Diary of a commentator

ConigliarosPotential

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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?
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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!
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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

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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.”
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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

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Jul 15, 2005
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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

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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

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Jul 15, 2005
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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
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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?
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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):

 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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
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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??).
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.
 

santadevil

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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.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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!
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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!
 

ConigliarosPotential

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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.