Diary of a commentator

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MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,012
Pittsburgh, PA
Oh I generally agree, but if we can't rag on Joe Buck on this site, especially in trying to puff you up and tell you you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people like you as much as Joe Buck, where can we?
 
Yesterday, the 2020-21 Champions Hockey League was cancelled because of the pandemic. Which suu-uucks: that's my biggest earner of the year, gone in an instant. I'd already done a lot of work with the new production team in Milan as well - choosing which games in the first round to commentate on, testing their new commentating-from-home solution that I was going to be using, and so on - which I'm not going to get paid for. I *might* be able to claw back some of the missing income with some extra FIBA basketball work or maybe the odd KHL game, but above and beyond that, the CHL is sort of my baby at this point: I've been involved with it from the beginning, and it's how I got back into professional sports broadcasting in the first place. This is the first autumn since 2013 I won't be commentating on it.

Apart from that, after many weeks of work I finally finished voicing over the initial set of c. 16,000 recordings on the "Tennis Elbow 4" videogame that I had scripted. My contract with the game designer specified that I was responsible for 6,000 unique commentary lines, so I've shot through that and expect to probably need to do some more, depending upon how well everything sounds in our initial testing period. (Actually, I've probably recorded more than half of the 16,000 scripts at least twice - the first batch of recordings, I realized in retrospect, wasn't up to my own standards and/or wasn't going to fit alongside other lines I'd recorded better.) Certainly a very interesting project, albeit one on which I'm probably earning close to minimum wage given how much time I've spent relative to how much I expect to be paid.
 
FWIW, I'm back in basketball commentary action this Friday: I'm going down to Leeds to call the AfroBasket qualifier between Mozambique and Kenya (!), followed shortly thereafter by the EuroBasket qualifier between Lithuania and Denmark. I was actually originally offered two EuroBasket games - Greece vs. Latvia and Belgium vs. Czech Republic - but for some reason they were switched on Friday, after I'd already started researching the Greek squad. Annoying, but no big deal...anyway, finding stats and information on the African players isn't straightforward at all, although I have the advantage there that the two teams are playing other games on Wednesday and Thursday in their group against Senegal and Angola (all games being played in Kigali, Rwanda), so I can at least record those stats and talk to those games specifically. It's actually surprisingly difficult to even find roster information about each team; Google "Denmark EuroBasket roster", and you won't find much! Anyway, it should be a fairly straightforward day trip, with the games taking place at nice times of day for me to get there and back without missing any sleep, so that's nice.

I've also finally managed to corner one of DAZN's producers about the KHL, and there could be some movement there - possibly not until nearer the playoffs next spring, but we'll see.
 
All sorts of crazy going on in Leeds ahead of my two basketball commentaries later today. My two games start at 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. (GMT), respectively; in the absence of TV timeouts and the like, normally an African game like the first one I'm calling will end within 90 to 100 minutes of real time, so that should be a very comfortable gap between games for me. But yesterday, being the dutiful boy I am, I emailed one of my production contacts just to ask what would happen if my first game went to four OTs or something and I wound up missing the start of the next game. About half an hour later, I was contacted and asked if I would switch my second game from Lithuania vs. Denmark - which I'd done literally days of preparation for - to Angola vs. Senegal, the game taking place in the Kigali Arena after my Kenya vs. Mozambique game. I not unreasonably suggested that I'd have been happy enough doing the games that way if I'd been assigned them in the first place - which surely would make more sense than having me and another commentator split the games taking place in Kigali and Vilnius between us - but that it might just kill me to have to start from scratch in researching Angola-Senegal. Thankfully, they agreed not to change things up, but I'm not going to ask any hypothetical questions like that again!

Then today, I arrived in Leeds just over two hours before my first tip-off...and discovered that if I'd arrived any sooner, I probably would have been dragooned into calling part of a third game! One of the commentators working from home on the basketball this week had a power outage, and his first game today had to be rerouted to Leeds, so Chris - another one of Agent Tim's clients, and the guy who was going to take Lithuania vs. Denmark from me if I hadn't protested - wound up getting the job, literally only a few minutes after arriving in the office. I guess picking up an extra paycheck for today would have been nice, but that's not the sort of stress I particularly want in my life right now.

Anyway, I realized last night that it's actually been two-and-a-half months since my last commentary gig, and that after today I'll have had only five days of commentary work since February. COVID sucks for a lot of reasons, but this is certainly one of them!
 

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MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,012
Pittsburgh, PA
Glad to hear you're getting work, man. If there's sports being played, there's opportunities out there for you.

What's up with the KHL thing, though? I thought that was your main gig, and I know they're playing.
 
I'll talk about the KHL more later...but suffice it to say that Kenya vs. Mozambique was supposed to start five minutes ago, but there's a problem with one of the baskets that is still being repaired (despite there having been two other games already played this morning in the same arena). If this screws me over vis-a-vis the Lithuania-Denmark game...
 
Well, everything just about worked out in the end. Kenya vs. Mozambique started 25 minutes late, eating up nearly all of my cushion between games, and my producer was WhatsApping me during the game saying that he was worried, that they'd make a decision an hour before Lithuania-Denmark was supposed to start (and then never let me know anything of the sort). Meanwhile, Kenya-Mozambique was a one-point game with two-and-a-half minutes left in the 3rd quarter, and OT - or any kind of stop/start finish to the 4th quarter - could have screwed me. But the Kenyan underdogs went on a crazy 32-10 run to put the game away; they had been outscored 34-2 in the fourth quarter by Senegal on Wednesday, but they came on strong here and won 79-62. A fun game, and I was left with 10 minutes between the end of that broadcast and the start of my European game.

That didn't leave me time enough to have dinner, but I was able to get to the bathroom and have a banana and a bit of stale naan bread before game number two. I didn't have particularly high hopes for it; the game was in Vilnius, not in front of fans but with a very NBA Playoff Bubble-esque video screen behind and between the two benches, and Lithuania is #8 in in the FIBA World Rankings, while Denmark is #59 and was missing three of its best players. I saw on one of my gambling-sponsored scores website right before I went on the air that you could get 15:1 odds on Denmark to win, and a Lithuanian win wasn't even on the board...which means this may well have been the biggest upset I've ever called, because Denmark rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to somehow win 80-76. The game was tied going into the final minute; Denmark's Gabriel Lundberg hit a leaner with 18.9 seconds to go to give Denmark the lead; Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis missed a three to take the lead; Adama Darboe got the rebound and hit to clutch free throws to clinch the game; and the Danish players (and their Israeli coach) went ballistic at the final whistle. I'm *so* glad I got to call that - that's the kind of game that make me really, really love my job.
 
What's up with the KHL thing, though? I thought that was your main gig, and I know they're playing.
To answer this question: my main gig was the Champions Hockey League, and that isn't happening. I did that one season of KHL commentary, but I think DAZN has been using the generic English-language world feed KHL commentary emanating from Russia since then, on the basis that a) it's cheaper to just use that commentary rather than having to pay someone like me, and b) I think they've increasingly come to regard commentary as a commodity more than a skill, something that doesn't really add any value above and beyond the fact that it exists. That's certainly what I'm sensing regarding their FIBA basketball work: anyone with a functional ear and any basketball knowledge can tell that I'm a better commentator than most if not all of the regulars they trot out, but those regulars presumably have the advantage (in their eyes) of being basketball-focused and always available. I completely disagree with this position, of course, but what can you do? (DAZN may view someone like me as an asset when the KHL playoffs roll around, so I'm still hopeful I'll get some work on that front at some point - and it's not like beggars can be choosers - but it is what it is.)
 
Now I know why I got a garbled text from my friend in Odense yesterday
Not sure if serious...but I have exchanged emails with the head of communications at the Danish Basketball Federation today, and he told me, "It was surely the biggest win in the history of our basketball program. We only have 15,000 active participants, from age 3 to 99, men and women, so getting this win was huge." I had contacted him and one of the assistant coaches on Thursday night because I had absolutely no idea what jersey numbers their players would be wearing (having only just found which players were in their final squad of 13 after Google Translating a couple of pages on the federation's website), and it's a good thing I did. Funnily enough, the Lithuanian squad had been reported in the press, so I'd thought I knew which players would be involved and what numbers they'd wear, but it turns out that three players not originally in the squad had been called up, and one of the players in the squad had switched his number around. So out of the four teams I called yesterday, amazingly enough it was only the Lithuanians that threw me off! (Luckily I'd researched 11 extra players in the Lithuanian squad just in case, and the three new additions to the squad were all amongst those 11.)

By the way, I just got asked if I could drive down to Leeds again tomorrow to call another EuroBasket game - Italy vs. North Macedonia - that has been postponed by a day, I think for COVID-related reasons, and which the originally assigned commentator now can't do. (I said no.)
 

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MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,012
Pittsburgh, PA
Yeah Lithuania cares about basketball like the Dominican Republic cares about baseball. They are ALL INTO IT, their wiki page is a novel, they've medaled in 3 Olympics and their NBA alums are like national heroes. Beating their team would be a satisfying check on the focus and organizational status of the USA team, they're nearly a peer. For Denmark to do it, that really is a signature win of the entire country's program top to bottom.

Also, "North Macedonia"? This balkanization is entirely out of hand. I wonder what would happen to Spain's team if you took Catalonia and the Basque region out of the picture.

On the other hand, having 4 regional-USA "national teams" to root for would make for a fun exercise.
 
Also, "North Macedonia"? This balkanization is entirely out of hand. I wonder what would happen to Spain's team if you took Catalonia and the Basque region out of the picture.
FWIW, "North Macedonia" is apparently the new name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (aka "FYROM"), or just "Macedonia" if you want to offend the Greeks who think that Macedonia is really a part of their country (which I think is why the name keeps changing). So not a super-new country as such.
 
Belatedly, here's a link to the full Denmark-Lithuania game with my commentary:

View: https://youtu.be/FfX73bwbHRc

Meanwhile, I just finished my latest project today: a demo reel featuring my own commentary on the 2018 Rose Bowl (and college football playoff semifinal) between Georgia and Oklahoma. I had found a full recording of the original ESPN game broadcast on YouTube, and I’d also found a recording of ESPN’s separate SkyCam broadcast that had no commentary feed and instead only ambient crowd noise – the latter made this whole project possible, as I then I spent about a week editing the two together (and adding incidental music of my own along with the ESPN college football theme where required) so that I would have a clean feed to commentate over while still keeping Maria Taylor's and Tom Rinaldi's sideline comments in the broadcast for me to introduce. I also made production notes for each segment between commercials so I knew what ad reads I needed to make and how each segment would start and end. Additionally, the UGA Rose Bowl Media Guide from 2018 is still available online to download, as are the 2017 and 2018 Oklahoma team media guides, so I had plenty of information with which to prepare my commentary notes on each player and each team. And then I went through the historical stats feed and (in an Excel file) produced a running play-by-play total of the stats for all of the key QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs in the game, so that after any play I’d know how many passing/rushing/receiving yards everyone had to that point. I was finally read to actually do the commentary today, and I managed to breeze through all of that relatively quickly; after a bit of post-production, I exported the file and got it posted on Vimeo:

View: https://vimeo.com/503189577

Definitely a labor of love, but I do have a few contacts with whom I might be able to share this in the hopes of getting some real college football work, which after all was the whole point of the exercise. We'll see!
 
And just to stay on top of one or two other things:
  • I have a commentary flypack arriving at my home tomorrow. Having passed a few quality control checks (i.e., my internet upload speed is *just* fast enough to meet DAZN's relative new and more stringent technical requirements), I've been signed up to do a day - or to be more precise, an all-nighter - of commentary on one of the WTA 500 events in Melbourne at the start of February, so I'm going to need to make sure I'm aware of all of the quarantine-related nightmares being suffered by some but not all of the players already in town ahead of the Australian Open. I may also be using the flypack to call some international FIBA basketball games in mid-February, particularly if I'm not allowed to go to Leeds by that point to call games in person.
  • I'm still hoping to call at least a few KHL playoff games before the end of the season, but the next update on that score from Agent Tim isn't likely to come for a few weeks.
  • Also, the other week I actually applied for a radio commentary job with the Utica Comets in the AHL. I didn't get an interview for the now-filled position, very possibly because the AHL season is set to start in February and they need someone on the ground faster than someone in the UK can get there, and in fairness I'm not 100% I would want to be relocating to upstate New York right now in the middle of a pandemic, or that I'm willing to settle for a minor league hockey role at this stage of my career and indeed life. But it was a good exercise for me, if for no other reason than it got me to prepare an up-to-date commentary CV and cover letter, and to think again about how I can best market myself for potential roles in the US. And it was very interesting to see the detailed job specs of a role like this one, in which commentary is a relatively small part next to the PR and media/community relations aspects (and the role also involved booking all of the team's travel arrangements, for example).
 
FYI, my Melbourne commentary assignment has changed and been expanded somewhat. I'm now calling two matches starting at 11:30 p.m. my time (6:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday night/Sunday morning, two more matches starting at 3:30 a.m. my time on Sunday night/Monday morning, and then one more match starting at 11:30 p.m. my time on Monday night/Tuesday morning.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ihs-vT9T3Q
 
So, if anyone is up for some prime time tennis this evening featuring yours truly, I've had a pretty decent draw. There are 31 WTA singles matches taking place in Melbourne Park tonight (tomorrow Australian time); only six of those matches feature seeded players, and despite having been exiled to duty on Court 8, I've got two of them - and both of them feature Americans. Both of my matches tonight are in the Yarra Valley Classic, rather than the parallel Gippsland Trophy event taking place: first up at 6:30 p.m. ET is 13th-seeded Danielle Collins, quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last year, against the Belgian Ysaline Bonaventure; then I've got the 12th-seeded Fiona Ferro, winner at Palermo last year, against Shelby Rogers, quarterfinalist at the US Open. Rogers defeated Serena Williams at Lexington last year in a match I also called, so it's nice to have most of my research done on her already; I'll be rooting inwardly for a quick Collins win and then a fun match between the evenly-matched Ferro and Rogers, but you shouldn't hear that bias in my commentary!
 
Not that I think any other SoSHers are that interested in first-round women's tennis in Australia right now, but still, a brief report from last night: despite an unnerving start to the broadcast in which my feed didn't switch to my court until the players were already in the middle of their chat with the umpire for the coin toss (I'm supposed to start commentating when the players walk out on the court), my first match was straightforward, with Collins winning 6-3 6-3 in about an hour-and-a-quarter. Perfect. The second match was just weird: Rogers won 18 of the first 19 points to take a 4-0 0-30 lead, then Ferro won 7 points in a row to sniff a route back into the set before Collins recovered from 0-40 down and went on to close out the set 6-2. Then Ferro found some form even as Rogers woke up, and with Ferro holding a break point to go up 5-1 in the set I called it "a virtual set point, because surely there's no way back from Rogers here if she falls a second break behind". Well, Ferro won the game...but not the set, because Rogers won the last six games to win the match 6-2 7-5. At 2:45 a.m., I was sitting there watching Rogers rally and wondering if I wanted Ferro to win the set quickly to move us as rapidly on to the final set as possible, or if I thought Rogers actually had a chance to close it out in two. The fact that she did meant I wasn't all that late to bed after all, relatively speaking. We had some issues with the stats feed from Melbourne, but generally speaking it was a pretty smooth night - particularly relative to some other courts where other commentators on the joint WhatsApp feed we share with the production team (which is kinda nice to build a sense of cameraderie between all of us) were complaining of sync issues between sound and pictures, and in one case of the feed suddenly switching to a different court!

Of course, my first match tonight is likely to start later than my second match last night finished. I'm on Court 8 again, this time calling 10th seed Qiang Wang against the Italian Jasmine Paolini (who I called in Istanbul in September, so that's my research shortcut for today) and then the 8th seed Karolina Muchova against Catherine McNally, the American who got in as an alternate after Nao Hibino pulled out and then proceeded to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo in her R1 match. Again, not a bad draw; it's kinda nice that the tournament organizers are putting every Australian wild card in the draw on the show courts and leaving the more interesting contests for people like me!
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Not that I think any other SoSHers are that interested in first-round women's tennis in Australia right now.
Have to admit I didn't watch but my brother in law is a huge tennis fan. I told him you were calling them last night and he was like I've heard that voice before!
 
My latest night shift began significantly earlier than I was expecting it to, as both of the first two matches on my Court 8 finished in 6-1 6-3 scorelines. So instead of starting around 3:30 as tentatively scheduled, it wasn't yet 2:30 - it almost felt too soon! I was well prepared, of course, but I didn't really feel like I was in top form for that first match between Wang Qiang and Jasmine Paolini. Wang was in pretty good form and Paolini was getting down on herself, and with Wang leading 6-3 5-2 about 80 minutes into the match she had a match point on Paolini's serve that she didn't take, and then serving at 5-3 she had another match point. But Paolini saved that one as well, broke back, and won the final five games of the set to force a decider. I'm glad I'd reserved *some* of my material for a potential final set, but it was somewhat painful to realize as Paolini eased ahead and completed the 3-6 7-5 -64 upset that I could have been done an hour earlier. Luckily, Karolina Muchova put in a much more consistent performance in my second match - as did I in my commentary - and crushed Caty McNally 6-1 6-1 in just over an hour. So I was done around 6:30, which was certainly earlier than I'd expected.

As I was lying in bed, tossing and turning and trying to get to sleep, I checked my phone and discovered that tonight's order of play had already been published...and the match on Court 6 I was supposed to be commentating on didn't exist. Or rather, it was now a doubles match instead of a singles match, and we don't commentate on WTA doubles matches. So I pored over the OOP and our commentary schedule to see if it had been moved, and I realized there was now an extra match on the second show court (the 1573 Arena) - Johanna Konta vs. Bernarda Pera - in the same time slot as my match on Court 6 was supposed to be. So I decided to send an email or two and lobby to get assigned that match, thinking I might even earn some extra money relative to what I'd expected on the basis that it might be classified as "World Feed" instead of an "Additional Court" match. (I get paid more for World Feed matches than for Additional Court matches, even though I do the same job and the same amount of work for each.) But when I woke up - after only about four hours' sleep - I learned that instead a) the match was still classified as "Additional", and b) a commentator who lives in Leeds that hadn't been scheduled to work tonight was given the job instead of me. It's not that big a deal, and I really don't mind having the night off, but I'm certainly peeved to have been passed over like this...and particularly for this commentator in question, who confessed to me when we did our first tennis commentary testing together - we started our WTA work at the same time - that he didn't really know much about tennis, and in that practice session we worked together he certainly sounded like that was the case! I've used the opportunity to email my producer and ask if there's anything I can and should be doing differently or if it's just a technical thing - which I'm pretty sure it isn't - so hopefully I'll get a constructive response in that regard.
 
Turns out it was only a technical issue that kept me from calling the Konta-Pera match last night - they needed to have someone onsite in Leeds. (Something to do with not being able to switch a world feed court from a home setup back to Leeds in the same night.) So not a big deal...and I didn't miss much, with Konta rolling to a 6-3 6-2 win.

I've got a pretty nice lineup tonight if I can stay awake for it - I had another poor night's sleep last night, so this is going to be a real endurance test. And also a pair of tongue-twisting Russian names to call: first up is Ekaterina Alexandrova against the reigning French Open champion, Iga Swiatek (or "Shvi-ON-tek", phonetically); then comes Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against Garbine Muguruza in a rematch of last year's Australian Open quarterfinal. Pretty decent fare for Court #13, I'd say!

Meanwhile, I've been given a crazy set of international FIBA qualifiers to call between 19-22 February: Palestine vs. Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka vs. Jordan, Canada vs. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic vs. Cuba, Colombia vs. Venezuela, Chile vs. Argentina, Estonia vs. North Macedonia, and Panama vs. Uruguay. That's eight games in four days, all from home; I couldn't have told you that half of those countries had international basketball teams, to be honest, but it's nice to have the work. (And a few teams, like Argentina, should be at least semi-decent.)
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Turns out it was only a technical issue that kept me from calling the Konta-Pera match last night - they needed to have someone onsite in Leeds. (Something to do with not being able to switch a world feed court from a home setup back to Leeds in the same night.) So not a big deal...and I didn't miss much, with Konta rolling to a 6-3 6-2 win.

I've got a pretty nice lineup tonight if I can stay awake for it - I had another poor night's sleep last night, so this is going to be a real endurance test. And also a pair of tongue-twisting Russian names to call: first up is Ekaterina Alexandrova against the reigning French Open champion, Iga Swiatek (or "Shvi-ON-tek", phonetically); then comes Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against Garbine Muguruza in a rematch of last year's Australian Open quarterfinal. Pretty decent fare for Court #13, I'd say!

Meanwhile, I've been given a crazy set of international FIBA qualifiers to call between 19-22 February: Palestine vs. Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka vs. Jordan, Canada vs. Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic vs. Cuba, Colombia vs. Venezuela, Chile vs. Argentina, Estonia vs. North Macedonia, and Panama vs. Uruguay. That's eight games in four days, all from home; I couldn't have told you that half of those countries had international basketball teams, to be honest, but it's nice to have the work. (And a few teams, like Argentina, should be at least semi-decent.)
Oh man best of luck, on a good nights sleep I'd bungle Swiatek. Congrats on the FIBA quals too!
 
I've finished my last two night-shift matches...and I kinda wish I was still going? I must be delirious. I thought I was going to be up for another hour at the very least after the Vondrousova-Zvonereva match before mine started 7-6 6-7 and eventually finished in just under three hours. But Swiatek disappointed somewhat and was clinically dispatched by Alexandrova 6-4 6-2. And Muguruza's annhiliation of Pavlyuchenkova (whose name I finally figured out how to pronounce - it's delightful to say once you know how) made the Alexandrova win look like a five-hour marathon: she took 57 minutes to win 6-1 6-2 in a match which wasn't really as close that score makes it look.

This was probably my first shift of tennis commentary in which I felt like I had material I wanted to get through but didn't. I had actually commentated on three of my four players tonight in the last 12 months, so in theory I had less prep work to do, but instead I decided to throw myself into everything that much more - I watched extended highlights (c. 12 minutes) of Muguruza's QF win over Pavlyuchenkova in last year's Australian Open, I watched part of a lengthy interview in Polish (with English subtitles) with Swiatek on Polish television, I combed match reports and comments on TennisForum.com to help inform my scouting reports, and I had several interesting discussion topics to hand which I never got around to because I ran out of time and the matches were so short. I also prepared a third set of prep sheets: in the past, for each player I've printed out a spreadsheet with all of each players' matches from the last two seasons, and a separate sheet with facts and figures and other potential discussion topics. Today, though, I also created a one-page summary of most important points for both players in each match, and before the start of each match I highlighted which facts I wanted to cover during the pre-match warmups so I had a clearer plan of action (instead of just wandering semi-aimlessly across my sheets, hoping to strike gold as I wandered). That worked like a charm, actually, and helped ensure I didn't blow through too many facts at the start of the broadcast and leave nothing left in the tank. Also, despite my tiredness I weirdly felt more in control of what I was saying than I have been in previous tennis commentary shifts. I've often felt that it's actually much easier to call feature matches involving top players on show courts than it is the sorts of matches I tend to get assigned, mainly because a) the WTA stats people cater to those matches and do a lot of research for you that you can just borrow, b) the stats feed you get is usually so much better (e.g., tracking winners and unforced errors), and most importantly, c) you usually get to work with a color commentator, which means you're having a conversation rather than forced into a monologue. But tonight I felt like I had enough material to feel like a proper tennis commentator - not exactly for the first time, but it is a pretty rare feeling in my experience. So that's nice.
 
As documented over in the Olympic forum...

https://sonsofsamhorn.net/index.php?threads/the-japanese-government-has-privately-concluded-that-the-olympics-will-be-cancelled-because-of-the-coronavirus.32526/post-4299375
...I've been given every indication that a) I'll be going to Japan for the Olympics in the summer, and b) the experience is probably going to suck. I'll be happy for the work regardless, but it sounds like I'm going to have to spend all of my time in Japan either in my hotel or in the International Broadcast Center, plowing through hundreds of masks and trying to avoid human contact as much as possible. Actually, it seems as though I will have a co-commentator for quite a few of my baseball and softball games - I'll be calling all of them, and only have a co-commentator for some of them - but curiously, and somewhat worryingly, my partner isn't going to be an ex-player or coach, but rather another commentator just like me. I say worryingly because when I asked whether I'd be the play-by-play man, my boss told me that they'd probably leave it for me and my partner(s) to decide that ourselves. That's probably going to give me nightmares until I get to Tokyo, wondering what the division of labor ought to be and whether my partner(s) have a preference and what that might be. (If the other person wants to do play-by-play as well, I'm thinking I could let him or her do that for the middle innings and keep the start and end for myself as the senior partner who has been hired exclusively for baseball/softball...but we'll see.)

Meanwhile, my basketball assignments begin in less than 48 hours, and whereas at one point I was going to be calling 10 games in four days - with Brazil vs. Paraguay a late addition - now I'm down to only five. Three games were taken away from me as part of a reshuffle among all of the commentators after the Asia Cup games in Qatar were postponed for COVID-related reasons, and in the last two days I've learned that Cuba hasn't been able to travel to Puerto Rico, while for some reason the Brazilian team hasn't been allowed to travel into Colombia. I'd prepared extensively for all 20 teams over a period of about a week-and-a-half, and half of that work won't be worth a penny. The world can't get vaccinated soon enough, for this and many other (more important) reasons!
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Oh man I don't usually go into the Olympic forum, that's amazing that you'll be calling baseball and softball. I wish it was under better conditions but man that's amazing!
 
Oh man I don't usually go into the Olympic forum, that's amazing that you'll be calling baseball and softball. I wish it was under better conditions but man that's amazing!
You know, it's actually quite possible that you'll hear my voice on a lot of the baseball and softball games broadcast in the US, on the basis that it's not likely to be a high-profile sport and I doubt NBC would have its own commentary team(s) covering all of games. I could be wrong about that - especially in the softball (which unlike the baseball will feature the best players in the world), and especially as the Final approaches - but the odds are pretty good.
 

jon abbey

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You know, it's actually quite possible that you'll hear my voice on a lot of the baseball and softball games broadcast in the US, on the basis that it's not likely to be a high-profile sport and I doubt NBC would have its own commentary team(s) covering all of games. I could be wrong about that - especially in the softball (which unlike the baseball will feature the best players in the world), and especially as the Final approaches - but the odds are pretty good.
The time I worked the Olympics for NBC (2008), they had one color person assigned to each sport, the softball person was Michele Smith.
 
I've just finished my first basketball game of the current international window, a surprisingly lopsided 93-56 win for Kazakhstan over Palestine. Kazakhstan started the game with a 9-0 run, and although Palestine responded with a 10-0 of its own and kept the game reasonably close through most of the first half, Kazakhstan eased away in the second half clogging the paint like I've seen few teams manage; after three quarters, Palestine was shooting 4 of 32 inside the three-point line. It's weird...these two teams seem to be evenly matched on paper, and when they played in Kazakhstan last February, the final score was 79-76. But it was utterly unremarkable game.

What actually was kind of remarkable is that for the first time I can remember, I finished a game thinking there's nothing I would do differently next time in terms of how I prepared for the game and how I set everything up. Even at the end of working several days of work in a row, I'm usually finding things I would tweak for next time, but today I somehow seemed to nail everything at the first time of asking - specifically:
  • I established email and then WhatsApp contact with FIBA's accredited journalist on the ground in Bahrain to make sure I had the correct rosters and uniform numbers in place before the game - I touched base yesterday and got the preliminary lineups, then WhatsApped him just before the game to confirm the squads and also the names and nationalities of the referees; I don't think I've ever managed the latter before.
  • I printed each my Excel-based roster prep sheets on two pages and taped them together (equivalent of 11"x17", instead of 8.5"x11") - I'd been worried about how much information I'd squeezed onto each sheet and how small the fonts were when printing everything on a single page, but printing them double-sized really couldn't have worked out better.
  • I also added an extra monitor (one of the small TVs in my house) to my work-from-home setup, linking it with an HDMI cable to my laptop and positioning it on several boxes so that it was directly above the laptop to theright of my big-screen TV. This enabled me to simultaneously view the boxscores for both teams, the running play-by-play for the game and the team stats page in the four quadrants of the two monitors, which made a big difference to how easily I was able to see and process all of this information within my commentary.
Hopefully everything works just as well tomorrow for Canada vs. Virgin Islands - a rematch of their 95-93 game yesterday, in which Anthony Bennett (remember him?) had the game-winning assist on a Canadian basket scored just before the final buzzer.
 
Canada vs. Virgin Islands wound up being much closer this evening. The Canadians led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, but the Islanders rallied to tie the game in the 4th but never took the lead. (They had rallied from 17 down in the 4th against the Dominican Republic the other night but lost in OT as well.) During a timeout with about seven minutes left in the game, I wondered at length why we hadn't seen Johnny Berhanemeskel in the game - he wasn't in the squad for the previous game against USVI, even though he plays for a top-level club in France and has more experience than a lot of his teammates, and he'd been stapled to the bench in this game as well. Funnily enough, about a minute later he checked into the game for the first, played the final 5:53 and scored 9 points, going 3/3 from outside the arc and making the dagger three-pointer in the final minute to clinch a 95-90 Canadian win, qualifying them for the AmeriCup Finals next year and knocking the Islanders out. It was the sort of soliloquy that might make anyone watching the full-game broadcast after the fact feel suspicious that I had seen the game already! (Unfortunately, I think I had been mis-pronouncing his name as "Berhameskel" for a while before I noticed my mistake.)

Speaking of knowing things in advance, the most humorous moment of the broadcast came during that fourth quarter, when I glanced over at the running play-by-play of the game on one of my monitors and saw a three-point basket recorded that I didn't remember commentating on...and then seeing, and having to commentate on, that shot go in a few moments later. I'm very used to the stats feeds on my laptop running a minute or two behind the game action I'm commentating on, but that's the first time the opposite has happened! For most of the game there was the usual slight delay on the stats feed, but clearly there must have been some delay on the game feed I was watching as well.

Tomorrow will be the tough day for me: Colombia vs. Venezuela at 10 p.m. my time, and then Argentina vs. Chile at 1 a.m.
 
Oh, I meant to mention in passing that the USVI was led by Walter Hodge, who was a freshman and sophomore on Florida's back-to-back NCAA title-winning teams in 2006 and 2007. He had 44 points on 14/20 shooting, including 6/11 from deep, and 10/10 free throws. Not a bad game for a 34-year-old, even in a losing effort! (Pretty sure that's by far the best scoring performance in any game I've called yet.)
 
Not too much to say about my two games last night. Venezuela led Colombia by only a point at the half but pulled away thereafter; Colombia finished the game on an 11-0 run to lose by only 13 points, 80-67. And in my late game with the 1 a.m. start, Argentina jumped out to a 28-4 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 99-65 victory. At least neither game was particularly long, I guess.

Today I've had a nice WhatsApp chat with my FIBA journalist contact on the ground, a 24-year-old Colombian from Bogota who flew up to Cali a few days ago. He said he dreams of becoming a commentator himself someday; I sent him a link to my commentary website and told him if he ever has any questions, he should give me a shout. He's gotten me the lineups for Panama vs. Uruguay, and after reading it I've had to research four players new to the Panamanian squad in this qualifying cycle, including the 40-year-old Jaime Lloreda - 2nd team All-SEC with LSU back in 2004 (along with David Lee!) - and the 44-year-old Michael Hicks, who played for Texas A&M last century. But I should be good to go now.
 
I ended my basketball work this week with something of a bang, as Panama rallied from 20 points down in the third quarter - and from 14 down at the start of the fourth quarter - to defeat Uruguay 77-71. Didn't see that coming at all, especially with Uruguay slightly favored. I especially didn't see the final play of the game coming: Uruguay hit a pair of free throws with five seconds to go to cut the lead to six, and Panama called a timeout. I assumed at first that this was just to make sure they didn't screw anything up, but then they advanced the ball beyond half court for the inbounds play, and the actually ran a play to try and score a basket. And then I remembered Uruguay had won their previous game in the group by seven points, and Panama was trying to score to give them a bigger win, and thereby gain the tiebreaker advantage in the group (and probably second place behind Brazil). I don't think that mattered at all except for pride - seedings at the AmeriCup Finals next year will be determined by FIBA World Ranking, not by place in the group - but I'm glad I figured out was happening just in time to commentate about it!

Until Panama started to rally, I definitely felt I wasn't at my best today; in my opening line of the broadcast I tried to introduce the stadium's name - the "Coliseo Evangelista Mora" - and the middle word came out something like "Evangelistigata". I had a laugh about it and after the national anthems were played I made a point to give myself a second run at the name, but I still felt sluggish and that the teams were starting to run together. (At one point I said "Arg...Uruguay", nearly calling the team in light blue uniforms Argentina.) Who knows what it all would have felt like after 10 games instead of 5! In my defense, the picture quality was definitely worse today than yesterday, and the numbers on the backs of Uruguay's uniforms barely would have been legible in Ultra HD, let alone the pixellated SD views I was getting. But it is what it is.

Anyway, that's me probably done commentating until the 8th and 9th of March, when from home I'll be calling a combined total of six more WTA tennis matches in Guadalajara.
 
I’ve really enjoyed these write-ups of the international basketball games you’ve presented. Your passion for your work is fantastic.
Thanks very much. One of the real joys of working as a commentator - in fact, perhaps *the* real joy - is that my work bestows real meaning for me on every game and match I call. All of them obviously matter to the participants and the fans who might want to watch them, and by becoming a part of them in some way, every point or goal scored matters to me, and thereby becomes really interesting to me. I can only wish all of the sport I watched had that sort of relevance and immediacy to me!
 
I'm back on WTA duty today and tomorrow, commentating from home on matches from the WTA 250 event in Guadalajara. My three matches today: Coco Vandeweghe vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu, a pair of players still struggling to recover from bad ankle injuries in 2018; Astra Sharma vs. Harriet Dart, a rematch from yesterday in the qualies (Dart got in as a Lucky Loser and got drawn against Sharma again!); and Nao Hibino vs. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, two players who are on the second or maybe third lives of their WTA careers. First match is at 8 p.m. my time, so it could be another long night.

I'm feeling a bit down, to be honest. Although my three matches are the first three on Center Court today, I'm painfully aware that all of the big names are in Dubai this week for the WTA 1000 event there. And I commentated on the equivalent event in Doha last year, so this feels like a demotion. Also, three matches is a lot to prepare for, especially when you've not called any of them before and have to start from scratch; I was basically working all day from 9:30 a.m. until just now, and had to also make a trip to the grocery store and get dinner ready for the family. And I know I have to do this same routine over again tomorrow, and probably with six new names from scratch. Also, when you're calling Round 1 matches at a tennis tournament, there's always the possibility that someone might withdraw before it starts and be replaced by a Lucky Loser, negating all of your preparation and catching you completely cold. So that might happen at any point today. At least there's zero chance of rain today or tomorrow, but hopefully I can do as professional a job as possible and get things over and done with as quickly as possible.
 
I wish I'd had that card in my possession last night, because I definitely would have used it. Buzarnescu eventually defeated Vandeweghe in 2:59, and then Sharma and Dart went to a third-set tiebreak in my second match - during which my onsite contact in Mexico WhatsApped me to say that the organizers were looking to shift one of the two late matches on Center Court to Court #1, which meant that the commentator following me would have to go to that court...which meant she was asking me if I'd be willing to commentate on a FOURTH match, and one for which I hadn't prepared at all as well. I think that might have been my lowest point as a commentator so far. Luckily that didn't come to pass, and Schmiedlova defeated Hibino in 1:21 in my last match, so I finished at around 3:30 a.m. That's 9:30 p.m. Central time in Guadalajara; the first match after mine had a "Not Before 7:30 start time", so I have to feel for the guy who followed me, as I don't think he would have finished until after 7:30 a.m. here in the UK.

On the positive side, there were quite a few fans in the stands by the end of my shift - they're operating at 30% capacity this week because of COVID - and there was an actual atmosphere to enjoy. Also, I've finished my prep work for my three matches this evening; I always breathe a sigh of relief when my last research work is done for a particular tournament. And I'm calling Eugenie Bouchard again today, having called two of her matches in Istanbul last September, so I didn't have to start all six player dossiers from scratch. Bouchard - who apparently is now dating Mason Rudolph, FWIW - is in my third match, against Caroline Dolehide; before that, it's Greet Minnen (one half of the WTA's "power couple", having become engaged to Alison Van Uytvanck in December) against Sara Sorribes Tormo, and then the Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez against Anna Kalinskaya (the 21st century's Anna Kournikova?).
 
I had one of my most mortifying moments as a commentator yesterday. In my first match, Minnen broke Sorribes Tormo to go 5-3 up and serve for the set, but Sorribes Tormo saved a set point and broke back to make it 5-4. Going into the changeover, I thought I closed pretty strongly: "Twice in this first set Minnen has taken a two-game lead, and twice Sorribes Tormo has broken straight back: it's 5 games to 4, in the first." (Or words to that effect.) Then, during the break I looked again at my live scoreboard and realized I was totally wrong: both players had broken each other's serves twice in the set, but the first time it was Sorribes Tormo who had broken, only for Minnen to break straight back. I was really tired from all of my prep work and relative lack of sleep, not to mention I'd had a stressy start to my evening when my internet speed test wasn't hitting the benchmarks I needed to hit for the broadcast and I was running around the house getting family members to shut down their WiFi-capable devices - only to discover that it was all my fault for leaving Spotify open (and paused) on my Sky TV box. To realize that I was incapable of reading a scoreboard correctly (or remembering what had happened in my match 20 minutes earlier), at a point when I knew I had many hours of commentary still ahead of me, almost sent me into a shame spiral.

On the other hand, by the end of the night - which again lasted forever, as all three of my matches went the full three sets - I had been called a "legend" by someone on www.tennisforum.com. Which is...nice, I guess? Although I'm really, really not sure what to think about this. I sometimes glance over at the Live Commentary Thread (very much like a SoSH Game Thread) on that site during changeovers to see if there are obvious points of view in my match that I'm missing, as it's really easy to get myopic as a solo commentator on a seven-hour shift. But sometimes I get feedback like this:
This commentator in Monterrey is hilarious. He seems less PR-trained than the others so just says whatever is on his mind. Sometimes it's dumb shit like "the longer this match goes, the more important each game seems to get" in the Sharma-Dart match last night, but also honest comments like "the order of play is very strange in that Dolehide is playing Bouchard next even though her doubles match is also supposed to be the next on" and just now in the Fernandez match, "I'm partly laughing and partly crying to see another game begin with a double fault."

EDIT: Now he's talking about what a box-office draw Eugenie is and how she should be ranked higher if not for the rankings freeze. And then "she reached the quarterfinals in Prague… that's the good Prague tournament, not the 128-player one that took place during the US Open." What a legend.
And a response from someone else:
I like after a point (usually an UE) he'll go "huh."

And that's all he'll say. That's his commentary on the whole point: Huh.
And then a back-and-forth:
Now: "This is not exactly the sort of win Fernandez should be excited about if she's trying to develop into a top ten player." Love it lmao.
What kind of shade is that? She's 18 years old, she has yet to have a full calendar year on the tour, let her figure out her game at her own pace.
He's not throwing shade though, he's just acknowledging that she can play far better. In an unpolished way, which I find very refreshing after hearing so many of the other commentators who babble endlessly about nothing.
On the one hand...yay, someone likes me? And yes, I'm trying to speak my mind in an entertaining way and not be an empty vessel, so the vibe I'm going for is being transmitted to some people, at least. On the other hand: a) "unpolished" and "less PR-trained" are not adjectives and phrases I like. And b) more importantly, are these the kinds of fans - the people commentating in a Game Thread about WTA 250 tennis between low-ranked players on a Tuesday afternoon - that I should be trying to impress? At what point do I cross the line - or have I crossed the line - in potentially offending the people in charge of assigning me tennis gigs by being too free-wheeling behind the mic? Oh, and c) at what point is "willingness to speak my mind" actually "so tired that I've lost the ability to filter myself"? I think I'm very glad that two-day assignment is over.
 
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Incidentally, I just realized that I failed to mention the most interesting technical aspect of my broadcast last night: in the third set of my first match, Minnen was serving at 0-1 and had just saved a break point to get to Deuce when my screen went totally blank. Turns out there was a power cut affecting the transmissions from all of the courts in Guadalajara, and by the time power was restored and I was able to start commentating again, Minnen had already saved a match point serving at 0-5 and Sorribes Tormo was up 30-0 at 5-1. I was back in time to call the last two points of the match and sum things up, but that was it - I missed the decisive passage of the match in its entirety. At least the unexpected pause meant I was that little bit fresher for the rest of my long evening!
 

StupendousMan

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Jul 20, 2005
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Advice from a random guy on the Internet: if your employer starts to make suggestions about your style, listen carefully and follow them (if you want to keep your job). If greater than ninety percent of the comments you hear make the same suggestion, listen carefully. Otherwise, say whatever you think would keep you, as a listener, entertained.
 
Advice from a random guy on the Internet: if your employer starts to make suggestions about your style, listen carefully and follow them (if you want to keep your job). If greater than ninety percent of the comments you hear make the same suggestion, listen carefully. Otherwise, say whatever you think would keep you, as a listener, entertained.
FWIW, my WTA contact emailed me earlier today to offer me a couple of matches at Miami on March 23 - I said yes, but also used the opportunity to ask if my seeming demotion to "additional court" matches from the mostly "world feed" stuff I'd been doing last year was down to anything I'd said or done. Her response: "No worries at all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your commentary, we just haven’t had the chance to have you in Leeds this year yet." So that's a relief.
 
Just a quick post to say that I've picked up a few more tennis assignments. I've now got two matches from Miami next Tuesday, then three matches from Bogota split between 5-6 April, and now another four matches from Charleston on 15-16 April. I'll have to go down to Leeds for the Charleston assignment, and three of those four matches will be classed as world feed - and offer the higher pay rate to me. So that's good. While none of these gigs are super-exciting, together they do mean I'll have called action from four tournaments in a six-week span, which is very helpful in terms of keeping me in the flow and not needing to remember almost from scratch how to prepare for a match.