Diary of a commentator

Sigh...the KHL playoffs have officially been cancelled:


I really think that being involved in the KHL and doing the research I did helped me psychologically, right when my COVID-19 worries were at their strongest, so I don't view this whole episode as a total waste. But it's definitely going to be a quiet commentary summer for me, with the Olympics also having been postponed and with no clues as to when the tennis season might resume. For that matter, there's no guarantee of course that the Champions Hockey League will be set to launch on time in late August and early September. But really, I can't complain: I've got my tennis videogame project to tackle, other marketing communications work to do, a wife with a super-secure job at the NHS, a highly functioning and pretty happy nuclear family unit, and of course my health. Things could be a lot worse.

(By the way, the finals of the hockey playoffs in Belarus are *still* steaming ahead - Game 1 of Yunost Minsk vs. Soligorsk is on Friday. Crazy.)
 
I don't have an English accent at all - so no, not me.

FWIW, I just received a comforting group email from the CEO of the Olympic Broadcasting Service, affirming that the OBS will still want all of us to come to Tokyo next year when the Olympics do eventually go ahead. This is the money paragraph, and I think it's really nicely stated:
We recognize that Sports Broadcasting (and all other events in general) is being seriously impacted by the global expansion of the Covid-19. This is why we would like to provide you, as a valued member of our team, with additional certainty in these difficult times of professional and financial turmoil in our industry. Let me insist that as it has been already announced, the Games of Tokyo have not been cancelled, but postponed until the next year 2021. Adapting to such change in circumstances, our pledge is to replace your current services contract with us with a new one that will properly reflect the postponement of the Games, but without changing any other relevant parameters of our envisaged engagement.
 

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MDLzera
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But yeah that's exactly what I imagine CP and his like are doing right now. Commentating at anything that moves in a sufficiently expeditious fashion, while maintaining appropriate distancing.
 
Well, one of my contacts at DAZN has forwarded my email to their rights team, so it's at least being considered. I didn't commentate on Yunost Minsk in this season's CHL, but I did track their entire roster and their results throughout the competition, so basically I'd have only one-and-a-half teams to research...they did qualify for the Knockout Stage last fall by finishing second in their group, ahead of clubs from the Czech Republic and Finland (and behind Lausanne of Switzerland), so they're not chopped liver, even though they did lose 9-2 on aggregate to Red Bull Munich in the Round of 16.

Serious question: with literally no other live sports going on in the world at the moment, would you watch the Belarusian equivalent of the Stanley Cup Finals? (Between desperate sports fans, inveterate gamblers and the equivalent of car-crash oglers, I'd have thought there might be enough of an audience to make DAZN buying the rights in the US and Canada an interesting way to get noticed...)
 

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Yeah I'd watch it, just for the novelty, and general desperation right now. Maybe not the full series but at least a game. And I'm only a casual hockey fan.
 

tmracht

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Well, one of my contacts at DAZN has forwarded my email to their rights team, so it's at least being considered. I didn't commentate on Yunost Minsk in this season's CHL, but I did track their entire roster and their results throughout the competition, so basically I'd have only one-and-a-half teams to research...they did qualify for the Knockout Stage last fall by finishing second in their group, ahead of clubs from the Czech Republic and Finland (and behind Lausanne of Switzerland), so they're not chopped liver, even though they did lose 9-2 on aggregate to Red Bull Munich in the Round of 16.

Serious question: with literally no other live sports going on in the world at the moment, would you watch the Belarusian equivalent of the Stanley Cup Finals? (Between desperate sports fans, inveterate gamblers and the equivalent of car-crash oglers, I'd have thought there might be enough of an audience to make DAZN buying the rights in the US and Canada an interesting way to get noticed...)
Yes, definitely games 1 and the elimination games. I don't know if I'd watch all of them, but then again I don't think I watched an entire Stanley Cup finals that didn't feature the Bruins. So I would definitely watch some of the games if they were on in a semi normal time block.
 

cgori

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But yeah that's exactly what I imagine CP and his like are doing right now. Commentating at anything that moves in a sufficiently expeditious fashion, while maintaining appropriate distancing.
I assumed Marble League would be an option.
 
Some actual commentary-related news to report! To make a long story short, when and if the Champions Hockey League gets back in action, it seems as though I'll now be doing my remote commentary work from Milan instead of Vienna. The company in charge of all CHL commentary production had subcontracted a lot of its work to the firm in Vienna where I've spent so much time over the last six years, but now it is taking the work back in-house - strictly a business decision, I'm told, and not at all related to quality control. I have worked directly for the Swiss branch of the same firm at the CHL Finals (and Semifinals) to which I'd traveled in person dating back to 2016, so now I'll be working for the Italian branch on my remote commentaries as well.

When you consider that I've basically spent around a month of my life each year for the past six years traveling to, from and within Austria on CHL assignments, this is quite a big potential change for me. On the minus side, I always enjoyed working with my now ex-colleagues in Vienna, and I speak a passable amount of German but no Italian; I've also been to Milan once or twice in the past, and from the tourist perspective, it's not Vienna. On the other hand, give me Italian over Austrian cuisine any day of the week, and there are (or were, pre-pandemic) multiple direct flights from Edinburgh to Vienna every day, so the logistics should be easier for me. But the biggest and potentially best difference between old and new for me is professional: I was on a 45-minute Skype call yesterday with two of my new contacts in Milan, and they were excited to hear that I've commentated on soccer in the past - and specifically Serie A - in addition to ice hockey, because they are also responsible for sourcing English-language commentary for the world feed broadcasts of at least 7 of the 10 Serie A matches each week. So instead of flying to Milan on Mondays for the CHL games on Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays throughout the season, they suggested I might instead fly over early to call some Monday night Serie A matches, and perhaps even some Sunday games could be on the cards as well. (I've sent them links to my commentary website; it's handy that the main videos on my soccer page are my calls of the two goals Gonzalo Higuain scored for Juventus against AC Milan!) They also asked if I did any winter sports commentary on skiing or snowboarding, and mentioned that they're doing some volleyball and handball as well, so there may well be other areas in which I might be able to help. It was one of my great regrets in Vienna that I never got to call anything other than hockey despite having asked on numerous occasions to do so, but that seems as though it might be changing now.

I'm under no illusions that I'll be starting on schedule in early September with the CHL season. The CHL is dependent on gate receipts to be profitable - there's no way clubs will travel across Europe to play behind closed doors - so I won't be surprised at all if the 2020-21 CHL gets dramatically abridged or cancelled altogether. But assuming it does restart at *some* point, and that I will be able to fly to Milan at that point without freaking out, this could be a fun new chapter in my Continental commentary experience.
 
Meanwhile, Agent Tim contacted me today to ask if I'd be up for commentating on a soccer match in the Korean K-League in a few weeks' time - from home, of course. The K-League apparently is set to start its season on 8 May (belatedly, having originally planned to go on 29 February), so that would be something to sink my teeth into, possibly. I'm not 100% sure I really want to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare for a match like that, but I'll probably give it a go; as the saying goes, what have I got to lose?
 

Kliq

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Meanwhile, Agent Tim contacted me today to ask if I'd be up for commentating on a soccer match in the Korean K-League in a few weeks' time - from home, of course. The K-League apparently is set to start its season on 8 May (belatedly, having originally planned to go on 29 February), so that would be something to sink my teeth into, possibly. I'm not 100% sure I really want to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare for a match like that, but I'll probably give it a go; as the saying goes, what have I got to lose?
On the bright side, the Korean names should be easier to pronounce than that Iranian basketball game you had to cover a few years ago.
 
I received a press release this morning from the Champions Hockey League, saying that the competition - if it goes ahead, which I have to think is still very uncertain - won't have a group stage this year and will instead start in October (rather than late August or early September) directly in the knockout stage, with two-legged ties starting in the Round of 32.
Effectively, this means I'm losing out on eight days of (relatively lucrative) work during what would have been the first two weeks of the group stage. It sucks, but it is what it is...and in competitive terms, at least, every match should matter much more than the group stage matches normally would. It's effectively turning the CHL from being modeled on the UEFA Champions League to being modeled on the old European Cup in soccer; I wonder if UEFA is looking at doing something similar next season on a contingency basis?
 
Meanwhile, Agent Tim contacted me today to ask if I'd be up for commentating on a soccer match in the Korean K-League in a few weeks' time - from home, of course. The K-League apparently is set to start its season on 8 May (belatedly, having originally planned to go on 29 February), so that would be something to sink my teeth into, possibly. I'm not 100% sure I really want to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare for a match like that, but I'll probably give it a go; as the saying goes, what have I got to lose?
I exchanged messages with Agent Tim yesterday, and apparently he lost the bid for the contract to supply commentary on the K-League - so no soccer for me this weekend, or in the foreseeable future. Which is fine; I'm focused on my tennis videogame commentary project, among other things, and I'm pleased in a way not to have to spend loads of time learning a new league and players for what I'm sure would have been a pittance in pay. But I would of course really relish any live commentary work at the moment!
 

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Just that I hear they got some sportin' about to go down.

Not that football is your focus, I just imagine there's a scramble for people to cover something, anything at this point. Maybe not you, with the video game and whatnot, but are you just hearing gripes from other commentators who feel like they've all been locked in solitary?
 
I've not really been in touch with any other commentators since the lockdown started. But I do know that German soccer is pretty well catered for by the existing commentariat - the Bundesliga is shown on BT Sport here in the UK, and given BT Sport's partnership with the BBC, some very prominent voices had already been involved in calling those matches here, even before the pandemic. I don't know how world feed coverage is sorted for the Bundesliga, but it's not something I can imagine getting involved with at this stage.
 
A really nice (and tough) piece on The Guardian today about my former color commentary partner Lee Hendrie:
I mentioned in the soccer forum how irked I am that the same play-by-play commentator got to call four Bundesliga games this weekend for BT Sport when there are so many commentators out of work at the moment; I mean, I'm fine at the moment and am not in any financial bother, but Hendrie's story emphasizes the point that there are a lot of guys out there who are worried and do need the work. (And on a separate note, I have some personal family experience with the type of struggles Hendrie has been fighting as well, so I really hope he's able to keep his life on track.)
 
FWIW, I've just received my first confirmed commentary assignment since the lockdown started - on August 13 and 14 (Thursday/Friday) I'll be doing world feed commentary the delightfully named "Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics", the new WTA event in Lexington, Kentucky. That's the second week of official women's tennis, following an event in Palermo the week before (and two weeks before the US Open begins); as usual I'll be driving down to Leeds in England to call the matches from DAZN's studio there, although unusually I've decided to book a hotel room in Leeds for the one night instead of driving up to Bradford to stay with my wife's aunt and uncle. I had emailed the latter a few weeks ago, and from their response I'm not 100% convinced they are being COVID-safe; they're delightful people, but they're also very social people, and at least for a one-night stay I'm willing to take a small financial hit and stay in a reputable hotel on the assumption that this is the medically safer course of action. It'll also mean a shorter drive after I'm done for the evening, and more physical and mental space to do pre-match research in my own time the next day. (I suspect I'm being more careful about the pandemic than many residents of Lexington, Kentucky, but that's neither here nor there; I certainly can't imagine that any fans will be allowed to attend the tournament itself.)

I've also been exchanging emails with my potential future paymasters in Milan, about my contractual arrangements concerning the Champions Hockey League this autumn and winter. Insofar as the CHL really needs fans to be in attendance for the competition to be financially viable, I can't really see it taking place this year, so this is probably all moot...but the issues we're discussing are very much pandemic-related. They've made me what would be a very reasonable financial offer in normal circumstances, but that offer is inclusive of travel expenses - i.e., they want me to book and pay for my own flights and accommodation, etc. - and I'm pushing back on the grounds that they need to assume a substantial portion of the risk if CHL games do get delayed or cancelled and my travel arrangements have to change or be cancelled. Normally I'd just go ahead and book my flights and hotels (or probably Airbnb accommodation - I've found a couple of apartments within walking distance of the studio that I can rent in their entirety, which are definitely cheaper than hotels in the area and which I think is probably even safer than having to travel through common areas in a hotel) and not even have to worry about potential refunds, but I was burned on a hotel booking in March that I had to eat when the Indian Wells tennis got cancelled, and I've made it clear that I don't want to be on the hook for that again. I've given them four different alternatives that I'd be happy to settle upon, so hopefully one of them works and we'll come to an agreement in short order...although really, I'm viewing this more as an exercise in setting my baseline expectations for the 2021-22 CHL, assuming the 2020-21 season will be written off eventually.
 
I'm finally back in commentary action tomorrow, and the Lexington order of play has just come out - and I get to call Serena vs. Venus, second on Center Court after Jill Teichmann vs. Yulia Putintseva (which I'm also calling). Beyond excited to get the Williams sisters; could very possibly be their last match against each other on the tour. My preparation work is going to be rather different for that relative to normal - I need to focus on news and scouting, rather than background information, because everyone will know most of the normal background stuff.
 

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oh man, what a goldmine for commentary. I'm jealous. Just thinking about it...

You've got age, obviously: Not many 40-year-olds still doing damage at the top levels of pro sports (golf aside). Not many 38-year-olds sitting near the pinnacle of their sport, either. After #4 Federer (38), the next highest ranked man on the ATP who's at least 35 is (I think) 36yo Verdasco at #52, followed shortly by Gilles Simon and Feliciano Lopez. After Serena, the next best 35+ is Kuznetsova at #32, then Venus, then Stosur at #97 and Kaia Kanepi at #99. Nobody else that old is in the top 250. Hell, Clijsters had already retired twice by the time she was 30.

You've got style: Serena's serve, and what her first match back said about it: only 7 aces and 6 doubles (I didn't get a good read on serve speed, maybe you could). Venus's net play, and whether her movement is still slow enough to be a baseline liability. Go read the gamethread for both sisters' R1 matches over on TennisForum (as you know but others might not, it's the SoSH of women's tennis), or the Who-Will-Win thread there. You get a lot of brainless posts, and then like 10% of people there really know their tactics and probably coach or something and can drop some insight.

You've got plenty of depth on their pop culture impacts. Serena as a mom, her maternal-health scare. Their fashion brands. If you need a longer fill bit, look at the launch of Serena Ventures, her VC fund (example).

There's so much you can say about their tactics, about when they play what ball or what they're expecting from the other in each spot. Your producer should cut together some clips of Serena's first match just being tentative, hitting easy balls back, and lacking aggression up until that 2nd set 4-4 game (and then, as she somehow always does, finds another gear). Meanwhile Venus largely stomped Azarenka. It shouldn't be hard to point out risks to Serena's game right now, that her lower-body strength might not be back to 100%.

I bet you're planning on this one being something you get on tape and then send around to potential employers, huh?
 

tmracht

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I'm finally back in commentary action tomorrow, and the Lexington order of play has just come out - and I get to call Serena vs. Venus, second on Center Court after Jill Teichmann vs. Yulia Putintseva (which I'm also calling). Beyond excited to get the Williams sisters; could very possibly be their last match against each other on the tour. My preparation work is going to be rather different for that relative to normal - I need to focus on news and scouting, rather than background information, because everyone will know most of the normal background stuff.
That's amazing! Amazing how you've worked your tail off to get the opportunity call a match of this caliber.
 
After #4 Federer (38), the next highest ranked man on the ATP who's at least 35 is (I think) 36yo Verdasco at #52, followed shortly by Gilles Simon and Feliciano Lopez. After Serena, the next best 35+ is Kuznetsova at #32, then Venus, then Stosur at #97 and Kaia Kanepi at #99. Nobody else that old is in the top 250. Hell, Clijsters had already retired twice by the time she was 30.
FWIW, you missed out Wawrinka, Isner and Tsonga - all 35 years old, all in the Top 50. But the women's rankings seem to check out - and yes, that's a good angle to talk about.
Your producer should cut together some clips
LOL. As if I get a producer to cut any clips for me. :) (Seriously, I have one guy in Lexington emailing me updates from the court, and another at WTA HQ sending research notes a couple of times per day during a tournament, but that's pretty much it.)
I bet you're planning on this one being something you get on tape and then send around to potential employers, huh?
Depends how well I do! Although in truth, I think Amazon Prime here in the UK has their own commentary crew covering the match, so if I go to watch the replay it probably won't be me - and I don't know to access the recording after the fact. But the official WTA highlights will have my voice on them, if nothing else. And really, my hope would have to be that some influential people watch the match with the world-feed commentary, like what they hear, ask themselves "Who is this guy?", and maybe things will flow from there. But who knows.
 
Well, that was some day of commentary. I got down to the studio in plenty of time - there are wipes and sanitizer dispensers everywhere, masks have to be worn unless you're at a desk or in your booth, etc., so that was all rather surreal. Anyway, I set up all of my research pages around the room and settled in for the Teichmann vs. Putintseva match, and the picture kept cutting in and out before we went live, but I assumed it would be fine as soon as it was time to start commentating. I assumed wrong: when I was supposed to begin talking, the picture was such that I'd get one second of video and then 20 seconds of blankness, and then the same again, and again. I called out to the support team, and texted the WhatsApp feed that we set up to connect commentators to researchers to production team to let them know there was trouble, and then I started introducing the match, hoping that my words matched the pictures as much as possible. In doing so, I mentioned that I was commentating remotely - which got me a rap on the knuckles in the WhatsApp feed from my main production contact, who didn't fully realize what was going on because she chided me both for not starting to commentate when the players walked out onto the court (I honestly couldn't tell when that was!) and to not break the illusion that I'm not there in Lexington myself (which seemed necessary to clarify why I wasn't able to see anything, although in retrospect maybe I should just waited to speak until I could see anything in the first place).

It quickly became clear both that the picture wasn't going to improve on its own and that the team in Leeds wasn't going to be able to fix it quickly. So I had to shift all of my carefully laid out materials - laptop, phone, research sheets, etc. - to another room...which was locked at first, leaving me to wait in the hallway while they found a key! And then, to make a long story slightly shorter, the same problems were persisting in that room, so I had to go to a *third* commentary room where everything was working. It was 2-1 in the first set by the time I was able to start commentating on it, and I'd definitely dropped a couple of F-bombs under my breath. It probably took me another game or two to find my rhythm, but after that I felt under control; thankfully, Teichmann won a relatively fast upset 6-2 6-2, so it wasn't too long before I moved onto the main event.

And man, Williams vs. Williams was amazing. It started slow, but both players got better the longer it went on, and I think it really was one of the best matches between the sisters I've seen. And I thought I had a great match (although one particular poster in the live commentary thread at www.tennisforum.com seemed to think otherwise) - used loads of stats, including several given to me in real time by one of the WTA researchers I'd spoken to in Florida a month or so ago, and got the rhythm and flow of the match down pretty well, and commented repeatedly about how surreal the setting for what might be the last Venus-Serena match on tour was. Here are the highlights...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWmEolgYNp0

...and here's a full-match video with my commentary which some Czech YouTuber livestreamed, in case you want to go back and catch part or all of the match yourself:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXCuA_VfMXA11

Still waiting for tomorrow's OOP to come out so I can start my prep work.
 
I stayed up until well after midnight, waiting for today's OOP to come out, hoping to get a sense of how much work I'd need to do this morning, but it never did. I expected to have quite a bit to do today - probably researching Jennifer Brady v Marie Bouzkova and Ons Jabeur v Coco Gauff from scratch. But instead, the winners of yesterday's matches go off early today, and the winners from the day before go later...which means I have Serena again. It's Jill Teichmann v CiCi Bellis first up, and then Serena v Shelby Rogers. Perfect.
 

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Just listened to that Serena-Venus video all the way through (only got 2 sets in yesterday, watched the third over lunch today).

Because it doesn't carry you saying your own name, it took me a little bit to decide it was actually you and not just the match you did (but another commentator). But once I heard an American voice saying "that's out, surely!" on a line call, I was like, oh, ok, doubt removed.
 
Just listened to that Serena-Venus video all the way through (only got 2 sets in yesterday, watched the third over lunch today).

Because it doesn't carry you saying your own name, it took me a little bit to decide it was actually you and not just the match you did (but another commentator). But once I heard an American voice saying "that's out, surely!" on a line call, I was like, oh, ok, doubt removed.
Yeah, that was definitely me. :)

I'm waiting for play to resume after a lengthy rain break in Lexington - Jill Teichmann won the first match over CiCi Bellis, and Serena will be on court shortly. Because of the rain, the third match (Brady vs. Bouzkova) has been moved to Court 2, and our other commentator has to cover that, which means I'm now going to have to call Coco Gauff vs. Ons Jabeur as well, if the weather lets us get that far. Which is great - because Coco - but which sucks, because a) I've done no prep for the match apart from about 30 minutes just now, and b) I'm not going to be out of here until after midnight now, and I have a 9:39 tee time back in Scotland tomorrow morning. Tennis, eh?
 
I made it back home to Scotland by 1:30 a.m. - only because the Brady v Bouzkova match on Court 2 was so lopsided that our other commentator had plenty of time to switch back to Center Court to call the Gauff v Jabeur match after all. So I was done after Serena was done...as she is in fact done for the week, having somehow thrown away a first-set lead to a competent-looking but entirely ordinary Shelby Rogers. Not my best commentary day, really - I was tired after poor night's sleep in my hotel (and a poor night's sleep the night before that as well), and the words weren't coming out right, and I never felt in rhythm. A few good moments, but I felt they were few and far between...and to be honest, I was rattled somewhat by the few critical comments I'd read on tennisforum.com and on YouTube. I've basically never received any critical comments on my commentary before; as befits a Harvard undergrad, I'm really a delicate little flower when it comes to having my credentials impugned. So part of me wanted to talk less and smile more (TM Hamilton) during today's matches, but part of me didn't really know how to do that, and it all felt like a jumbled mess.

@InstaFace, having heard all of my Serena-Venus commentary, what did you think of my performance? And please, don't pull any punches - that was me pretty much at my tennis best, but tennis is the one sport about which I'm the least secure that my tennis best is actually good enough.
 

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I thought it flowed pretty well. Had the right density of comments. You really climaxed at the end of the third set, maybe beyond typical commentators, but it'd be a harsh critic to go after you for that on a Serena-Venus matchup. I liked that you called 'em like you saw 'em on the line calls, but your producer might not. Probably referred to their ages a little too much. The first point reaction - "two hours of that, please!" - was a little schmaltzy to me but again, somewhat appropriate. You explained what went on with the water break after set 2 pretty well, and gave us the stuff we couldn't see for ourselves (center staff gathering to give a little applause, where the sun was in the sky for ball tosses, etc). I do generally like your voice, so that helps a lot. Didn't seem to miss anything important. I found the low-angle camera to be far more distracting than anything relating to your commentary because it made reading the play on the far court almost impossible.

Don't sweat what TennisForum says, it's a catty little club where perpetual teenagers snipe at each other to feel like the cool kids. That a number of them also really know tennis can make it worth reading, but not worth taking personally.
 
I thought it flowed pretty well. Had the right density of comments. You really climaxed at the end of the third set, maybe beyond typical commentators, but it'd be a harsh critic to go after you for that on a Serena-Venus matchup. I liked that you called 'em like you saw 'em on the line calls, but your producer might not. Probably referred to their ages a little too much. The first point reaction - "two hours of that, please!" - was a little schmaltzy to me but again, somewhat appropriate. You explained what went on with the water break after set 2 pretty well, and gave us the stuff we couldn't see for ourselves (center staff gathering to give a little applause, where the sun was in the sky for ball tosses, etc). I do generally like your voice, so that helps a lot. Didn't seem to miss anything important. I found the low-angle camera to be far more distracting than anything relating to your commentary because it made reading the play on the far court almost impossible.

Don't sweat what TennisForum says, it's a catty little club where perpetual teenagers snipe at each other to feel like the cool kids. That a number of them also really know tennis can make it worth reading, but not worth taking personally.
Thanks - this is all very helpful. I'm not worried about individual posters on a random message board (that isn't SoSH), btw, but my real point is that precisely because I get next to no feedback at all on my commentary - positive or negative - it's easy to go looking for any sort of response to what I'm doing. And I am generally insecure about my tennis work, not just because I don't have as much natural feel for it as I have for other sports, but also because tennis is actually the sport where I can see the clearest path for career advancement right now, and I really don't know how much potential I have in the sport.

Looks like I missed an amazing Coco Comeback last night, btw. Oh well.
 
FWIW, I'm back in commentary action tomorrow - two days of work on the WTA event in Istanbul, which according to my research is the first women's tournament to be held directly opposite a Grand Slam since 1982. So I guess I'm part of a bit of history? I've got a very tough 24 hours or so ahead of me, given that I'm calling three matches in a row tomorrow starting at 11 a.m. UK time; the order of play probably won't go live until around 4 p.m. today, so I'll have the rest of the day to research my six players and then will have to wake up around 5:30 tomorrow morning to ensure I get to Leeds on time. (And Leeds is now an official UK "area of concern" thanks to some recent COVID outbreaks there, which also fills me with great joy.) This is definitely a tournament to get through, rather than one which excites me; I'll certainly still do my best in preparing for it, and there are potentially some decent matches out there - e.g., one of the 2nd round matches already confirmed will feature Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Eugenie Bouchard - but you really have to be a tennis diehard to watch a tournament like this. And as such, my research probably needs to be even better than normal to be appreciated. Sigh.

Meanwhile, the Champions Hockey League - normally my most lucrative job every year - has been pushed back again and now won't start until mid-November. If it even goes ahead at all, which I'm still dubious about, I'll now probably be missing out on two days of work relative to what I'd expected to have this year, and a total of 10 days of work relative to what I'd have in a normal season. It is what it is; I've been keeping very busy lately with the tennis video game I've been working on, and I'm happy to get any commentary work at all at the moment, but I can't imagine things will begin to properly return to normal until 2021, at least.
 
Some highlights from my last two days on WTA commentary duty in Leeds:
  • On Wednesday night, I was doing my prep work and printing stuff out until about 12:30 a.m., and after eventually getting to sleep I woke up after only an hour...and couldn't get back to sleep. (Watching the 2nd OT of the Celtics-Raptors game definitely didn't help in this regard.) So yesterday I got one hour of sleep, drove for three hours down to Leeds, called three tennis matches, checked into my hotel and the prepped for two more matches today. And after getting to sleep about 11:30 p.m., after one hour of sleep the freaking FIRE ALARM in my hotel went off, and it was freaking LOUD. I've never been so disoriented in my life: if it had been a real fire, I'm sure I would have been burned to a crisp, because I honestly couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. (I think at first I thought it was a really loud phone ringing in my room.) By the time I put some extra clothes and my shoes on, found my room key, studied the back of my door to figure out what my escape route was, actually got into the corridor and then started freaking out about masks and COVID in a situation like this, other people had returned to my floor from outside and I could go back to bed. But my heart was pounding for a long time after that, so yet again I didn't get as much sleep as I'd have wanted to.
  • The amount of work I did relative to the other commentator (Oscar Chamberlain) on world feed duty the past two days was ridiculous. The scores of my five matches were 75 64, 67 76 62, 62 60 (thank goodness!), 36 64 75, and 46 63 64. The scores of Oscar's four matches were 32 (ret.), 61 64, 62 63 and 63 61. We got paid exactly the same fees for this work - and would have done if the scores and assignments were reversed. It's fine - I'm not bothered at all - but it's not exactly fair.
  • There has been a consistent 20-to-30-mph wind blowing across Center Court in Istanbul all week, and the recently laid clay court they were playing on was offering up all sorts of crazy bounces and needed repairs on two occasions just in the matches I was calling. So very weird match conditions to commentate on, especially as I wasn't there in person to really describe how the wind was affecting the ball.
  • Turkey is a Muslim country, and from the external camera shots were were getting in the feed, there is obviously a mosque quite near to the courts being played on. I still wasn't prepared to discover that the first match on court each day coincided with the early afternoon "Salat al-zuhr" call to prayer, nor that the later afternoon "Salat al-'asr" would pop up unexpectedly during my second match on court each day. What a strange background noise for tennis, particularly with no fans in the arena...and it was quite difficult for me to talk about what clearly seemed like a potential distraction for the players without sounding disrespectful to the Islamic faith. But Google was eventually my friend. (In other potentially-Brennaman-esque commentary news, I was about to reference a "chink in the armor" of one of the players and caught myself just in time to say "crack in the armor" - there was no Asian player on court at the time, but I've heard that story before and wanted no part of it for myself.)
  • Eugenie Bouchard is back! I mentioned this in the tennis thread in the General Sports forum, but she played some quite wonderful tennis in her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday - not least after blowing three match points in the second set and double-faulting at 5-6 in the second-set tiebreaker. I thought she would go in the tank after that, but instead she stepped up a gear and throttled Kuznetsova 6-2 in the third. Then today I had her match against Danka Kovinic, the best tennis player Montenegro has ever produced, and despite looking supremely sluggish at the start of the match and needing a medical timeout for an issue with her right shoulder, she battled through to defeat another Top 100 player and get into her first semifinal in quite some time. Big news for DAZN Canada, certainly, so my bosses will be happy with her revival.
  • My final match today, between Polona Hercog (#49 in the world, from Slovenia) and Paula Badosa (#94 in the world, from Spain) was truly bonkers. The first set began with a break of serve and then stayed on serve to completion. The second set began with two breaks of serve and was decided by a third break of serve in the sixth game. The third set began with *nine* breaks of serve; after the eighth, I emailed my friends at WTA stats HQ to ask when a match last involved a set with 12 breaks of serve and then a tiebreak, but Badosa ended that argument by holding serve at 5-4 to win the set and the match. The match ended in bizarre fashion, though, when Hercog faked to touch rackets at the net with Badosa and then swerved away her and the umpire, quickly packed her bags and then took a snapshot on her phone of a ball mark in a corner of the court that she'd thought was in but the umpire had reviewed and called out in the previous game, all while Badosa audibly complained to the umpire that Hercog's behavior was "bullshit" and that she was acting like a 10-year-old girl. One of my jobs as a WTA world feed commentator is to call the final point of the match and summarize things in such a way that the highlights package can be ended cleanly; I have no idea how a clean edit could have been fashioned out of that ending!
View: https://media.giphy.com/media/H3Y0iFDOfqckS1HL4u/giphy.gif
 

Pablo's TB Lover

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Sep 10, 2017
1,981
I think I could hear you pulling on your collar at the end...

34164

Good on that brief "sorry for the language" statement, sometimes an announcer can pull a Jedi mind trick when talking over it and pretend no one heard it, but that was pretty plain to hear lol.
 
Good on that brief "sorry for the language" statement, sometimes an announcer can pull a Jedi mind trick when talking over it and pretend no one heard it, but that was pretty plain to hear lol.
If there's one area I probably have more experience than most American commentators, it's dealing with bad language in a telecast - the miked up European hockey players and coaches on our CHL coverage are incredibly sweary, to the point that I probably have to apologize at some point in at least half of the games I call. (I actually missed Badosa's F-bomb yesterday; I just heard "bullshit" and apologized for that, but thankfully the one apology covered them both.)
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
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SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,012
Pittsburgh, PA
Yeah that was a pro-level maintenance of composure there. Good stuff.

And to think you could've gone on a sanctimonious rant about sportsmanship, and been completely justified! You're never gonna make it to ESPN if you don't take opportunities handed to you on a silver platter like that :)