Diary of a commentator

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Please do let me know if my commentary was used on NHLN, if you would - I've been dying to know whether they use their own announcer(s)or take my world feed!
Well now I feel like the biggest jerkface. Did not record on my DVR. I don't see a replay scheduled either :(

I'm so sorry hopefully someone else can come through better than me!
 
FYI, after a few weeks off (and a family trip to Florida), I'm back in action tomorrow, starting three days in a row of tennis coverage from the WTA event in Doha. Then I'm home for a single day on Wednesday before returning to Leeds on Thursday for a night in which I'll call two quarterfinals from the WTA event in Acapulco. It's a strange combination, with the Acapulco matches starting at 10 p.m. UK time after the order of play in Doha begins at 10 a.m. each day, so there's every chance I'll be jetlagged again by the time the week is done.

There's a very strong field in Doha, now that it's a Premier 5 event this year - it alternates every year in that regard with Dubai - although my first set of matches tomorrow aren't that appetizing, particularly with the top eight seeds getting byes in the event (and with Simona Halep having just pulled out after reaching today's final in Dubai). I'm on Court 1, calling Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (RUS), then the qualifier Bernarda Pera (USA) vs. Caroline Garcia (FRA), and then Amanda Anisimova (USA) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS). The last of those is easily the most attractive, but we'll see how it works out on the day!

I do have a decent run of tennis gigs coming up - I'll be calling two days of ATP 1000 action in Indian Wells again, then in late April I've got two days of world feed WTA duty from Istanbul before I'm on four four days in a row of world feed WTA coverage from Madrid in early May. And I also started voicing over the tennis video game I'm working this past week, so it looks like I'm a tennis guy for now, hopefully until I get that gig at the Hockey World Championships in Switzerland in May.
 
Humorously, I've been asked this evening if I could commentate on the EuroBasket qualifier between Bosnia and Greece on Monday night from the same office in Leeds where I'm doing my tennis work this week. I'm currently scheduled on Monday to call the 2nd, 3rd and 4th matches on a court on which play begins at 11 a.m., and opening tip is at 7 p.m.; no worries about possible rain delays in Doha, but that's potentially cutting it awfully fine. I have asked my WTA producer what she thinks, and whether or not it might be possible to get someone to be on standby (or just sub in) for me on the last match of the day; it'd be great to get to call that game (not least because of the difference in my fee!), but if it doesn't work out, that will save me what would otherwise be a pretty frantic day for me tomorrow - 6:30 a.m. wake-up, three-hour drive to Leeds, three tennis commentaries, 30-minute drive to Bradford where I'm staying tomorrow night, then have to research 2-3 tennis matches and a basketball match before going to bed.
 
It's after 1 a.m. at the end of a hideously long day, so I'll try to keep this quick, but I managed to get through my three matches from Doha today and research all three of the matches I have tomorrow, with the prospect of maybe even eight hours of sleep ahead of me, which sounds glorious. I sounded really off in my intros to my first two matches today, mainly because a) the players were brought on together instead of introduced separately, as I was told would be the case, and b) for my first match, I had to quickly occupy a booth in which other commentators were working for the first match of the day on my Court 1, and the gap between matches was much smaller than I was expecting; the switch literally caught me off guard. But whatever...

In the first set of my first match, Kudermetova saved a set point serving at 1-5 down, rallied all the way to 5-5, saved another set point in the tiebreak and won it 8-6 after 57 minutes, and I thought it was going to be another marathon day. But although that match went three sets (Kudermetova got bageled in the 2nd before winning the third 6-3), Bernarda Pera blitzed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-1, and then Amanda Anisimova had her best result in a while - and Ekaterina Alexandrova had her worst - with a straight sets win, so I got out of the office in pretty good time. Here's the full-match commentary on Anisimova vs. Alexandrova, FWIW:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5mP56n0lTs

Tomorrow I'm calling 10th seed Petra Martic vs. Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova; 17th seed Donna Vekic vs. the promising 18-year-old Pole Iga Swiatek; and the all-American clash between 13th seed Alison Risk and last week's surprise semifinalist in Dubai (as a qualifier) Jennifer Brady, who has defeated both Ash Barty and Elena Svitolina this year. So a pretty nice lineup, all things considering. (I'm not doing the basketball tomorrow night as well - the original commentator for whom I might have subbed is available after all - which is great, as there's no way I could have coped with doing any more research tonight!)
 
Well, it's now after 2 a.m., and I've finally finished prepping for my matches tomorrow after another marathon day. In truth, I could have waited until tomorrow morning to do a lot of this, given that my first match almost certainly won't start until at least 3 p.m. (and probably more like 4-5 p.m.), but I'll need to stay up super-late on Thursday for Acapulco, and I might have a late drive home tomorrow, so I might as well get into a nocturnal sleep pattern.

When I snuck into my commentary booth after the first singles match on Court 1 was finished for the start of my work today, the two commentators already in the booth - Mikey Perera and Tina Klizan, the latter being a former WTA player - were heading off to a different room to call two more Center Court matches, and Mikey gave me the usual tennis commentator's wish: "I hope you get some quick matches." That always seems a bit off to me; I want to do a good job, ideally calling matches my listeners (however many there might be) will enjoy, and escaping the booth isn't really my most pressing concern. Anyway, Mikey's wish for me definitely didn't come true. Strycova rallied from a set down to upset Martic in 1 hr 47 mins; Swiatek upset Vekic in two tough sets that lasted 1 hr 53 mins (of which more in a moment); and then Riske and Brady played a 2 hr 50 mins epic which Brady won in a third-set tiebreak, having also won the first in a 12-10 tiebreak (in which Brady double-faulted at 6-5 and then Riske double-faulted at 10-11, really the only two choke-ish moments from either player all match). So all three seeded players lost.

I really can't tell if I'm any good at tennis commentary, though. I think I've said that before, but it's really hard to gauge - and to the extent that I am good, a lot of why I'm good is because (off the record) I shamelessly trawl through websites and discussion forums to find any vague scouting reports or factual nuggets I can pass on to my listeners. Some of the stuff I come out with is so trite, I can tell it even in the moment. At the same time, occasionally I see something and say something Mary Carillo would be proud of, in much the same way that as a five-handicap golfer I very occasionally hit shots that Tiger Woods would be proud of. And I do think I'm naturally good at setting a dramatic scene, as this situation I think would attest (note that I think the sound is badly out of sync with the pictures in this video):

View: https://youtu.be/cxTh0u64Scw?t=5907


Vekic is serving for the second set, having lost the first, and at 0-15, Vekic comes into the net and hits a shot which the baseline judge calls out; Swiatek hits the ball over the net, and then Vekic volleys a meaningless (so it seemed) "winner". Vekic challenged the call on the baseline, and the ball was on the line...and then for some reason the Russian chair umpire awarded the point to Vekic, which made absolutely no sense to me in the context of how the challenge rules are supposed to work. I shut up to let the subsequent heated discussion with the umpire be heard, but as soon as it was just about done, I leapt in with both barrels - I was pretty fired up - and said what I thought, that the umpire had forgotten what had happened between the ball being called out and the challenge being confirmed as legitimate, and that Vekic was trying to buy the point by saying the umpire had already called it as 15-15. The amazing thing is that instead of wilting, the seemingly distraught Swiatek grew stronger for the incident, breaking Vekic both at 5-4 and at 5-6 to clinch her straight-sets win; it was an amazing piece of maturity from an 18-year-old, and I think my call of the remainder of the match was just as good as Swiatek's play, quite probably my best piece of tennis commentary so far. And yet, the number of times I really have nothing to say, and yet still say stuff anyway...it's frightening. I guess this is just a byproduct of my unfamiliarity with the players and not having any behind-the-scenes tidbits from being at the venue myself, and I don't think I should be too hard on myself, but still.

Anyway, tomorrow I have one intriguing match, Garbiñe Muguruza (again) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, and one likely mismatch, Maria Sakkari against the #157 player in the world, the Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova (who has defeated Misaki Doi of Japan twice in a row - once in the final qualifying round, and now in main draw Round 1 after Doi snuck into the draw as a Lucky Loser). I feel a bit hard done by, because I'm doing matches #4 and #5 on Court 1 tomorrow, and the two matches before me are Kuznetsova vs. Swiatek and Kudermetova vs. Bencic, and having called Swiatek and Kudermetova already, I could have had half the prep work to do this evening. (I emailed my producer *during* my call of Riske vs. Brady, asking if it might be possible for me to swap assignments, but in the end I couldn't.) Weirder still, Sofia Kenin vs. Dayana Yastremska - the Australian Open champion vs. the 19-year-old world #25 - is on Court 2, instead of being on Center Court (where I think it belongs) or on the more prestigious Court 1. I'd have loved to get that one...oh well. Tomorrow I will be hoping to get two quick ones and head up the road back to Scotland, because three days of driving and eight matches of prep and commentary really is incredibly tiring, both mentally and physically.
 
Nope:
(I'm not doing the basketball tomorrow night as well - the original commentator for whom I might have subbed is available after all - which is great, as there's no way I could have coped with doing any more research tonight!)
And just as well, given that tip-off was 7:00 p.m. and my last match ended around 7:30. (I am going to reference the Bosnia-Greece game tomorrow, though, given that I'm calling a Sakkari match...)
 
By the way, would you pronounce it "SAKK-ar-ee" or "Sa-KAR-ee"? After some Googling and video-watching, it seems as though all of the English-speaking commentators I've heard say the latter, but Sakkari herself (and the Greek TV host I found) say the former; normally I always go with the native pronunciation and/or how the player himself or herself would say it, but man, I'm struggling to choose a different pronunciation than the one Mary Carillo uses.
 
[I went with "SAKK-ar-ee", btw - when in doubt, go with the way the player herself pronounces the name. Also, the chair umpire said it the same way, which made me feel much better.]

As with many industries and sectors, much of getting commentary work is about being in the right place at the right time. Yesterday, I was walking around the DAZN facility in Leeds when I saw someone I recognized but couldn't quite place, and he looked at me and did the same before asking, "Darren?" After a few quizzical looks, we realized we'd both worked together on DAZN's NFL Game of the Week in 2018 and 2019; we had a nice chat, and I managed to ask if he knew who is responsible for DAZN's KHL coverage coming out of Miami. Turns out it's the same producer (Phil) who ran our NFL show in 2018, so I dropped him a note, and he said there's certainly at least a possibility that I might get a few games during the forthcoming KHL playoffs, which I think start on Saturday. So that would be fortuitous.

Meanwhile, today I arrived very early for my pair of matches and was put in a conference room between a couple of commentary booths while I waited. I've had to wait until the fourth match on court to get up and running during my ATP 1000 coverage in London, but there I'm usually staying in an Airbnb property within walking distance of the studio, so I can just chill out at "home" and wait until the match before mine has started before heading down. But when I'm staying 25 minutes' drive away, as I have been this past week, I have to be a bit more careful. So I was in at least three hours before my matches ultimately started, thanks in no small part to the Bencic-Kudermetova match before mine (which lasted 2:41 and went to a third-set tiebreak). But that worked out incredibly well, because while I was messing around on my computer, a man and a woman walked in and asked if they could share my room with me. "Sure," I said - "I'm just waiting for my tennis commentary to start." "So are we," came the response - it was Pete Odgers, a stalwart ATP and WTA commentator with a very good English-accented voice, and Sophie Amiach, a former fringe WTA player who is Pete's color commentator this week. We started talking, and Sophie said she recognized my voice: she had been watching my call of the Pera-Garcia match the other night and really liked a stat I'd dug up (which she didn't know), namely that Pera had previously been coached by Guillermo Cañas, who has the distinction of being one of only two players - alongside Rafa Nadal - who since 2003 has defeated Roger Federer at back-to-back tournaments, having somehow managed that at both Indian Wells and Miami when Federer was #1 in the world back in 2007. She said she really liked my commentary, and Pete said, "If Sophie says you're a good commentator, then you're good." Which after my crisis of confidence last night was so encouraging to me! I showed them one of my research pages, a printed PowerPoint slide covered with match stats and personal facts and the like, and Sophie was agog (and Pete also impressed), to the point she said she'd like to hire me to prepare all of her match notes. I said I'd be happy to send both of them my templates, and Sophie said I should be careful not to give anything like that away, lest others profit from my system! She's a bit of a French firecracker...anyway, I wound up having a really lovely chat for nearly an hour with Pete about everything from traveling the tour - he was on site in Dubai last week - to Tiger Woods to Alex Ferguson haranguing soccer referees, and at the end he advised me to keep doing what I'm doing: he said it doesn't help that I'm a white, straight man, which is par for the course and nothing I didn't already know, but that if I keep working hard and working as often as I can, I'll get noticed. Tennis is a niche sport, and there aren't many of us that can do the job (as opposed to, e.g., soccer commentators being a dime a dozen), so if have a good voice and keep trying to progress, I probably will. So that was pretty awesome.

Completely buzzing from that feedback and those assessments - particularly given how little feedback I ever get from anyone about my commentary (positive or negative) - I proceeded to call what I think was probably my best single match as a commentator:

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

It only lasted 58 minutes (Muguruza winning 6-1 6-2 - and she served for the match at 5-0 in the 2nd as well), which meant that for once I actually left plenty of my research notes unused - but I think my flow was pretty much spot on, and for once I never felt anything I said was forced. It helped that Garbiñe Muguruza played a stunningly good match and gave me loads of good material, but still, this was a great match for me to get under my belt and convince me that I really can do this job.

I wasn't quite as perfect in my second match, but I still had plenty of good moments in what - very surprisingly - turned out to be by far my longer match of the evening. The #157-ranked Tereza Martincova (pronounced "Mar-TEENT-so-vah") was three points away from defeating #20 Maria Sakkari, at 4-4 in the second-set tiebreak, after Sakkari had demolished her racquet at the end of the first set and seemed to be at war with her British coach. Even though Martincova hadn't won back-to-back main draw matches on the WTA Tour for three years, I actually foreshadowed this surprisingly well, in part because I realized that when she had previously played the #20 in the world - Caroline Garcia, at Gstaad in 2017 - she'd actually won. The conditions were hideously windy, but Martincova kept hitting these forehands into the ad court corner, over and over again, and Sakkari literally couldn't believe what she was seeing. Then Martincova tensed up with the winning line in sight, Sakkari held her nerve to take the second set, and Martincova just couldn't handle herself thereafter and got bageled in like 20 minutes in the third. It wasn't a great match, but it was compelling, and in its own way fun to commentate on, even though it means I didn't get back home until after 12:30 a.m. In any event, I'm on to Acapulco on Thursday...where I see Venus Williams just lost after failing to convert any of the 7 match points she'd held against the Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan. There goes probably my best chance to commentate on a match involving a Williams sister - but still, onwards and upwards.
 

StupendousMan

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"Chance favors the prepared mind" -- or the mind who arrives early and hangs out in the commentary area :)
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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That's an awesome story! Way to make an impression with your voice and your hard work and research!
 
Hoo-boy...today is gonna suck. I'm calling the first two WTA quarterfinals from Acapulco, but the first of them won't start until 11 p.m., not 10 p.m. as advertised when I signed up for the job. (Why does the order of play not start until 5 p.m. local time?) So if I'm lucky, I probably finish up around 3 a.m. and get home around 6 a.m.; if I'm unlucky, it'll be more like 8 a.m. All of which is simply horrible.

I've got an all-Chinese matchup between #77 Lin Zhu and #127 Xiyu Wang - I'll need to remember to say the surnames first though, in traditional Chinese fashion - and then Great Britain's #69 Heather Watson against the USA's #86 Christina McHale. I was hoping to get Watson, who is very popular in my neck of the woods, so that's something to perhaps keep me going through the night...but I didn't sleep great last night, so I'm going to be properly jetlagged tomorrow (assuming I don't crash on my drive home). Don't expect an immediate postgame report this time, anyway!
 
Well, I made it home and am still alive. Last night could have been a lot worse: Wang (a name to watch for the future - only 18 years old and very composed, with some real baseline weaponry) defeated Zhu in only 61 minutes, 6-2 6-2, and although Watson and McHale went three sets, they were relatively short sets, with Watson winning 6-3 1-6 6-1 in 1:52. My only real commentary glitch was at the start of the Wang-Zhu match: I've been told that for World Feed matches, highlights are stitched together in such a way that I need to give individual introductions when each player comes on court so that they can be cleanly edited and inserted at the highlights package. I was pretty terrified that with two Chinese players I'd never seen before, I was going to mix them up and introduce the wrong player first (racist!), so when the first player walked on court I double-checked and made sure it was Wang before I said the loose introduction I'd prepared for her...and then I waited for Zhu to come on court, and I waited, and suddenly I realized that both players were at their respective chairs and had probably come out together. Perhaps I should have watched highlights of other player walk-ons, or asked my other commentator or our onsite production contact to confirm the protocol? Grrrr.

That aside, the biggest complication to my day was a road closure near the England-Scotland border, and a diversion I blindly followed which I realized far too late was taking me all the way around to Edinburgh instead of my coastal town 25 miles to the east of it, which added at least 20 minutes to my journey (maybe more) and led me along very twisty, slippery roads after 5 a.m. at a time when I really, really wanted to just be in bed. But I got home around 5:30, have managed to sneak in four hours of sleep, and here I am.
 
For the better part of the past week-and-a-half, I've been doing voiceover work on the tennis videogame (Tennis Elbow 4) for which I'm providing the commentary - specifically, voicing over separate introductions for each men's and women's tournament in the game's Career mode. And I have to say, I've never hated the sound of my voice more. I usually like how I sound as a commentator, to the point that I enjoy going back and reviewing my work so I can try to get better. But when I'm spending several hours at a time recording scripts like...
"Hi there, tennis fans and welcome to a really special week on the Tennis Elbow Tour. I'm Darren Kilfara, and today we are at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina - it's America's biggest clay court tennis tournament, and more Round 1 action is up next."
...and then listening to that recording to make sure it's workable, and then doing that again and again and again (and making mistakes and having to redo some of the same clips multiple times), I feel like I sound really sing-songy. I don't think the work I'm doing is bad as such, and if I were able to step back and hear how just one of these intros sounds at the start of a match in the game, I'd probably feel much better about it all. But this process hasn't really encouraged me as a commentator, even if I have learned a few things like trying to keep my head absolutely still relative to my lip microphone and thereby keep the volume levels consistent - and even if my ultimate payoff for all of this work will be significant.

In other news, I got a lengthy email from the IOC (in the context of my forthcoming work for the Olympic Broadcasting Service) about the coronavirus - it was very bullish, and certainly doesn't suggest I'll be doing anything but going to Tokyo as scheduled in July. Which may or may not be good news, we'll see...and in what may or may not be bad news, I'm definitely not going to Switzerland in May for the hockey World Championships, which is down to the fact that my CHL production company isn't providing English-language "Guide Commentary" for the tournament after all. I think that was a mistaken assumption on my part that they might have needed me after all; oh well, I won't be catching a fatal disease in Switzerland, anyway.

My next gig will be two days of ATP 1000 commentary from Indian Wells (via Wimbledon/London) next Saturday and Sunday - more from me then.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
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In other news, I got a lengthy email from the IOC (in the context of my forthcoming work for the Olympic Broadcasting Service) about the coronavirus - it was very bullish, and certainly doesn't suggest I'll be doing anything but going to Tokyo as scheduled in July.
Gods do not answer letters... but they sometimes send them.
 
Of course, the first major sporting event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus would have to be the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells:
I made non-refundable hotel and train bookings in conjunction with my commentary trip to London for Saturday and Sunday. Time to see how flexible a major hotel chain and one of Britain's biggest train companies are willing to be in the context of a pandemic scare!
 
As I just posted over in the main Coronavirus news thread in V&N, amazingly, the KHL playoffs are as of now moving forward as scheduled on Tuesday. So last night I emailed Producer Phil at DAZN, with whom I worked on the NFL games I studio-hosted in 2018 and who is now responsible - among other things - for DAZN Canada's KHL coverage. I'd contacted him when I was in Leeds at the end of the KHL regular season and hadn't heard back from him, and I hadn't really expected to either...but I guessed that maybe DAZN had a big programming gap to fill and/or a potentially captive hockey audience in Canada with nothing else to watch for the next few weeks and pitched my services accordingly. And what do you know: I am needed, at least for the moment! I've been given the following list of Conference Semifinal games to potentially call:
  • 17 March: Game 1, Barys Nur Sultan vs. Sibir Novosibirsk
  • 18 March: Game 1, CSKA Moscow vs. Dynamo Moscow
  • 19 March: Game 2, Barys vs. Sibir
  • 20 March: Game 2, CSKA vs. Dynamo
  • 21 March: Game 3, Sibir vs. Barys
  • 22 March: Game 3, Salavat Yulaev Ufa vs. Ak Bars Kazan
  • 23 March: Game 4, Sibir vs. Barys
  • 24 March: Game 4, Ufa vs. Kazan
  • 25 March: Game 5, Barys vs. Sibir (if necessary)
  • 26 March: Game 5, CSKA vs. Dynamo (if necessary)
  • 27 March: Game 6, Sibir vs. Barys (if necessary)
  • 28 March: Game 6, Ufa vs. Kazan (if necessary)
  • 29 March: Game 7, Barys vs. Sibir (if necessary)
  • 30 March: Game 7, Kazan vs. Ufa (if necessary)
This is pretty much a dream scenario for me, with up to 14 games to call - and high-intensity playoff games at that - but only six teams for whom I need to prepare. So I now find myself in the wholly weird position of actually rooting for Vladimir Putin to be so megalomaniacal as to insist that the show goes on in Russia when it's not going on almost literally anywhere else in the sporting world. Heck, even if the games don't go ahead, it'll be nice to have something to do between now and Tuesday - i.e., research and prepare for the games involving these six clubs - other than fret about COVID-19 itself.

It may work out for me to call these games from home as well, rather than driving down to Leeds as I've done in the past. Given that my work-from-home technology wasn't working perfectly when I was calling basketball games from home, I'm nervous about the picture quality of an ice hockey satellite feed as transmitted from Russia via the Netherlands - if the picture is blurry or pixellated enough to where I can't immediately track player numbers or perfectly follow the puck, that would be very bad. So I've offered Producer Phil three options: 1) I come to Leeds and do all of the games from the studio, as I've done in the past; 2) I get a flypack couriered up to me, and we do the first game on Tuesday and see how it goes, with Leeds as a fallback option thereafter; or 3) same as option 2, except we do a test transmission on Monday first and see how that works. (I'm waiting to hear back.)
 
Oh, and just to follow this up...
I made non-refundable hotel and train bookings in conjunction with my commentary trip to London for Saturday and Sunday. Time to see how flexible a major hotel chain and one of Britain's biggest train companies are willing to be in the context of a pandemic scare!
...it turns out that my hotel wasn't flexible, and I lost £100 or so on that booking, but London North Eastern Railway was, and so I got my £99.50 train tickets refunded in full. Which is better than I expected, to be honest.
 

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MDLzera
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If you guys don't have some sort of "Last Sports On Earth!" theme going on, with heavy-metal style graphics, then I don't know what DAZN producers are doing. Luckily, they're run by Cavalier ESPN Guy and owned by a Russian billionaire, so you're about as insulated from the pressures of normal society as you could possibly be right now.
 
If you guys don't have some sort of "Last Sports On Earth!" theme going on, with heavy-metal style graphics, then I don't know what DAZN producers are doing. Luckily, they're run by Cavalier ESPN Guy and owned by a Russian billionaire, so you're about as insulated from the pressures of normal society as you could possibly be right now.
I still think that those pressures will catch up with us sooner rather than later. But for the moment...

I'm just off the phone with Producer Phil, and my mind is a bit blown by all of this. The KHL has become a bit of a backwater sport for DAZN Canada over the past couple of years, because DAZN has realized it's just not a league that the Canadian audience wants to follow relative to the NHL, and then the AHL and Canadian junior leagues. But for now, at least, we really are the only show in town - I think there's a fight going ahead on DAZN tonight or tomorrow night, but apart from that, the KHL *is* DAZN's live sports output. (Which makes sense, because nobody has any live sports output.) And to my surprise, I've now effectively become the #1 commentator for the KHL: I'd thought that I was the secondary option relative to DAZN's office in Miami, but apparently Miami is now playing second fiddle to me, in large part because I'm within DAZN's main satellite infrastructure in Europe and because I can do my commentary work from home. If DAZN's office in Leeds were to shut because of a virus outbreak, I'd *have* to work from home - presumably someone in the control center in the Netherlands would still have to man the barricades, so I don't know what would happen if that were to happen.

Anyway, it's dawning upon me that I might be one of the only sports commentators in the world working over the next few weeks. And as long as the KHL season continues, I'm going to be calling a game a day, pretty much for the duration. I'll call my first game on Tuesday from home, and as long as that works OK from a technical standpoint - and as long as I don't catch the virus myself and am unable to perform - I'll keep going, like some underground radio station that has survived a nuclear holocaust and keeps transmitting until the power runs out or radiation kills the last DJ.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
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well after that preamble, you gotta get us a livestream man. least you could do for us addicts jonesing over here with the sports shakes. Some of us are about ready to round up the neighborhood kids, tell them to play various games, and stage home broadcasts.
 
I highly doubt my commentary will be available in any streaming form outside of the DAZN platform - if indeed the KHL continues next week, which I doubt - but if it is, you'll probably have to find it yourself. I did see that the KHL made Game 6 of the Dynamo Moscow-Spartak Moscow series available for free on YouTube, but I'm pretty sure that was with Russian commentary.

Incidentally, a replay of the aforementioned Game 6 of the Dynamo-Spartak series was aired this evening on the FreeSports channel here in the UK - the game was played behind closed doors and there were no fans, but they still played really loud pop songs during breaks in play and flashed spotlights over the faceoff circle, etc. So that's not at all weird. (But maybe it was better than just having a ghostly silence during any break in play?)
 

Ale Xander

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Oct 31, 2013
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As I just posted over in the main Coronavirus news thread in V&N, amazingly, the KHL playoffs are as of now moving forward as scheduled on Tuesday. So last night I emailed Producer Phil at DAZN, with whom I worked on the NFL games I studio-hosted in 2018 and who is now responsible - among other things - for DAZN Canada's KHL coverage. I'd contacted him when I was in Leeds at the end of the KHL regular season and hadn't heard back from him, and I hadn't really expected to either...but I guessed that maybe DAZN had a big programming gap to fill and/or a potentially captive hockey audience in Canada with nothing else to watch for the next few weeks and pitched my services accordingly. And what do you know: I am needed, at least for the moment! I've been given the following list of Conference Semifinal games to potentially call:
  • 17 March: Game 1, Barys Nur Sultan vs. Sibir Novosibirsk
  • 18 March: Game 1, CSKA Moscow vs. Dynamo Moscow
  • 19 March: Game 2, Barys vs. Sibir
  • 20 March: Game 2, CSKA vs. Dynamo
  • 21 March: Game 3, Sibir vs. Barys
  • 22 March: Game 3, Salavat Yulaev Ufa vs. Ak Bars Kazan
  • 23 March: Game 4, Sibir vs. Barys
  • 24 March: Game 4, Ufa vs. Kazan
  • 25 March: Game 5, Barys vs. Sibir (if necessary)
  • 26 March: Game 5, CSKA vs. Dynamo (if necessary)
  • 27 March: Game 6, Sibir vs. Barys (if necessary)
  • 28 March: Game 6, Ufa vs. Kazan (if necessary)
  • 29 March: Game 7, Barys vs. Sibir (if necessary)
  • 30 March: Game 7, Kazan vs. Ufa (if necessary)
This is pretty much a dream scenario for me, with up to 14 games to call - and high-intensity playoff games at that - but only six teams for whom I need to prepare. So I now find myself in the wholly weird position of actually rooting for Vladimir Putin to be so megalomaniacal as to insist that the show goes on in Russia when it's not going on almost literally anywhere else in the sporting world. Heck, even if the games don't go ahead, it'll be nice to have something to do between now and Tuesday - i.e., research and prepare for the games involving these six clubs - other than fret about COVID-19 itself.

It may work out for me to call these games from home as well, rather than driving down to Leeds as I've done in the past. Given that my work-from-home technology wasn't working perfectly when I was calling basketball games from home, I'm nervous about the picture quality of an ice hockey satellite feed as transmitted from Russia via the Netherlands - if the picture is blurry or pixellated enough to where I can't immediately track player numbers or perfectly follow the puck, that would be very bad. So I've offered Producer Phil three options: 1) I come to Leeds and do all of the games from the studio, as I've done in the past; 2) I get a flypack couriered up to me, and we do the first game on Tuesday and see how it goes, with Leeds as a fallback option thereafter; or 3) same as option 2, except we do a test transmission on Monday first and see how that works. (I'm waiting to hear back.)
And chance NHLN or NBCSN or ESPN or someone else will televise these to the US market?
 
And chance NHLN or NBCSN or ESPN or someone else will televise these to the US market?
Absolutely no idea...I'd have thought it must be possible, although whether they can even pull together a temporary rights deal in the current climate seems dubious to me. (Probably not with my commentary, FWIW - I assume they'd use their own people.)

FYI, Game 6 of the first-round series between Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow was played behind closed doors, and as such was aired freely on YouTube by the KHL - so that might happen again, with most if not all of the remaining games set to be played in front of no crowds as well. (Presumably with Russian commentary, though.)
 

jungleboy

lurker
Mar 1, 2016
151
Anyway, it's dawning upon me that I might be one of the only sports commentators in the world working over the next few weeks.
Not to burst your bubble, but the two major football competitions in Australia (Australian Rules football's AFL and rugby league's NRL) are continuing at this stage, with all games on TV. The AFL, the fourth highest attended domestic sporting competition in the world, will begin its season this Thursday night in empty stadiums. I was due to fly to Melbourne from Portugal on Tuesday to attend the first two games, but I obviously can't attend anymore and will have to cancel the whole trip. The earlier-starting women's competition, AFLW, played its last game in front of spectators last night and is playing in empty stadiums starting from today. The NRL began its season this weekend and is still playing in front of crowds today and tomorrow but will play in empty stadiums from the start of the second round on Thursday once the ban on mass gatherings in Australia comes into place on Monday.
 
Not to burst your bubble, but the two major football competitions in Australia (Australian Rules football's AFL and rugby league's NRL) are continuing at this stage, with all games on TV. The AFL, the fourth highest attended domestic sporting competition in the world, will begin its season this Thursday night in empty stadiums. I was due to fly to Melbourne from Portugal on Tuesday to attend the first two games, but I obviously can't attend anymore and will have to cancel the whole trip. The earlier-starting women's competition, AFLW, played its last game in front of spectators last night and is playing in empty stadiums starting from today. The NRL began its season this weekend and is still playing in front of crowds today and tomorrow but will play in empty stadiums from the start of the second round on Thursday once the ban on mass gatherings in Australia comes into place on Monday.
You didn't even include the ODI cricket series between Australia and New Zealand, which is continuing behind closed doors as of now. And here in the UK, today there's still live snooker, rugby league and badminton available to watch (possibly among other things - horse racing?). But still, I think my point stands - the vast majority of sport on television is over for a while, and as of now I'm extraordinarily lucky to have grabbed one of the very few lifeboats remaining.
 
Called off due to NZ's new travel restrictions.
Duly noted!

For what it’s worth, I’ve exchanged emails with the Russian hockey expert whose blog is one of the best English-language KHL resources around (and whose post on coronavirus-related hockey league suspensions and cancellations I've quoted in several places on SoSH), and here is his response to my question about whether or not the playoffs are likely to continue on schedule:
I am actually about 50-50 on whether the league will continue with the playoffs. For now, of course, it is still officially "on," and Sibir and Salavat Yulaev are even intending to play in front of fans. But there have been rumours of a shutdown, and since they don't start until the 17th, the gives the league time to take a long hard look at things. I will not be surprised at all if they either postpone the playoffs or cancel them outright. There has been some unhappiness over playing without spectators, and Dynamo's Andrei Mironov recently accused the authorities of basically not paying attention to the public health risks. I won't be terribly surprised if the second round starts on schedule (the VHL and MHL are still playing, too), but I won't be surprised if there is a different announcement in the coming days either.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
11,544
Not to burst your bubble, but ...
I'm gonna stop you right there. This thread is way more fun if we're imagining CP as the protagonist in some post-apocalyptic movie that is, bizarrely, about a sports commentator
 
Well, the odds on the KHL playoffs continuing as scheduled on Tuesday have surely narrowed: Jokerit, the Finnish club who was supposed to be playing SKA St. Petersburg in the Western Conference Semifinals, just withdrew from the playoffs:
View: https://twitter.com/Jokerit_EN/status/1238848593731170305
If the KHL moves forward without them, it would be truly bizarre...but we'll see.
 
So I've heard back from my Russian blogger friend in the past hour, and apparently there is some talk in Russia that SKA St. Petersburg should just get a bye through to the semifinals, and the rest of the KHL playoffs should continue as normal. Gut instinct, I think the odds of that happening are still very much less than 50-50 (and probably nearer 10-20% if that)...but then, the Russian Premier League soccer fixtures have been carrying on as normal, and I saw Zenit St. Petersburg won their home match today 7-1 in a stadium that was actually full of fans. And Belarussian Extraleague playoff semifinals haven't been postponed - they are set to carry on today as normal, and if there's one closest analogue to Russia among European ice hockey countries, it's surely Belarus. I really have no idea at this point.
 
Latest news from last night: Kazakhstan is prohibiting Barys Nur-Sultan from playing any games in Astana or anywhere in the country, even in an arena which is closed to the public. So that's another strong argument against the season continuing, and that's the series I'm supposed to be calling first (on Tuesday). But on the flip side, the VHL playoffs - equivalent of the AHL to the KHL's NHL - are still moving forward with the team from Uzbekistan, similarly forbidden from playing games in their home country, using an arena in the Moscow region as their "home" away from home. So again, who knows what the KHL is thinking at this point.

(And for the record, I know the KHL's status is absolutely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But fretting about whether the games will go on is much more fun and productive for me than the alternative, which would be fretting about the virus itself.)
 
Today, I discovered this website:


And now I'm dashing back and forth at least once an hour between that website and Google Translate (Russian to English), trying to find out if anything new is happening. KHL's English-language website and Twitter account aren't saying much of anything, but from what I glean on that website, although some pundits and figures within the game think it's crazy to keep the playoffs going forward, most of the players really want to continue, and Barys doesn't want to withdraw (I think negotiations are ongoing with the government in Kazakhstan to allow them to play at home despite the earlier proclamation). So maybe this is going to happen?

In terms of my prep work, I've now created my roster sheets for all six teams that are set to play in the second round, and I've mostly finished work on the first team (Barys) and have done about half of the research I'll need to do for the other five teams (all the statistical stuff). I did all six teams, rather than saving Kazan and Ufa for later in the week as I'd originally planned, on the basis that if Barys does pull out, the KHL would then have two games scheduled for Wed-Fri-Sun (etc.) and no games scheduled for Tue-Thu-Sat (etc.), and who knows if they would then move one of the series forward by a day. I'm certainly hoping to get some clarity tomorrow...and surely that will have to happen, because if Sibir is flying to Astana, they need to leave tomorrow. Anyway, no matter what happens over the next few days, I'm certainly going to remember this period of my commentary career forever! And if I do get the go-ahead, I'm planning on relaying a fair amount of reporting on the state of COVID-19 in Russia and reactions to the decision to play, and maybe I can even talk about COVID-19 specifically, e.g., highlighting when players or coaches might touch their faces in unhygienic ways. Maybe I might be able to convince a few recalcitrant Canadians how serious all of this is...that really would make this whole exercise worthwhile.
 
Sigh...looks like the dream is dead. According to this report…

https://allhockey.ru/news/show/381280-Minsport_RF_otmenil_vse_mezhdunarodnye_sorevnovaniya_na_territorii_strany

…the Russian Ministry of Sports has cancelled all international competitions in the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. That includes “the participation of foreign athletes (including coaches and specialists) in all-Russian sports events previously planned with foreign participation”. Moscow had earlier banned gatherings of 50 people or more as well, so I’m pretty sure that’s that. There’s no official word from the KHL yet, but I’ve stopped my prep work for now - having just finished work on the CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Moscow teams - pending confirmation that the league has indeed been postponed or shut down. Because not even Putin would dream of having the teams finish the season without their non-Russian players, and outside of Russia at that. (I'm sure he'll have signed off on the cancellation, and that he'll be able to blame foreign influences - including the withdrawal of the teams from Finland and Kazakhstan - for the stoppage.)
 
But wait...ALIVE!!!
“The Kontinental Hockey League decided to suspend the Gagarin Cup for a period of one week to organize and coordinate with the government authorities a new format for the second stage of the championship with six Russian clubs.

The start date, dates and a detailed format of the draw will be determined in the near future and published on the League’s official resources.

Information on the Youth Hockey League championship will be announced later," the league’s website said.
That's taken directly from the KHL's Russian-language website. Apparently the Sports Ministry's declaration specifically didn't apply to the KHL - the translation I got was perhaps slightly errant - so it's still possible there might be hockey a week from now. Which is still transparently insane, and every delay makes an indefinite delay or cancellation more likely. Still...yikes.
 
In more news only of interest to me: the KHL restart has been pushed back to 10 April, and there's still every chance there won't be a restart. But on the positive side, a remote commentary flypack is being couriered to me from Leeds and is due to arrive tomorrow. So I will shortly have commentate-from-home capability again, even if there are no sports to commentate on for a while. (I wonder if DAZN would consider using me to commentate on Football Manager simulations...)
 

tmracht

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 19, 2009
455
I did not realize I needed to hear you announce football manager simulations. DAZN get this in my life.

you would bring so much life to my Cottbus save. Miles make this happen for the game itself.
 

tmracht

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 19, 2009
455
Side question, you could probably do something like that on twitch if you wanted to stay "in shape" would that be something you would consider?
 
Side question, you could probably do something like that on twitch if you wanted to stay "in shape" would that be something you would consider?
Not a chance, FWIW. (Unless someone were to pay me for it!) I've got my tennis videogame voiceover work to do during any extended break I might have, assuming of course that I can social distance myself far enough from my kids and possibly my wife - with school being cancelled and my wife probably working from home for an extended period - not to annoy the heck out of everyone with my voice.
According to the gambling guys on Toucher and Rich, there is soccer in Belarus and in South America
I can't speak to the soccer part, but I do know that the Belarus ice hockey playoffs are still continuing - Neman Grodno defeated Soligorsk in OT yesterday to tie up their semifinal series at 2-2 and retake home ice advantage. (Yunost Minsk leads the other series 3-1, with the playoff finals winner getting Belarus' solitary place in the Champions Hockey League next season.)

Incidentally, a bunch of foreign players in the KHL chartered a plane the other day to leave the country; who knows if they'll be back if the playoffs resume, or if it'll even be possible for them to get back. (I've been laughing at how foreign players in the KHL articles I've been reading are referred to - at least via Google Translate - as "legionnaires".) Anyway, my remote commentary flypack arrived with me today via courier from Leeds, so I am now armed and capable of commentating through the apocalypse, which is nice.