams really well - Graz because I'd called them last time out, and Frölunda because I've chronicled pretty much their entire CHL history - but also because it's easier to rain superlatives down on a team than it is to describe two teams muddling through a tight game with few chances.
 
So, this is kinda funny...I've just arrived at the studio for my 6 p.m. (CET) game today - Tappara Tampere (a really weird name to say given that both words are pronounced almost identically) of Finland against KAC Klagenfurt of Austria - and stopped to have a quick chat with my producer and the editor I was working with last night on my highlights narration. I was trying to pay them a compliment about how efficiently the highlights have been done this year, so much faster than in previous years when less experienced editors have been involved and we've had to go back and forth and back and forth. It's really been great - but then Producer Christoph said something along the lines of, "This is what happens when you're working with guys who aren't paid by the hour." I laughed and assumed he was joking, but then he said, "It's nice that we all have the same goals - trying to get out of here as early as possible!" So maybe he's half-joking or quarter-joking...which in retrospect has me kinda dumbfounded. Are there really editors who intentionally drag out the time it takes to cut a highlights reel so they can get paid more, even when they're working with other guys - i.e., commentators like me and my colleagues - who are desperate to get home as quickly as possible? I guess that's both believable and depressing in retrospect; I guess maybe you can't always attribute to incompetence something that could in certain lights look like malevolence.
 
I enjoyed my game tonight, which finished 8-3 (!) to Tappara - it was 2-1 to Klagenfurt with 30 seconds left in the first, but they dicked around with the puck in their own zone trying to run the clock down, gave it away and Tappara scored, then the Finns dominated the second period to go up 4-2, then Klagenfurt scored early in the third to make it 4-3, and then Tappara just ran away and hid. Their French forward had a hat-trick, and I got to call 11 goals, so that's fun. And the highlights went smoothly enough; my editor was an Austrian named Vanessa whose English accent was very good and very American, and it turned out that she'd lived near Cleveland for a while. I was done in time to catch the 9:28 bus, and get back to my hotel in time for the start of the US Open semifinals. (Which, humorously, are two different TV channels in my hotel: the ORF - Austrian state TV - commentator sounds comatose, while Eurosport Deutschland employs Boris Becker, whose personality I used to love when he was playing but whose BBC commentary at Wimbledon was so bad that now even when he's speaking in German I hate the sound of his voice.)

All of that being said, I'm pretty tired, and I'm kinda ready to go home and see my family, albeit only for a day-and-a-half before flying on to Atlanta for a friend's wedding. I'm almost certain I would thrive calling every game of an 82-game NHL season (plus playoffs), but when you're calling so many early-season games so close together - and trying to record game logs for every player from every game as well - it's hard not to become a little jaded. I still love what I'm doing - don't get me wrong! I just wish I could call these eight games over 2-3 weeks and then move onto more games instead of cramming them all into a week-and-a-half within two four-day blocks.
 
So, here's something that happened in my CHL game tonight. Red Bull Munich and Ambri-Piotta were tied 2-2 entering the final minute of 3-on-3 overtime, and then:

View: https://vimeo.com/358546228

To sum up: Munich committed a penalty, and the clock stops with 21 seconds remaining, only play then continues for another six seconds before a whistle blew, because no Red Bull player had touched the puck. The referees apparently reviewed the video, somehow decided the clock didn't need to be changed, and then informed Munich coach Don Jackson that the clock would still read 0:21...and then Jackson absolutely lost it, while the microphone he was wearing was still turned on. F-bombs ahoy! (I've called quite a few games with Munich and Jackson now, and this is the first time I've seen him show any emotion at all.) How are you supposed to deal with this as a commentator?
 
After the drama of my game on Saturday night, and given my overall mental fatigue, I really just wasn't up for my final commentary game of the trip. I wasn't given a lot of help from the game itself, which finished 1-0 to Tappara Tampere (FIN) over Biel-Bienne (SUI), but I was distracted by the dramatic end of the England-Australia cricket match and the start of the NFL season a bit more than was professional, let me say. I doubt any of my listeners would have noticed anything untoward, but still, I expect a bit more of myself. As it happens, the recording of the game I could have received as usual was missing the first six minutes owing to a technical glitch, so for the first time in a very long time I didn't even bother.

Anyway, that's that - 12 days, eight live games and 24 highlight voiceovers after it started, my trip is almost over, as I type from Zurich Airport. As it happens, I've picked up another gig tomorrow - caddying at Muirfield - and then on Wednesday I fly to Atlanta, a trip for which I've managed to parlay my DAZN NFL work and golf writing for The American magazine into a press pass to the Falcons-Eagles game on Sunday night. I'm looking forward to seeing Mercedez-Benz Stadium for the first time in person; the Falcons, after yesterday, rather less so. But I'm probably now on a bit of a commentary hiatus until the CHL resumes in October, my tennis game voiceover work notwithstanding.
 
A quick check-in regarding a few items of note on the commentary (and multimedia) front:

--I've been in touch with my contacts at FIBA, and it looks like I might get some Basketball Champions League (BCL) games to call this autumn and into the winter - from home. In past seasons, I'd have had to schlep down to London, which is the main reason I never really pursued them; now, FIBA has moved its operations to DAZN's home in Leeds, but they are also planning to experiment with allowing guys like me to work from home. It would make such a difference to my travel costs if calling games from home is the way of the future - and in theory, I could l live anywhere I wanted if that were true. So I'm certainly hoping that this technology has legs.

--Speaking of calling games from home, no word at all regarding the Japanese baseball assignment I'm supposedly up for - my contact at Spalk still doesn't know anything. Seems like it's getting late in the day to be assigned Japanese baseball games, given that the playoffs start next week...but we'll see.

--Similarly, my DAZN NFL producer has gone radio-silent. I'm still hoping to get the odd NFL studio host assignment this year, but that might not come before Week 17.

--And finally, some of you might enjoy the column I wrote about my recent homecoming to Atlanta and my visit to the Eagles-Falcons game in Week 2 - it was for "The American" magazine, which targets expats living in the UK. That was such a wonderful trip, and it meant a lot to me, so I hope you might enjoy the article (which does touch upon my commentary career as well):

 
Thanks for that!

Meanwhile, I'm back in Vienna for another hockey commentary game tonight. I'm once again on Frölunda Gothenburg duty, as they face the Cardiff Devils looking to go top of Group H; if Cardiff can somehow win on the road in regulation, they would become the second British team to reach the CHL Knockout Stage, and with a game to spare. But it's much more likely that Frölunda will win comfortably and set up a rematch next week in Wales for all the marbles. I know both teams very well now, so hopefully I'll be on top form.

Funnily enough, one of my commentary colleagues this evening in Vienna will be Cardiff's regular radio commentator. Gareth is across for one night tonight because Bob, the Englishman who was our other normal CHL regular, has retired from commentary to take up a job as a university lecturer: something relating to sports and the media, I think. Our CHL normal producer in Vienna is also away this week, and I've been told to supervise Gareth insofar as on his one previous appearance in Vienna - I think on the one Sunday last year when I left a day early for my duties on NFL Week 1 - he had some issues pronouncing team names correctly. I hope he's receptive to this sort of feedback, or tonight could be like pulling teeth...particularly given that his live game is Banska Bystrica (pronounced "Bee-STREETS-uh") against Ambri-Piotta.
 
So, just the 11 goals for me to call in the Frölunda vs. Cardiff game tonight - with 9 of them going to the Swedes, including a hat-trick for Joel Lundqvist (twin brother of Rangers' goalie Henrik, a fact I managed to resist the temptation to add to the broadcast itself). It was actually a really fun game; 2-1 early in the second, then Cardiff goalie Ben Bowns made an unbelievable sprawling save to stop a 2-on-0 Frölunda rush which I see has already been clipped and uploaded to YouTube by the CHL itself:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNb3nG_eO9s

It was still only 4-1 after two and 5-2 with 14 minutes left in the game before Frölunda turned on the afterburners; their last goal was a penalty shot scored by the Kings' second-round draft pick this last summer, Samuel Fagemo (his second of the night as well). I commiserated with the Cardiff commentator Gareth, who had watched the first two periods before focusing on his game.

I listened to some of Gareth's commentary on the Banska Bystrica vs. Ambri-Piotta game after I was done, just to see how he was getting on. He actually sounded OK for the most part, with a good sense of the rhythm of the game, although a) I'm afraid that your ceiling as a hockey commentator will always be limited when you've got the Welsh accent he has, and b) like many commentators who are new to off-tube commentary, his player identification can do with significant improvement. I was watching when an Ambri-Piotta player scored an amazing between-the-legs goal to make it 4-0, and Gareth rightly praised it for its magnificence and talked about how it would be all over social media tomorrow (etc.), but after he'd finished and play continued, I realized that he'd never actually mentioned who scored the goal. That aside, I'm kinda jealous of Gareth, who calls every single one of Cardiff's home games for a streaming service; I'm sure he makes next to nothing for the privilege, but there's no better way to hone your craft than to be calling games week in and week out from season to season, and I do hope I'll get the chance to do that sort of thing myself at some point on a rather grander stage.
 
By the way, as an aside regarding the save in the above video clip: is that really a great save, or did the goalie just get lucky? I mean, the puck was shot directly into his wrist; obviously he had to stick his arm out for the puck to hit it, and it's to his credit that he was able to extend as much as he was with his momentum going against him, but as I went on to comment (during the bits of the video that music is played over my commentary), surely you have to give the shooter at least as much blame for not hitting a wide open net as you do the goalie credit for making the save.
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
442
I never played hockey at a high level, but from my intramural levels, you make that kind of save and its you creating your own luck, I'm sure a goalie with more high level experience against better players would have a better answer. He knows its a 2v0. The passer shows pass mostly the whole way. He slides appropriately to take away the one timer, goes down maybe a hair early, but nothing insane, but he keeps his balance well even as he goes down so he can contort himself. Sure the odds of reaching back and making that save are low, but it would have been really easy to take himself completely out of the play and still not be in the wrong. 2v0 is hard and that shooter sold pass the whole way (why??).
 
Well, I was going to come and write about the bizarre game I got to commentate on tonight, which finished 6-3 to Biel-Bienne over Klagenfurt (Biel had scored 6 and conceded 4 in their first four games in the group combined) and included four goals for the Austrian Peter Schneider on his return to his home country...but the Braves just gave up 10 runs in the top of the first to the Cardinals, and now I'm just sad.
 

santadevil

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
4,420
Saskatchestan
By the way, as an aside regarding the save in the above video clip: is that really a great save, or did the goalie just get lucky? I mean, the puck was shot directly into his wrist; obviously he had to stick his arm out for the puck to hit it, and it's to his credit that he was able to extend as much as he was with his momentum going against him, but as I went on to comment (during the bits of the video that music is played over my commentary), surely you have to give the shooter at least as much blame for not hitting a wide open net as you do the goalie credit for making the save.
It's a great save from my perspective. The shooter was putting the puck into the middle of the net. Even a little bit of a weird bounce off the goalie and it's going in. You'd see lots of goalies give up on that play after they slide across and get beat easily.
 
I never played hockey at a high level, but from my intramural levels, you make that kind of save and its you creating your own luck, I'm sure a goalie with more high level experience against better players would have a better answer. He knows its a 2v0. The passer shows pass mostly the whole way. He slides appropriately to take away the one timer, goes down maybe a hair early, but nothing insane, but he keeps his balance well even as he goes down so he can contort himself. Sure the odds of reaching back and making that save are low, but it would have been really easy to take himself completely out of the play and still not be in the wrong. 2v0 is hard and that shooter sold pass the whole way (why??).
It's a great save from my perspective. The shooter was putting the puck into the middle of the net. Even a little bit of a weird bounce off the goalie and it's going in. You'd see lots of goalies give up on that play after they slide across and get beat easily.
See, I can agree with all of this...but still, Ben Bowns (the goalie) in reaching back managed to cover, what, 5% of the net at most? That's 5% more than he might have managed, but that effort is still all for naught if Patrik Carlsson manages to place his shot anywhere else into the open net. It's not like Bowns was reacting to the shot when he stretched his arm out - the shot hit him, rather than the other way around. So yes, it *was* a great save, but it was only possible because Carlsson's shot wasn't great.
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Well, I was going to come and write about the bizarre game I got to commentate on tonight, which finished 6-3 to Biel-Bienne over Klagenfurt (Biel had scored 6 and conceded 4 in their first four games in the group combined) and included four goals for the Austrian Peter Schneider on his return to his home country...but the Braves just gave up 10 runs in the top of the first to the Cardinals, and now I'm just sad.
The highs and lows of sports in one post!
 
I arrived home from Vienna this afternoon to find a big black box in the kitchen that had been delivered yesterday - this is the remote commentary kit I'm going to use to call basketball games for FIBA (via DAZN, to whom the technical aspects of this project have been outsourced) out of the privacy of my own home. The box is the size of a large carry-on suitcase, and inside the top lid is a monitor which is a bit smaller than the (17") laptop screen I'm typing on now - that's what I'll be viewing my games on, apparently, and I can't exactly hold my head right in front of it because of the size of the apparatus in the bottom half of the box. It's all rather bizarre: I'm going to have a technical test tomorrow, with a DAZN-provided cable coming out of the back of my router that is connected to a long extension cable that will reach my study, where I'm hoping to do the commentary. The kid comes with a commentary headset and microphone - which is my preferred way of commentating, although the instructions I've been given have suggested that a lip mic should always be used to reduce incidental noise of the sort you're likely to have outside of a normal studio environment.

Anyway, I suppose this box is probably pretty similar to what I might be given if I were calling a game from a venue on my own - the main difference being the tiny monitor I'll be watching it on. I've been given my first assignment, from the Basketball Champions League on Tuesday 22 October: it'll be Mornar Bar, 2nd in Montenegro's national league last year, against Iberostar Tenerife, who won the BCL three years ago and lost last year's final to Bologna (they finished 9th in the Spanish ACB last year). Kyle Singler, formerly of Duke (and Detroit and Oklahoma City), is probably the one player on either team you might have heard of - he plays for Tenerife. I'll have plenty of prep work to do for that once my return trip to Vienna next week is over and the CHL Group Stage is finished!
 
I've had an amazingly busy 72 hours leading into my latest commentary trip to Vienna (where I am now). First of all, I didn't get my CHL game assignments until Friday afternoon...and both of the games I'm calling over the next two days feature a pair of teams I haven't called before this season, so I had to research four full teams' worth of players in addition to all of the general stuff I do before a CHL game week (e.g., top scorers in the competition, CHL group and European league standings, etc.). On top of that, my wife's birthday was yesterday, so in addition to baking her a cake I went out to her parents' for lunch and then to our friends' for dinner. And on Saturday, a friend of hers from Northern Ireland was in Edinburgh with her son, who is a goalie for the Belfast Giants' U16 hockey team, so I wound up going with her to see their match against the Murrayfield Racers U16 team. In a sense you'd have to say it's pretty bizarre that I've been commentating on games across Europe for the past two months, and this U16 game - which finished 12-0 to Belfast, FWIW - was the first hockey game I've been to in person for several years that wasn't a CHL Final. It was nice to converse with a number of men and women, parents of other Belfast players, who actually knew the teams I had commentated on and will be commentating on this week, though! Anyway, by the time I finished my prep work, it was 11 p.m. last night, and then because my wife doesn't really cook much, I stayed up until after midnight cooking her a quinoa stew to have this evening for dinner. (I took several portions of said stew to Vienna with me today, and had one of them on the plane for lunch, so this benefited me as well...but still.)

On top of all this, on Friday I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with DAZN's production center in the Netherlands, trying to make my new commentary "flypack" function correctly. It was basically one extended troubleshooting session: first, I couldn't get the internet connection between my router and the flypack up and running, but it turned out that one of the wires on the inside bottom of the package had become disconnected, so plugging that back in eventually solved that problem, and I was able to watch the test video - a recent FIBA women's international between the USA and Puerto Rico - stream across my screen. But the sound in my headset wasn't working properly, and three separate calls to Hilversum failed to sort that problem out: while both of my microphones - including the new lip mic I received in a separate postal delivery on Friday morning - were working OK, I very briefly heard both the arena sounds from the game and my own voice when I was speaking through my headset, but there was also a lot of static, and even more dead silence. So it seems like they'll have to ship another headset out to me, and I'll have to retest when I'm back home on Thursday or Friday, which isn't exactly optimal given that it all *has* to work in time for my basketball commentary game from Montenegro next Tuesday. Fingers crossed that I'm not asked to drive down to Leeds again on short notice...

Anyway, I'm calling what are probably the two most interesting CHL games of the week this week. Tomorrow I've got Lausanne (SUI) vs. Ocelari Trinec (CZE), who start tomorrow in first place and tied for second place in Group D on 9 and 8 points, respectively - so the winner definitely goes through, and the loser could go out. (The top two teams in each group advance to the Knockout Stage.) Then on Wednesday, I'm calling Bili Tygri Liberec (CZE) vs. Augsburger Panther (GER), with Augsburg in 2nd on 9 points and Liberec in 3rd on 6 points, but Liberec has the tiebreaker over Augsburg, so if they win in regulation they go through, while Augsburg only needs a point. Basically, it's all real hockey from this point onward this season - I can't wait.
 
So, ahead of my trip to the studio here in Vienna, this afternoon I had a 45-minute phone call with a sports commentary agent based in Atlanta - his firm represents the likes of Ernie Johnson and Tim Neverett, although as I found out during the call, they're more into representing ex-players getting into commentary, and also sportscasters on local TV news broadcasts. The agent I spoke to and another one of his colleagues had reviewed my resume and listened to a bunch of my clips, and he was nothing but complimentary on the call, and I said pretty much everything I would have wanted to say and how I would have wanted to say it...but although the answer wasn't "no", it also wasn't "yes", and the call has disheartened me somewhat insofar as I now feel even further from the land of milk and honey that is the American commentary marketplace. This seemed like the best possible opening into an agency that I'm likely to have, insofar as had a connection into this particular firm via someone who had worked there in the past *and* I have the Atlanta connection there - and something might still happen, so I'll keep in touch and hope they might be willing to take me on in the future, if nobody else has in the interim.

I asked the agent what he would do if he was representing me to help push me into the American market, and his answer was that it'll probably be easiest for me to get my foot in the door calling soccer, probably at the MLS level for a regional network. Which both makes perfect sense and is also a little scary, because I wouldn't want to be typecast as a soccer guy...and once you're seen as a soccer guy, I think it's generally rather difficult to break out of that particular mold. (Unless you're someone like Rob Stone who is willing to do basically anything, although he wasn't ever really a soccer play-by-play guy as such, I don't think.) Anyway, this was at least the closest I've come to finding a proper commentary agent in the States, so perhaps I should view the call as a net positive? I'm not quite sure.
 

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MDLzera
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All sales takes practice. Selling yourself takes particular practice. My impression from this thread - which you can of course correct me on - is that generally, a lot of the selling-of-yourself that's been done has been done via Agent Tim. And maybe a few meetings with producers, many of whom you've worked for already (so you were farming rather than hunting). All the networking with other commentators is pretty much shop talk, since they're effectively your competition even if you happen to like a few of them. Right?

Maybe you just need a few more low-stakes opportunities to have that kind of conversation, put yourself into the head of these agents and make them understand that you're going to be setting the world on fire and they better get behind you. That BBC announcer voice-coach guy, maybe he'd have some advice on this topic? Have you kept in touch with him?
 
All sales takes practice. Selling yourself takes particular practice. My impression from this thread - which you can of course correct me on - is that generally, a lot of the selling-of-yourself that's been done has been done via Agent Tim. And maybe a few meetings with producers, many of whom you've worked for already (so you were farming rather than hunting). All the networking with other commentators is pretty much shop talk, since they're effectively your competition even if you happen to like a few of them. Right?

Maybe you just need a few more low-stakes opportunities to have that kind of conversation, put yourself into the head of these agents and make them understand that you're going to be setting the world on fire and they better get behind you. That BBC announcer voice-coach guy, maybe he'd have some advice on this topic? Have you kept in touch with him?
Actually, I feel really confident selling myself as a commentator once I can get my foot in a particular door. The breadth of my skillset is pretty unique, particularly within the American market, and I think I know pretty well how to pitch myself in various situations - and I do feel like I pitched myself perfectly well today. And I do have one or two other ideas on how I might yet crack this particular nut, even after the outcome of today's conversation. It's just that the market is *so* crowded - I mean, the agent I spoke with today said that ESPN literally has 350 college football commentators it can call upon. And until I can start to become more broadly visible in some form or fashion, I'm just another voice...and a 45-year-old voice at that, which is probably another differentiating factor for me, but possibly not in a good way.

(And to answer your question: yes, I've kept intermittently in touch with the BBC coach I'd hired, but I don't think he's really someone I could ask about this.)
 
Anyway, my commentary game tonight was fun - it finished 5-3 for Lausanne, a result that put Ocelari Trinec out of the competition. Trinec needed to match Yunost Minsk's result in Belarus, but although Yunost lost in overtime to the Pelicans of Lahti (FIN), that one point proved good enough to see them through and put the 2017-18 semifinalists out. The end of the game was quite humorous: Trinec finished the game with two men in the penalty box, and Lausanne led 4-3 and could just hold the puck in the Trinec zone. Their defenseman Petteri Lindbom got the puck with 7 seconds left, and he did nothing with it, until with one second left he decided to shoot from 25 feet out and I think caught everyone unawares, the puck trickling through the goalie and over the line just as the final horn sounded.

From my perspective, the funniest part of my night as a commentator came right at the start. I was in an unfamiliar booth in Vienna, and the internal lighting wasn't great - my head cast a shadow on my lineup sheets hanging down beneath the TV monitor, and it was going to be very difficult for me to read all of the tiny fonts on the sheets I'd printed out. So I took out my cell phone and put the flashlight on...which helped, but then I really needed to find a way to prop it up in such a way that I wasn't going to have to hold the phone throughout the game and point it at the screen. At the start of the game, the solution I'd come up with wasn't great...but then, during the national anthems, I hit upon a solution: I had a tupperware container with me in which I'd put this big block of chocolate wafers I'd bought yesterday at a local supermarket (as a potential sugar rush to keep me going through the evening), and there was just enough space for me to prop the phone on its charging cable and wedge it next to the cloth I use to clean my laptop monitor when required. The light just shone above the parapet of the tupperware box, the phone resting at a 45-degree angle, and I kept it that way throughout the game; I would have taken a photo of the setup, if I had a camera other than the one on the phone I wanted to photograph!
 
I never reported on my commentary game from Wednesday, which finished Augsburger Panther 3, Bili Tygri Liberec 2. Actually it was 2-2 inside the final minute-and-a-half when Liberec pulled their goalie - needing to win in regulation - and Augsburg's top scorer managed to find the empty net from his own corner of the ice. Not often you see a game-winning goal scored from more than 100 feet away! Another generally fun game to call, that was; Liberec scored with two seconds left in the 1st period to go 2-1 up and led for a lot of the game, so either team could have won and advanced until the final minute.

Meanwhile, I've been having some slightly fraught discussions with Agent Tim. I haven't really been in close contact with him lately, and to make a long story short, I had thought he wasn't representing me with FIBA regarding the Basketball Champions League, when in his mind he still has been. To slightly elaborate: when I was offered my trip to China for the FIBA World Cup this past summer - a trip I couldn't take because of my CHL commitments - I had pushed for and got that offer myself, without Tim having facilitated that at all. Then, when it was time to get revved up with the BCL, I was approached directly by someone at FIBA who didn't go through Tim. I didn't just kinda assumed that because Tim has been busy doing other things (not commentary-related), that I should just go ahead and do the FIBA stuff on my own, but when I told Tim this the other day, he got pretty angry - not at me, I don't think, but rather at the FIBA guys for coming to me directly. Anyway, we've exchanged some lengthy WhatsApp messages with the hope that a) this sort of thing won't happen again, and b) we might figure out a way to get me more commentary work. I'm not sure how the latter will happen, particularly given that DAZN seems to have really scaled back its operations - they're hardly using any non-world-feed soccer commentators anymore, and having spoke with my NFL contact there the other day as well, I know that similar cuts are being made elsewhere (definitely no NFL studio work for me this season, sadly). I don't mind Tim continuing to represent me and take a cut of my FIBA-related earnings, as he did create the opening for me to do this basketball work in the first place, but I do feel that he should be pushing harder on my behalf - e.g., if he's representing me vis-a-vis FIBA, he should be the one pushing my credentials for the World Cup, not me.

Anyway, on top of all this, I had another test of my remote commentary pack today which also failed - so, before my scheduled BCL commentary game on Tuesday, an engineer is flying from Amsterdam to Edinburgh on Sunday and taking a taxi out to visit me at my house to see if he can figure out what the problem is. Which is definitely more than a little bit weird, isn't it?
 
Martijn, the Dutch engineer, flew up from Amsterdam to visit me at my home today and sort out my portable commentary kit. A very pleasant guy, he took a taxi from the center of Edinburgh (having done a small bit of sightseeing his morning while I was at church) and had the cabbie wait out front of my house for like an hour-and-a-half before taking him back to the airport. I shudder at the thought of how much that must have cost, but apparently the trip was cost effective relative to the courier expenses that would have been involved with just shipping a new piece of kit out to me and collecting the old one. In summary, everything seems to have been fixed - or rather, he brought and installed a new unit to replace the old one, including a software update so that I really have the best possible kit now.

The funny part about today - apart from the fact that he made this visit at all! - was that the video feed we used to test everything was not a loop of one of FIBA's women's international basketball games, but rather the Wigan Athletic vs. Nottingham Forest football match, which was being broadcast live on DAZN at the time. He had sorted out the software just after the match went to halftime, and it was agreed that I should do some test commentary to make sure my words were syncing up OK to the pictures, so I hurriedly found the two lineups on the internet and printed off a copy I could use for ersatz commentary purposes. The three or four minutes I did at the start of the second half are probably as close as I'll come to calling an actual English league soccer match - for some time, anyway - and it reminded me of my very first soccer commentary audition, for ESPN International more than 20 years ago now. I called part of a Brazilian game between Sao Paulo and Corinthians with ESPN's Mike Hill, and after the fact my producer said somewhat offhandedly, "Oh...if I'd thought of it, we could have had you call a Premier League match; we didn't have to do a Brazilian game!" How I wish I'd wound up with an early demo tape in my possession with my play-by-play on Manchester United vs. Liverpool or the equivalent - that would have so much more useful to me than a Brazilian game, not to mention that I probably would have actually known the players and likely done a much better job! (I wonder where my commentary career might have gone at a much earlier age if that had come off for me.)
 
My first work-from-home commentary is now finished. The game itself was rather more exciting than I'd expected it would be - the 2017 BCL champions and last year's runner-up, Iberostar Tenerife, was trailing 63-60 early in the fourth quarter against the Montenegrin minnows Mornar Bar, but they found their mojo to win 81-74. When these teams played at Tenerife in the 2016-17 BCL, the score was 103-57, and Tenerife won in Montenegro by 17 points that season as well, so I'm delighted that I got a close game to call.

As far as my own experience was concerned, the biggest technical glitch had nothing to do with my commentary kit: rather, the stats feed off of FIBA's official website went dead with the score frozen at 2-0, and remained that way into the fourth quarter. It was briefly revived when the score was 70-65 in the 4th quarter, which at least gave me something to go on, but it then died again; for the most part, I was doing all of the stats from memory, or not doing them at all. Which really sucks: when I said that Jacob Pullen had picked up his second foul with five minutes left in the first half, or that Brandis Raley-Ross had gotten into double-figures in points just before halftime, were those educated guesses right or wrong? (Answers: right for the first, wrong for the second.)

Regarding the kit itself, I decided in the end to move the commentary kit into my living room and connect the console to my big-screen living room TV via an adapter and an HDMI cable. I had my daughter take a few photos and even a video or two during the game, which I'll share if they came out OK...it was quite a funky setup, but in general it worked rather well. The picture quality wasn't great, with the jersey numbers so fuzzy I could hardly make them out, but I think that might have been an issue with the host broadcaster. On the other hand, every few minutes, the picture went to black and cut out for a few seconds, which may be an issue with the quality of my internet feed. I'll want to test that more thoroughly before my next broadcast, because while I didn't miss a crucial basket or moment in the game because of a glitch in the signal, I easily might have done. (I had this issue when testing the kit with Martijn the Dutchman on Sunday, but we thought the interference was largely down to the fact that I was simultaneously streaming video to my Xbox and that our router was overloaded.) Still, I'll call today a qualified success, and to the extent that this will pave the way for me to do more commentating from home - and incur no expenses while doing so - hopefully this might be the way of the future!
 

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MDLzera
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Nice setup. Bit surprised you only get 1 view, do you have the ability to flip cameras if you need a different angle or is it pretty much "this is what you get"?

I like how you looked around after the "YES!" as if to sheepishly admit it might have been a little much for the moment. :)

Seemed a little slow on player names, which I assume was due to unfamiliarity and/or the stats freeze. Your hockey naming is rapid-fire by comparison.
 
Nice setup. Bit surprised you only get 1 view, do you have the ability to flip cameras if you need a different angle or is it pretty much "this is what you get"?
I get whatever the host broadcaster gives me - nothing more, nothing less. (There were different angles shown during the game, of course - just not during this particular excerpt.)
I like how you looked around after the "YES!" as if to sheepishly admit it might have been a little much for the moment.
Actually, that was more at the fact that I realized my daughter was filming me just then. :) (The call was *slightly* over the top, probably, but only just.)
Seemed a little slow on player names, which I assume was due to unfamiliarity and/or the stats freeze. Your hockey naming is rapid-fire by comparison.
More due to the fact that the jersey numbers were blurry on my feed - often enough, I couldn't identify the numbers, much less the names on the backs of the jerseys. (The Tenerife numbers weren't in a particularly legible font anyway.) I had memorized most of the player names and numbers, actually, not that you could usually tell...
 

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MDLzera
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That makes sense. I just hope shortcomings of any broadcaster or feed end up properly attributed, and don't end up reflecting on anyone's view of your commentating abilities. From reading this thread, it seems the quality of production varies wildly, particularly among these second-tier leagues.
 
That makes sense. I just hope shortcomings of any broadcaster or feed end up properly attributed, and don't end up reflecting on anyone's view of your commentating abilities. From reading this thread, it seems the quality of production varies wildly, particularly among these second-tier leagues.
Agreed with the latter. But as to the bolded...yeah, I wish. Luckily, the only person that really matters in this particular case is the person who is choosing the commentator assignments each week, and he knows the technical issues we're all dealing with as part of the portable commentary kit rollout. So I'm not bothered (yet).
 
I had another test of my remote commentary kit today with Engineer Martijn, and he managed to identify and fix the video buffering issue that was causing the picture to drop occasionally during my basketball game last week. So hopefully I should be good to go whenever I next get another BCL assignment. It's funny, the video we used to test everything today was a live feed from the Fox Sports Netherlands equivalent of "SportsCenter", so I watched the Game 5 World Series highlights for the first time with Dutch voiceover narration.

Not great news on the assignment front of late. Next month, I'm only getting to call one CHL game each week instead of the usual two: 11 of the 12 games each week are on the Tuesday, and the first week we're not even bothering to call the Wednesday game live, while for the second leg my colleague Francis (who lives in Vienna) will call the Wednesday game if its deemed to be worth calling. That's quite a big chunk of change I'm missing out on, given that the CHL is my most lucrative regular assignment; I'm hoping I may get at least one BCL game on the Wednesday nights and have booked my flights back to Scotland each week early enough to make that possible, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. Meanwhile, the virtual reality basketball gambling assignment Agent Tim had asked me to do is back on after a long hiatus, so it looks like I'll have about 530 game clips to voice over between now and Christmas. Not an assignment I wanted, but it's a favor to Tim I hope he'll be able to repay in due course, and it will earn me a few quid as well.
 
I'm back in Vienna again, ready to commentate on my next CHL game tomorrow evening between SC Bern of Switzerland and Lulea of Sweden - Lulea having won the initial CHL tournament back in 2015, but not having come close again since. This is a first-leg Round of 16 game, with the second leg back in northern Sweden next Tuesday: it's an aggregate score format, so you add the scores of both games together to determine the winner, just like in e.g. the UEFA Champions League. So definitely no overtime tomorrow, which is just as well...

...given that this afternoon I was given a Basketball Champions League assignment on Wednesday evening, calling a game between Telenet Giants Antwerp (Belgium) and Anwil Włocławek (Poland). I'm pretty sure this will be my first time commentating on games in different sports in different cities on back-to-back days: I wish I could say this means I've made it big, but I'm not exactly Kevin Harlan just yet. Anyway, my relatively quiet night tonight and day tomorrow in Vienna are now likely to be spent on research duty; thankfully, these aren't the two biggest squads in the competition, but I ought to get back to that now and figure out how I'm going to keep hockey and basketball straight in my head!
 
My CHL game last night had one redeeming quality: it was *fast*, taking only two hours to complete, which meant I got back to my hotel half an hour earlier than I'd expected. Luleå defeated Bern in the Swiss capital 3-0, with all three goals (and two other good chances, one for each team) coming in the first seven minutes of the second period; apart from that, well, I used the word "turgid" on two separate occasions to describe the play. There were maybe 3,000 or 4,000 fans in attendance, but in a 17,000-seat arena, and it certainly felt empty; as for me, my voice wasn't in the best shape, and in particular I felt like my vocal pitch skewed too high, but on the playback it all sounded fine.

In addition to my normal factsheets for both teams, I had prepared a distilled set of facts for each player on each team that fit on one sheet of landscape-oriented paper. My idea was that I'd hold that sheet of paper in my hands while calling the game and leave the other more detailed sheets as additional resources if required, but in truth this system didn't work. I'd done something similar for the CHL Final last year, but that was a live game, and holding a piece of paper makes a lot more sense when you have 360-degree vision than it does when you're focusing just on a small-ish monitor. So I'll probably abandon that experiment for off-tube broadcasts and save it for when I get to travel.

The other notable thing about last night was how tired I was, and how that has continued into today. I had an awful night's sleep on Monday, to the point that I was still awake well into the second half of the Niners-Seahawks game - not good when you're in Austria! - and yet yesterday I needed to not only a) script my hockey intros both for the live game and the two highlight voiceovers, but also b) do 3-4 solid hours of basketball prep work ahead of tonight (which is thankfully all done), c) do an hour's worth of design work as part of my communications consultancy business, and d) proofread several sheets' worth of counters for the boardgame I've had a hand in designing and which are due at the printer tomorrow. The positive part of a day like this is that the adrenaline of having to work hard all day carried me all the way through the evening; the negative, of course, is that I wasn't as mentally sharp during the game, which is particularly dangerous with hockey given how quickly everything moves. There were a few occasions when the words wouldn't quite come out as I'd wanted them to - not to the point of being unprofessional, but just not quite as polished as I'd like to be.

Anyway, I've written this post on the airplane from Frankfurt back to Edinburgh; thankfully I caught my connection with plenty of time to spare, so the backup commentator Agent Tim had arrange has been stood down. I've discovered in my research that the Antwerp Giants were the big surprise package of last year's BCL, having reached the semifinals (knocking out highly fancied UCAM Murcia of Spain and Nizhny Novgorod of Russia in the knockout stage along the way) despite barely squeaking out of their group with a 7-7 record; they're only 1-3 this year, as is their high-scoring opponent from Poland, Anwil Wloclawek (which I've phonetically spelled out as "Anvil Vlo-tsla-vek" and will try saying as few times as possible), so in theory it should be a pretty even game, and a bit of a "Loser Leaves Town" match. Looking forward to the technology hopefully working a bit better this time than it did last time at home as well!
 
So, I forgot to take my shaving gel with me when I went to Vienna. It's fine - I was only gone two nights (and two subsequent mornings), and I just did without shaving and figured I would just sort everything out tomorrow morning. I didn't mind looking tired or disheveled. What I hadn't factored into the equation, though, was the fact that I was calling my basketball game this evening with a lip mic that would be pressed into and rubbing against my upper lip for two hours. What a pain in the face that was...I'm not letting that happen again!

That aside, I enjoyed my game, in which Vlo-tsla-vek started the game on an 11-0 run and stayed in front except when Antwerp caught up briefly took the lead in the 3rd quarter at 55-54; having climbed to the top of the mountain, they promptly gave up a 7-0 run and slipped back down, never to catch up again (although they got within 2 and 3 points on separate occasions in the 4th quarter). None other than the pride of Holy Cross, Dave Dudzinski, had 21 points and 22 rebounds for Antwerp - no, I couldn't believe it either - while former Philadelphia 76er Tony Wroten was one of three Americans who each scored 17 points for Vlo-tsla-vek. The 4,000-seat arena was pretty much full, and the atmosphere was great; my picture quality was decidedly low-definition, but there was only one minor glitch in the signal and it didn't put me off; and generally I felt I did a decent job. One interesting research note, though: I do find myself running out of things to say about high-usage players, which I think is down to the fact that there are many more pauses in basketball relative to hockey where I might have the chance to talk about a specific player at length. If I normally use maybe 10-20% of the facts I research for a hockey game, it's probably more like 60-80% for basketball so far...and that's after doing a lot of basketball research! I think I need to do a bit less statistical research on my basketball games and instead look a bit more at players' Wikipedia pages more for personal anecdotes and the like, even if the former is easier for me (precisely because it's more formulaic).
 

tmracht

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I was calling my basketball game this evening with a lip mic that would be pressed into and rubbing against my upper lip for two hours. What a pain in the face that was...I'm not letting that happen again.
Oh man I've had that happen on conference calls after 30 hours flying! Yay Boston to Thailand cheaply. It gets rather annoying extremely quickly!
 
Good news on the Agent Tim front: it looks like I'm going to get a fair amount of WTA tennis commentary work in the new season. Also, I'll get to call those matches from home as well, rather than having to travel to London or Leeds (etc.). Unlike my ATP work for Tennis TV, I'll get paid by the match and not by the day - so if play is rained out or matches get moved, I might lose out. But on the other hand, if I'm working from home, that means I can do other stuff at home rather than having to sit around a studio or my Airbnb accommodation during breaks in play. And of course my travel expenses will be nil. So that's definitely a positive development!