Diary of a commentator

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Heh...that escalated quickly! I had exchanged messages with Agent Tim this morning, and at his suggestion I made a few tweaks to the tennis page on my commentary website before he forwarded the link to his contact at WTA Media. I'd asked him to confirm the nature of my potential WTA duties, and he'd said it was very similar to my work for Tennis TV - providing extra coverage of non-show courts. Which is fine, of course; he'd suggested that the goal would be for me to do a year of that work, and then maybe in 2021 I'd be in line for a promotion to world feed duties, which are done out of DAZN's facility in Leeds.

Within 30 minutes of Tim contacting WTA Media, I got an email from a production coordinator with the WTA, offering me a job to do world feed commentary from Leeds on two of the quarterfinals in Shenzen on Thursday, January 9. So much for waiting until 2021! The day rate I've been offered to call those two matches is almost double what I've been making on my ATP work in London; while I do have to make my way down to Leeds again, and the first match starts at 3 a.m. UK time (yuck), it's great for me to get my foot in the door, and I'm certainly not going to say no. (I will probably have a CHL game to call on Tuesday, January 7, so I'll probably try to fly to Vienna from Newcastle on the Monday, fly back to Newcastle on Wednesday, drive from there to Leeds, pull an all-nighter to call the matches, and then either drive straight home or stay with my wife's aunt and uncle who live maybe half an hour away from Leeds...the logistics are frightening, but I'll have to make them work!)
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Meanwhile, I've been given the CHL assignment I really wanted for Tuesday: the second leg of Frölunda Gothenburg vs. Färjestad Karlstad. Normally I'm not keen on calling two teams from the same country until I have to in the CHL, but this one is great for multiple reasons. In the first instance, I've called both teams multiple times this season already, so I won't have to do much prep work at all (which is huge given the busy week I'm having). Also, Färjestad won the first leg last week 6-3 - having led 5-0 at one stage - and so the defending champions will have a pretty fair hill to climb. So from a narrative perspective, either Färjestad completes the upset, or Frölunda storms all the way back to complete an epic comeback; it's a win-win, really. Nice morning I'm having!
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
10,056
. And of course my travel expenses will be nil. So that's definitely a positive development!
Wait, do productions not normally cover your travel? Or are you saying you'll be able to net more out of each one, because although charging less over, you're still ahead net of travel costs? I'd have assumed they just reimbursed actuals, so it was all the same to your financially (just not personally).
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Wait, do productions not normally cover your travel? Or are you saying you'll be able to net more out of each one, because although charging less over, you're still ahead net of travel costs? I'd have assumed they just reimbursed actuals, so it was all the same to your financially (just not personally).
Actually, I'm not so lucky in this regard. It does vary by the jobs I'm doing: for my trips to Vienna, the Austrian production company I work for pays for my flights and my hotel, but I still have to pay for airport parking and meals and subway travel within Vienna (etc.). But when I go to SW London for my ATP tennis commentary, I get no travel expenses paid for at all, and the fee is small enough that I need to work two days in a row to make any profit at all, and three days in a row for it to really be worth my while. In my first year working for DAZN in Leeds, they used to pay for hotels and a bit of a stipend on top of that for my car mileage, but then they took the car stipend away, and then they downgraded the class of hotel I was staying in, and now I don't think they would cover my hotel at all as they look to cut costs. On the other hand, on the big assignments I've had like the Asian Games in Jakarta last year and next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, I'll got all of my travel expenses paid plus a per diem to cover meals and the like. I think it's fair to say that the bigger and higher profile the production, the more likely it is that you'll get your expenses covered...but generally, I'm still low enough down the totem pole that I can't necessarily expect that to be the case.
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
The second leg of the Frölunda vs. Färjestad CHL game I called tonight was pretty much everything I'd hoped it might be. Frölunda scored twice early on to narrow their aggregate deficit to 6-5, but then Färjestad scored a very lucky goal - Niklas Lasu, who scored the OT winner for Frölunda in the 2017 Final some of you might remember (as it came two days after Super Bowl LI and 28-3 befell me), diverted the puck into his own net - to finish the first period two goals ahead on aggregate. Frölunda struck twice in the second to make it 7-7, then Färjestad scored again to make it 8-7 with 20 minutes to go. But early in the third period, after Lasu was on the receiving end of a nasty hit into the boards which led to a double-minor penalty, Lasu himself scored two goals during both halves of the power play. Lasu then scored again with about four minutes remaining for the hat trick, and Frölunda scored an empty-netter as well to make it 8-2 on the night, and 11-8 on aggregate. The two teams are only separated by one point in the SHL table, but Frölunda utterly dominated the game, outshooting Färjestad 21-2 in the third period. Truly ridiculous, and a joy to commentate upon; my only fear is that I may have been a bit overly enthusiastic in some of my calls for both teams, as I was ready from the outset to embrace a wild game like this (and had plenty of facts and figures ready in case the comeback happened) and was maybe a bit too excited about the prospect.

Incidentally, I was supposed to have the highlights of four games to voice over - out of the seven taking place tonight - but one of the early games in Stockholm started two hours late because Skellefteå's flight down from the northern Baltic coast was delayed by bad weather. So I was able to pass that along to my Welsh colleague calling one of the later games...a nice result for me, in the end.
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
A favor to ask: would anyone with access to TSN in Canada and/or NHL Network in the US be able to check whether they're using my commentary on the Frolunda vs. Biel-Bienne game in the Champions Hockey League tomorrow? It starts at 1 pm ET but might be on tape delay - not sure what the schedule is, but I did receive an email saying the game was going to be on those two networks, and I never have any idea how and where the world feed comms are used.
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Over the past week, I dealt with a virus that really laid me out for a few days, and which still has me feeling fatigued and my voice feeling clogged up. I'd have preferred my game tonight - Frölunda (SWE) vs. Biel-Bienne (SUI) - to have been 48 hours later; on the other hand, if it had been 48 hours earlier, I'm not sure what I would have done. It's a constant occupational hazard; I'm sure most of us have occasionally heard unwell commentators try to muddle through in the past, and it's really not fun to be behind the mic in those circumstances.

Tonight, though, turned out to be just about OK. My voice held up, and despite a few small mistakes - including a justifiable "He scores! No! Yes!" call on a strange goal which just crossed the goal line and stuck in the snow at the side of the net and went to video review before being confirmed - I'm pretty pleased with how I did, even tweaking my commentary slightly on account of the fact that NHL Network and/or TSN *might* be using my commentary (e.g., making sure I went cleanly into and out of the TV timeouts in each period instead of talking through them). And Biel-Bienne, in their first ever CHL season, went into Gothenburg and took a 3-0 lead in the third period against Frölunda despite ultimately getting outshot 52-16. Former Anaheim and Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller was excellent, and although Frölunda struck back with two quick goals in the third, Biel hung on for the 3-2 win and takes a narrow advantage home with them for the second leg next week (which I'll almost certainly be calling as well). Interestingly, because Frölunda lost again, even if they do rally to advance to the semifinals, it's looking increasingly unlikely that they'll be in position to host this year's final. I like Gothenburg a lot, but I'm always keen to travel elsewhere in Europe, and I think I'd particularly enjoy getting a chance to go to Switzerland again...

While I was happy enough with the live game, I'm even more pleased with my voiceover work tonight: I had three sets of three-minute highlights to voice over, and for the first time ever, I did each one in a single take, mixing in relevant stats and background notes as I went along without having seen any of the three reels in advance. I did have to edit two small segments after the fact, so it was like throwing a no-hitter with two walks rather than pitching a perfect game, but it meant I was able to call a live game that started at 6 p.m. and still be able to leave the office in time to catch an 8:57 p.m. bus, which is awesomely early for me.

And that's particularly welcome given that after flying home to Scotland tomorrow, I then have to drive down to Leeds on Thursday for my first experience of WTA tennis commentary. Actually, I'm just doing some testing - calling a set of quarterfinal matches from the Tianjin tournament in October as a color commentator (not the lead guy!) - and don't have to prepare too much in advance, but it will still be a fairly long day, although I'm looking forward to seeing DAZN's new digs on the outskirts of Leeds, which is where the testing is taking place. No longer do I have to go into the city center; the new site is apparently much more accessible for those traveling by car (i.e., me), so that should be helpful.
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Yesterday, I was about to board my flight from Vienna to Amsterdam - having spent about an hour at the airport logging the stats from the CHL games on Tuesday and doing a bit of advance prep for the second leg of the Biel vs. Frölunda quarterfinal (which I'll be calling as well next week) - when I got an email from my Basketball Champions League producer, asking if I could call a game at 7 p.m. UK time last night. To make a long story short, I advised him that this wasn't a good idea in case my flights were delayed and because I wouldn't be in position to do much research, went ahead and did about 30 minutes of prep when I got to Amsterdam, then heard back only then that he'd found someone else and I wasn't needed. Which is probably just as well, although in the game I was going to call, PAOK of Greece took the lead of Bonn of Germany with 11.6 seconds left and won 85-83 after Bonn missed two three-pointers for the win, the second coming at the buzzer. (And the commentator calls on those moments weren't great, really...sigh.)

Today, I made the round trip to Leeds - three hours in the car each way - for my WTA tennis commentary testing day at DAZN's new facility on the outskirts of the city. It was quite a disorienting experience, not least insofar as when I arrived on the floor on which my commentary booth was located, a massive wall at least 20 feet wide was covered from floor to ceiling in a mural of the Superdome at the start of a Saints game. Exactly what this Falcons fan can't wait to see every time I return to Leeds in the future! (There are also several pictures of Derek Jeter on another wall, just to make things even worse; at least my commentary booth was very spacious relative to every other booth I've ever worked in, and full of big monitors - four in total - that will be very easy for me to use in the future.) Anyway, my partner for the day was Paul, who had been in since 9 a.m. testing solo commentary on the same two matches from Tianjin in October that we then called together in the afternoon...neither of which were among those we'd been given facts for in advance. I wound up doing colour commentary on matches between Xinyu Wang vs. Shuyue Ma, and Shuai Peng vs. Xiaodi You: four Chinese players, of whom one had qualified and two were lucky losers from qualifying, and only Peng (at #96 in the world at the time) was in the world's top 100. So a bit of a challenge, really! But for all of these strange circumstances, I thought I actually did really well; Paul, who has even less tennis commentary experience than I do, wasn't giving me a lot to work with, but even that was a relief relative to having to talk on my own all the time. So I would actually sign up to do color commentary again, if given the chance - not that I'm expecting to get that chance, but still. Not that I was actually being tested or judged on my commentary today: basically, we were there to fill time and say basically anything, so that the DAZN techies in Ireland could test whatever it was they needed to test. We started on the Wang-Ma match with the score already 4-1 in the first set, and after finishing that two-setter, we'd only done maybe four or five games of the Peng-You match when we were told that our job was basically done and we were free to go. I'd been booked in for five hours of work and wound up doing only two; can't really complain about that, even if I'm still not sure what the point of the exercise was!
 

Conigliaro's Potential

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
My CHL game tonight was absolutely bonkers. The second leg of the quarterfinal between Biel-Bienne and Frölunda began with Frölunda scoring twice in the first period to take a one-goal aggregate lead, and it looked for all the world as though they would complete their comeback and cruise through to the semifinals. But Biel pulled one back in the second period to level the contest at 4-4 on aggregate, and then in the third they scored a soft goal to retake the aggregate lead, then scored again on the power play with 3:58 to go up 6-4 on aggregate. Game over, right? Nope...after just missing an empty-netter with just over three minutes left, this happened (apologies for the slightly rough editing by my colleagues here in Vienna):

View: https://youtu.be/NJsXFMiT2Mo

So they went to 10 minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, in which Biel committed a penalty...which eventually, after some valiant penalty-killing, led to this:

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

That might be the most dramatic CHL game I've ever called, right up there with the 2017 Final, and it's probably on my list of the overtime hockey games I've called so far that I'll be the most fond of when my career is finished - the others being:

--1998 Beanpot Semifinal (Harvard 5, Boston College 4)
--1998 Beanpot Final (Boston University 2, Harvard 1)
--2017 CHL Final (Frölunda 4, Sparta Prague 3)
--2018 Men's Olympic Quarterfinal (Germany 4, Sweden 3)
--2018 KHL Western Conference Finals, Game 6 (CSKA Moscow 3, SKA St. Petersburg 2)

I'm still recovering from my throat infection, having gotten some medicine from my GP yesterday morning, and my voice still isn't at 100% - or it certainly doesn't feel like it is - but for the most part I think I hid that fact pretty well tonight.

Anyway, three of the four remaining teams in the CHL are from Sweden - all three Swiss teams went out tonight, which leaves Frölunda to face Luleå in the all-Swedish semifinal (a rematch of the 2015 Final), and Djurgården to face Mountfield HK of the Czech Republic in the other semifinal. If Djurgården and Frölunda both win their semifinals, the final in February will probably be in Stockholm, which would be great - I've never been there before. But I might wind up on the northern edge of the Baltic in Luleå, or maybe even in Gothenburg again...anyway, I'll cross that bridge in due course.