Diary of a commentator

Mugsy's Jock

Eli apologist
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 28, 2000
14,100
UWS, NYC
HELL YEAH: I just got my formal invitation to go to Beijing for the Winter Olympics next February, with the two ice hockey arenas listed as the venues where I'll be working. (Not quite sure who sent me that email at 11:30 p.m. UK time on a Saturday - 12:30 a.m. in Madrid, where OBS is based - but I couldn't care less.) That is going to be so freaking awesome...I mean, I loved doing the baseball and softball this summer, but to get to be in the arenas and calling games featuring the best women's *and* men's players in the world is going to be UNREAL. So, so happy the NHL is sending its players across to China this time!
Am behind the thread but so psyched for you. Trust you’ll give Adam Fox the love he deserves!
 

barbed wire Bob

crippled by fear
SoSH Member
I'm down in Leeds and very much ready to go for Uruguay vs. Colombia. I'm rather less ready to drive home afterwards...there's a big storm heading our way tonight, and on my drive home I've seen steady winds of 60 mph forecast (gusting up to around 90 mph). That's perfectly safe to drive in, right?
No.
A Wind Advisory means that sustained winds of 30 mph for one hour and/or frequent gusts of at least 45 mph are occurring or expected within the next 36 hours. These winds will make it difficult to drive high profile vehicles. Small, unsecured objects may be blown around by these winds.

A High Wind Watch means that sustained winds of 40 mph for one hour and/or frequent gusts of at least 58 mph are expected within the next 12 to 48 hours. Check to make sure all loose objects outside are secured. Plan to postpone any unnecessary driving during this time since these winds will make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles. These winds may damage trees, power lines and small structures.

A High Wind Warning means that sustained winds of 40 mph for one hour and/or frequent gusts of at least 58 mph are occurring or expected within the next 36 hours. Ensure that all objects outside are secured. Refrain from any unnecessary driving during this time since these winds will make driving very difficult, especially for high profile vehicles. Winds this strong may damage trees, power lines and small structures.
https://www.weather.gov/dmx/dsswind
 
I wasn't being serious...and in the end, there was a red weather warning which basically forbade me from driving between Newcastle and my town until 2 a.m. anyway. So I'm crashing with my wife's aunt and uncle in Bradford, about 25 minutes from the studio, and I'll drive home in the morning. It's all good!
 
View: https://youtu.be/U9-UfBie6vA

Decent game, really, even though Uruguay led pretty much throughout. Braian Angola had 37 through three quarters for Colombia but didn't score in the fourth, while Fitipaldo had 31 in the end for Uruguay. Thought I sounded pretty good, all things considering.

Meanwhile, I'm coming back to Leeds on Monday to sit on standby for nine hours, just in case someone's remote connection drops or a game overruns and a commentator can't switch across in time from one game to another. That's a long time to be on duty and get paid the equivalent of only one game fee...but on the flip side, I don't have to do any prep work, and I should in theory get paid for doing nothing more than driving to Leeds and back.
 

barbed wire Bob

crippled by fear
SoSH Member
I wasn't being serious...and in the end, there was a red weather warning which basically forbade me from driving between Newcastle and my town until 2 a.m. anyway. So I'm crashing with my wife's aunt and uncle in Bradford, about 25 minutes from the studio, and I'll drive home in the morning. It's all good!
I didn’t think you were but you never know. We had one member here try to drive home during hurricane Sandy.
 
That's a basketball game I'll happily forget. Bahrain was within 54-46 approaching the halfway mark of the 3rd quarter, but Iran pulled away from there to win 100-64 without any difficulty whatsoever. Worse than that, the scoreboard graphic at the bottom of the screen...yikes. It wasn't in sync with the actual scoreboard and clock in the arena, and often either the score wasn't getting updated (and I had to keep announcing the real score myself) or the clock wasn't being stopped in a timely fashion. At the end of the first half, I had to glance up at the clocks above the baskets to indicate how much time was left; then in the third quarter, they switched the graphic to show an inset view of the in-stadium clock counting down, but when it switched from 1:00 left in the quarter to 0:59 left in the quarter and tenths of seconds started being shown, of course the camera was offset and I was only seeing e.g. "9.2" when it was actually "39.2" or "49.2" left in the quarter. Oh well - I still got paid!

I'm still on standby duty - in theory for another three-and-a-half hours - so I was just looking at this list of every Boston Celtics draft pick in history:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Celtics_draft_history

I did this because Sam Vincent - Boston's R1 pick (#20 overall) in 1985 - is Bahrain's head coach. Man, the C's whiffed on a lot of picks during the Bird years, didn't they? Between Kevin McHale in 1980 and Len Bias in 1986, their first rounders were Charles Bradley, Darren Tillis, Greg Kite, Michael Young and Vincent. (Danny Ainge was their second R2 pick in 1981, and Rick Carlisle was their R3 pick in 1984.) It's also hilarious to see 10 rounds of NBA Draft picks up until 1984, and then 7 rounds for a few years thereafter as well.
 
Sam wore the shoes of the company I worked for (Spotbilt) and I met him a number of times. Great guy, glad to see he is still in the game.
That's nice to hear! He'd been coaching clubs in Bahrain before starting the Bahrain job in February 2020, and before that he'd coached both the Nigerian men's and women's teams. I gather he has a reputation as being super laid-back, although he seemed pretty intense on the sidelines yesterday.
 
A word to the wise regarding Google Maps, btw: don't always assume that the road closure it's trying to divert you around is actually real. As I left the DAZN car park yesterday, Google was telling me to drive via Manchester and the west side of Britain - on a route forecast to take 4 hours 54 minutes - instead of my usual direct route north up the east side. I ignored the suggestion and hoped for the best, my road wasn't closed, and I made it back in what must be a near-record time of 2 hours 38 minutes.

I'm next in action on Tuesday for the first leg of the CHL quarterfinals. Picking which game to call was a very difficult decision for me: I was tempted to go with Red Bull Munich vs. Lukko Rauma (1st in GER vs. 12th in FIN), but Lukko has had its last three games cancelled because of COVID, and there's a lot of COVID around in Germany at the moment as well. I was also tempted by Rögle vs. Sparta Prague (2nd in SWE vs. 11th in CZE, although Sparta is better than that and has raised their game for the CHL), in part because I've called both of those teams already this season and would have less to prepare...but it could wind up being a mismatch, and Sparta's red numbers on black home jerseys are virtually illegible. So in the end I've gone with Frölunda vs. Leksands (1st in SWE vs. 4th in SWE), even though I feel like I'm just about on Frölunda's payroll at this point, and even though CHL knockout games between teams from the same country tend not to be very atmospheric or well attended. I do think my long CHL experience makes me uniquely qualified to talk about Frölunda relative to the other commentators in our team, and my hope is that Leksands - in their first CHL season - will be competitive, and that if COVID were to strike, two teams in the same country would be more likely to find a way to reschedule their games against one another. But we'll see!
 
I'm due to start commentating on Frölunda vs. Leksands in the CHL quarterfinal first leg in about 10 minutes...and that looks extremely unlikely. Apparently Spalk is part of the AWS infrastructure that just went down a short time ago - the other three CHL quarterfinals are already underway (and in their first intermissions), and we have pictures and in-arena sound from those games but no commentary. A bit of an issue with online commentary through a service like Spalk, really! Oh well - I'll just sit here and try to watch the game until I'm available to start commentating on it myself.
 
Total garbage. AWS is still down, Spalk is still down, and I wasn't able to commentate at all on my game - unlike the other three guys whose games started an hour earlier and at least got to call the first half of their first periods. Plus, Frölunda scored three goals in just over three minutes late in the third period to take an interesting-looking 2-2 game to a 5-2 first-leg wipeout, meaning the second leg next week in Gothenburg is likely to be another washout. What a waste of time and effort; I was able to at least voiceover the postgame highlights, but that's the sum total of my output after, I dunno, 10-15 hours of prep work?
 
Heh...I never wrote about the second leg of the Frölunda vs. Leksands CHL quarterfinal on Tuesday. It actually turned out to be a really fun game; Leksands scored first in each period to creep back into the game, but Frölunda's aggregate lead was never less than two goals. Leksands had a power play late in the second period with a chance to make it 6-5 on aggregate but instead gave up a shorthanded goal; interestingly they then got another power play right at the end of the second period and pulled their goalie for more than a minute to skate 6-on-4 (and were lucky not to concede an empty-net shortie). They outshot Frölunda 44-21 in the game - almost unheard of - and continued to pressure into the final few minutes, but they committed a penalty with 7 seconds left and Frölunda managed to convert the power play with 3 seconds left (!) to make it 3-3 on the night, and 8-5 on aggregate. That last goal, and the one point Frölunda got from it, actually gives Frölunda home-ice advantage in the second leg of their semifinal against Rögle - which I'll be calling in January, #1 against #2 in the current Swedish standings. By far the most enjoyable experience I've had so far in this year's Knockout Stage, but hopefully there's more and better still to come!

Meanwhile, I've just this morning been given my preliminary commentary schedule for Beijing. Not quite as much work as I would have been hoping for - in particular, my first game isn't until the 5th day of the women's tournament (on the Monday, what is officially Day 3 of the Olympics). And of course I'm very bummed about the likely lack of NHL players in the men's tournament. And I've not been assigned either the men's or women's gold medal games. But my schedule is still probably a bit more exciting on balance than it was for PyeongChang in 2018 - all times local to Beijing:

Day 3, 9:10 p.m. - Finland vs. Switzerland (women's)
Day 4, 9:10 p.m. - Russia vs. Finland (women's)
Day 5, 4:40 p.m. - Russia vs. Switzerland (men's)
Day 6, 12:10 p.m. - Sweden vs. Latvia (men's)
Day 6, 9:10 p.m. - Canada vs. Germany (men's)
*Day 7, 12:10 p.m. - Denmark vs. Russia (men's)
*Day 7, 4:40 p.m. - Sweden vs. Slovakia (men's)
Day 8, 4:40 p.m. - Germany vs. China (men's)
Day 8, 9:10 p.m. - Russia vs. Czech Republic (men's)
Day 9, 12:10 p.m. - Slovakia vs. Latvia (men's)
Day 9, 4:40 p.m. - Finland vs. Sweden (men's)
Day 10, 12:10 p.m. - Women's Semifinal #1
Day 11, 12:10 p.m. - Men's Qualification Playoff #2
Day 12, 2:00 p.m. - Men's Quarterfinal #2
Day 12, 7:30 p.m. - Women's Bronze Medal Game
Day 14, 12:10 p.m. - Men's Semifinal #1
Day 14, 9:10 p.m. - Men's Semifinal #2
Day 15, 9:10 p.m. - Men's Bronze Medal Game

So 18 games in total, 16 of which I'll get to call in person either from the Beijing National Indoor Stadium or the Wukesong Arena; on Day 7, I'll be calling those two games off-tube from the IBC, as they're both in different arenas and it'd be too difficult for me to safely get from one to the other and get set up and ready to go in a timely fashion. For the semifinals and bronze medal games, I'll have a commentary partner - and will have to figure out whether I'm doing play-by-play or color - but for the other games I'll be on my own.

Note that I've not been assigned any USA games - maybe I'll get lucky and get them in the playoffs (hopefully in the semifinals)? Also, that's only four women's games in total, including only two in the preliminary round and none involving the weaker Group B, which should make it easier for me to prepare for everything. And while I'd rather start earlier and have games every day, it is worth noting that this time, my press pass lets me access every single competition venue, so hopefully I can sneak around to see some sports other than hockey; in particular, the curling venue is right across the road from one of the hockey stadiums, so that's an obvious target for me! (I don't know if I'll be allowed to take the train into the mountains to see any of the alpine events, but that would be fun as well.)
 
FWIW, I just went back and tallied it all up, and the USA is the only one of the 12 men's teams I'm not scheduled to call during the Group Stage! (I get Russia and Sweden three times each, and two each for Latvia, Germany and Slovakia.) I wonder if that's intentional? At least I'm only getting China once...
 
Back in action today on CHL semifinal duty, and the day began with a shock as the other semifinal I wasn't calling - Red Bull Munich hosting Tappara Tampere - was cancelled because German health authorities got wind of a positive COVID test in the Red Bull camp and refused to allow the game to go ahead. Very strange...I have no idea if they'll be able to make it up tomorrow or on Thursday, or if at some other point in the future, or if indeed they'll cancel the first leg altogether and let a one-game shootout in Finland determine the winner, or something altogether else.

As for my game, Rögle vs. Frölunda was great theater. Although Rögle is playing in the CHL for the first time, and although it has never won a major trophy - and indeed has only been in the SHL continuously since 2015, after several previous short-lived spells ended in relegation - it seems to have Frölunda's number. Rögle came into the game having won 8 in a row and 14 of their last 17 over Frölunda, including a 4-0 playoff sweep last spring by a combined score of 20 to 3. Would the streak continue? Frölunda scored a power play goal late in the first to lead 1-0 at the break, but Rögle scored twice in the second to lead 2-1 after 40 minutes. And then the third period was sheer pandemonium, with five goals scored in the first 10 minutes: Rögle scored twice to lead 4-1, but Frölunda struck back as Ryan Lasch added a goal and an assist to his CHL points record, then Ted Brithén completed his hat-trick to make it 5-3. No goals followed despite a late but short-lived Rögle 5-on-3 power play, so the contest is perfectly poised heading into the second leg in Gothenburg next week...which hopefully will happen on schedule. (The clubs are only two hours' drive apart, so it's not like they have to worry about airborne COVID transmission!)

As far as my commentary is concerned, I did feel like I was a little too enthusiastic at times. I felt great in the first period, totally confident with my facts and figures as well as my normal play-by-play rhythms, but as the game got better my control got a little bit worse. (It didn't help that I started feeling slightly nauseous in the third period and needed a trip to the toilet!) This is always a danger, but particularly so coming into a good game after a significant commentary break - three weeks since my last game in any sport, in this case, I'm so excited to be back behind the mic, and so excited to be involved in an action-packed game, that I lose my sense of perspective. Anyway, the other funny commentary note from the game is that my senior production contact sent me a WhatsApp message during the first intermission asking me not to call Frölunda the "Indians". That is their club nickname, and I've used it many times before; even if their club logo is barely a few rungs up the evolutionary ladder from the Braves' Chief Nocahoma, it's so much easier to be able to call a team by multiple names - especially by both singular and plural names - without having to resort to generic terms like "the visitors" and "the hosts". So maybe that threw me off a bit, having to adjust on the fly?
 
The secon leg of the CHL semifinal between Rögle and Frölunda took place last night...and the king is dead! Rögle scored 32 seconds into the game to take a three-goal aggregate lead, again in the 2nd period on the power play (after their first goalscorer had to be carted off the rink on a stretcher, after long silences that are always challenging to respectfully fill), and into an empty net with 10-and-a-half minutes left in the third. Frölunda scored one very late power play goal, but that was it: 3-1 on the night, 8-4 on aggregate, and only the second time Frölunda has failed to reach the CHL final going back to the competition's re-launch in 2014-15. It was one of those nights where although the eventual outcome looked to be obvious, because it was Frölunda and because they've come back so many times before in the CHL Knockout Stage, a) you could never really be sure it was over until very late in the game, and b) even when they were way behind, it still felt like a big story, and that makes it much more interesting to commentate on. I felt like I was in good form throughout, and it was a rather fun commentary evening. (Except when I got to voicing over the highlights and discovered a very bad edit where the 2nd period highlights jumped back from the goal scored with c. 4:00 left in the period to an uninteresting scene taking place with c. 17:00 left in the period - had to do some adjusting there which meant I didn't finish as quickly as I'd have liked.)

So it appears I'll be going to Ängelholm - a town of under 40,000 people just across the water from the northeastern tip of Denmark - for the final on March 1st. (That'll be nice; I'll presumably fly to Copenhagen and take the train across The Bridge of Scandi noir fame?) Meanwhile, it's just been announced that the other semifinal between Tappara Tampere and Red Bull Munich will now consist of a single one-off game in Tampere (Finland) in 13 days' time. I'd be very happy to call that game myself, but I assume we'll stick with the guy who has been cancelled upon twice - Mitch Peacock, who I gather will be calling short-track speed skating at the Olympics for the CBC (off-tube from Toronto) - unless he's not available. Either way, I'm just happy that the other semifinal will be resolved on the ice, after both legs this week and last week were cancelled because of COVID in the Munich dressing room.
 
I'm deep in Olympic prep work at the moment, and things are getting dicey insofar as I've now been asked to fly to Beijing earlier than I'd been expecting to - my first flight out is due to leave on 1 February, but I've just been told that my first work day in Beijing will now be 30 January. I think they need me to call some additional women's games early on in the process; I'm not sure why this has been determined so late on, and it probably means I'll have to prepare for several additional teams in less time, but it does mean a noticeable increase in my pay packet. I'm already struggling with sleep, possibly because in anticipation and nervousness about my forthcoming assignment, but hopefully I'll get there, both literally and figuratively...
 
My journey to Beijing has begun! Good article in The Guardian summarizing all of the restrictions in place in China for the Olympics:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/jan/28/keeping-the-olympics-covid-free-life-inside-beijings-closed-loop-bubble

I've successfully jumped through all of the bureaucratic hoops I've faced so far regarding COVID testing, etc., and now I'm at Heathrow, waiting for my flight to Doha en route to Beijing. My game schedule has completely changed, btw...more on that when I'm back on a PC.
 

Koufax

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
5,324
Like others here, I am looking forward to reading your reports. Congratulations on getting that gig.
 
So, I'm at my hotel...and I think I could my Tokyo 2020 hotel room into this one four times over! Such a relief to have a rather nice room. Also, literally just after I started typing this post, I got a phone call from the front desk to say that my COVID test at Beijing Airport came back negative, so I'm now allowed out of my room rather than being forced to quarantine inside of it. So everything is going well so far, although I'm pretty sure the woman who swabbed my nose as part of my COVID test touched my brain; that thing went twice as deep into my nose as any other test I've received (or self-administered). I'm also having one or two connectivity issues at my hotel; not sure if they are WIFI-related or if certain apps and/or websites are being blocked. (Looks like I'll be using Bing instead of Google for a while, for example...also, does anyone know if WhatsApp is problematic in China?)

I go to the IBC tomorrow for the first time - and also for one of the last times, actually, insofar as I don't think I'll have any reason to go there after Wednesday for at least two weeks. All of my commentary games are now from the venues: the Wukesong Sports Center (code "WKS"), where most of the women's games and a few of the men's games are, is only about 4 miles from my hotel, and I think there is direct transport there. And the Beijing National Indoor Stadium (code "NIS"), where most of the men's games and a few of the women's games are, is much farther away but very close to the International Broadcast Center, and I know there is transport directly from my hotel to the IBC. I have site visits scheduled to both WKS and NIS on Tuesday, two days before the women's tournament starts, and it's certainly going to be MUCH different this time for me, calling games in person from the venues instead of off-tube in the IBC. OBS only has onsite commentary positions at the two ice hockey rinks, the figure skating and speed skating venues, and the alpine center up in Yanqing; everyone else will be calling their sports from the IBC. (I've seen diagrams of where all of our commentary positions are located, and in WKS we seem to be right next to the area marked "NBCU", so maybe I might make a contact or two there, although I gather that no NBC commentators will actually be making the trek to Beijing themselves, on account of COVID.)

I'm making those two site visits on Tuesday with Aaron Murphy, my erstwhile ice hockey commentary rival. I didn't expect anything else, really - I know he called the men's gold medal game for OBS in 2018, and I strongly suspected he'd be involved this time as well, although I only just had that confirmed a few days ago. There are two really interesting developments in this regard, though: 1) it appears as though Aaron and I are the two main play-by-play hockey commentators. There are four of us in total covering hockey; Tom Kirkland, a Madrid-based American who I met in Tokyo, is scheduled to call a few matches on his own and also partner with Aaron or me a few times as well, while Sami Jo Small, who won two gold medals as a backup goalie for the Canadian women's team, is also covering numerous matches, but always partnering with me or Aaron. (I assume she'll always be doing color commentary, and that Tom will probably defer to me and Aaron as well and settle into the analyst role, although that has yet to be confirmed.) Also, 2) while Aaron has been assigned the women's gold medal game, and I've got the bronze medal game, we've now been told that the rota for the men's semifinals and medal games "are yet to be decided". Originally, I'd been assigned both semifinals and the bronze medal game and had been hoping to do play-by-play on two of those three games, but now, I'm hoping I might snatch the gold medal game. I don't know if they're planning to assign those games on a purely meritocratic basis - I rather doubt it? - but if they do, I certainly fancy my chances...

Anyway, here's my provisional schedule in brief so far - all dates are in Beijing time, so some of these games will be on in the US the evening or night before ("ROC" of course stands for "Russian Olympic Committee"):

Thu 3 Feb: CHN v CZE (w), JPN v SWE (w)
Fri 4 Feb: ROC v SUI (w)
Sat 5 Feb: CAN v FIN (w), DEN v JPN (w)
Sun 6 Feb: SUI v USA (w)
Mon 7 Feb: CZE v DEN (w), SWE v CHN (w)
Tue 8 Feb: JPN v CZE (w), SWE v DEN (w)
Wed 9 Feb: ROC v SUI (m)
Thu 10 Feb: CAN v GER (m)*
Fri 11 Feb: QF #1 (w)*, LAT v FIN (m)
Sat 12 Feb: GER v CHN (m), ROC v CZE (m)
Sun 13 Feb: FIN v SWE (m), CHN v CAN (m)*
Mon 14 Feb: SF #1 (w)*
Tue 15 Feb: Qualification #2 (m)**, Qualification #4 (m)**
Wed 16 Feb: QF #2 (m)*, Bronze (w)*

* with Sami Jo Small
** with Tom Kirkland
 
I should have highlighted the games I'm particularly excited about, by the way: any game from women's Group A should be fun, but Canada vs. Finland (as Canada's first real test) and Switzerland vs. USA are my chances to see the big guns in the round-robin stage, while Russia vs. Switzerland looks a very even matchup and may well foreshadow a repeat matchup in the quarterfinals. For the men, I get the very first game of that tournament - ROC vs. Switzerland - as well as some choice nuggets like ROC vs. Czech Republic and Finland vs. Sweden, and the opening game of Group A between Germany and Canada pits the reigning silver and bronze medalists from 2018 against each other, in addition to being the first game I'm calling with Sami Jo. Or at least, the first game I'm scheduled to call with Sami Jo, insofar as she and Tom aren't scheduled to arrive in Beijing until the 7th and haven't yet had their flights booked, which is all a little bit weird insofar as Sami Jo is supposed to jump straight into calling USA v CAN (w) with Aaron on the 8th. Not a lot of time for her to get acclimatised to Olympic commentating, let alone recover from jetlag!

I should also note that it's going to be great to have an ice hockey commentary partner. I think the last time I worked with an ice hockey analyst partner was the 2018 Gagarin Cup Finals? As I'm sure I've said before, it's almost always more fun working with a co-commentator, even if just to have someone to bounce ideas and conversation topics off of and who can maybe laugh at my jokes.
 
Went to the IBC this morning for a short visit...and the amoung of swag I'm going to come home with is gonna be ridiculous. I managed to score a backpack which is normally just given to members of the regular media, but I guess they have spares for us OBS folk as well - and it came with various trinkets inside as well, like a branded hat and neck buff and a couple of Beijing 2022 pins. There will be another OBS-branded backpack to come in my uniform bag, which I won't pick up until Tuesday as it's at the National Indoor Stadium instead of the IBC for some reason - and the uniform includes a heavy jacket and a couple of fleeces as well as the shirts and trousers I got in Tokyo.

Another thing I was unexpectedly given today: a phone! My wife and I were joking about whether I should bring a burner phone to China after reading various news stories, and lo and behold, OBS has given me one for free. Or rather, loaned me one - I'll have to give it back at the end of my stay here - but I had seriously been considering splurging on a Chinese SIM card for my phone, and now I've acquired one out of the blue. The reason for this, of course, is that I'm going to be based at the venues and need to be able to get in touch with other people, and them get in touch with me, if anything comes up. But it's a pleasant surprise all the same.

I met a few familiar faces in the IBC today, people I met in Tokyo last year - commentators, support staff, and also my boss Kostas, who is again in charge of OBS' entire commentary output. Kostas told me that the reason I was asked to travel a few days earlier than planned is because one of the other commentators decided barely a week ago that he didn't think Beijing was a safe destination to come to. I mean, OK....Kostas said point blank to me, "He'll never work for us again." All that means to me is that I'm one rung higher up on the ladder than I might have been, so I'm not exactly complaining. Mind you, I think we're already down four commentators relative to where we started, including a couple of curling commentators who contracted COVID and therefore can't come at all; I'd assumed that anyone failing their COVID test might be able to travel a week or two later and maybe arrive in time to work the end of the Games, but maybe not?

Anyway, it was a short day today in part because there's a rehearsal of the opening ceremony going on right now, and when the previous rehearsal happened a few days ago, traffic near the National Stadium (which is near the IBC) for some reason was totally fouled up, to the point that passengers wound up getting stranded in their buses for like two hours without moving. So today they just cancelled all of the buses between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., and we were all advised to get out of dodge early if we could. I've scoped out where everything is in the IBC, but again, I probably have only a few days left to be there, so that building isn't going to resonate with me nearly as much as the Tokyo IBC by the time the Olympics end three weeks from now.

One other thing: I meant to mention that toward the start of my trip from Scotland to China, I watched the movie "Miracle", and then listened to the Rewatchables podcast about the film that Simmons and Ryan just recorded lat week. It's a great movie to watch in January every four years anyway, but man, I was getting borderline teary at several points while watching it this time - not just because of the amazing story itself, but because I'm now about to be intimately involved with the same sporting event myself, 42 years later. I got to call a couple of Harvard games on radio in 1998 from the 1980 Olympic Arena in Lake Placid, when the Crimson reached the ECAC tournament semifinals that season, and that was special enough; now I'm getting to call Olympic hockey games from within an Olympic stadium. I absolutely do not take any of this for granted. Actually, I remain subscribed to an email I usually receive several times a day from s1jobs.com, advertising communications jobs in Scotland of the type I used to apply for - e.g., within financial services. Although they are basically spam for me at this point, I keep receiving them because I want to be constantly reminded about what I could be doing with my life. I mean, I don't hate that kind of work, and in fact I rather enjoy many aspects of it...but this is something altogether else.
 
A pretty quiet day today. We had a short training session to (re-)familiarize ourselves with the control units into which we connect our commentary headsets, learning how to adjust volume levels and communicate with the control room, etc. - all stuff I'd remembered from last summer. Aaron and I also made our run to the gift shop, which was somewhat disappointing; picked up a few trinkets as gifts for people, although I eschewed the £100+ Beijing 2022 glass curling stone. And we asked a couple of questions, such as whether the country should be referred to as "the Czech Republic" or "Czechia" (it's the former for this Olympics and Paralympics and the latter at all other IIHF events, apparently) and whether naturalised Americans, Canadians and Russians playing for Team China should be called by their Western birthnames or the Chinese names they've been given. The most obvious and ridiculous example of the latter is Chris Chelios' son Jake, who has been playing for Kunlun Red Star in the KHL for several seasons and has been given the name "Jieke Kailiaosi" - in such a way that "Jieke", in the tradition of Chinese names that put the surname first, is actually what we should theoretically call him if not using his full name! Which is all rather crazy, so hopefully common sense will prevail and we can call him "Chelios".

At the moment, the main thing on my mind is the extent to which I may want to pursue a commentary setup which doesn't require me to have to print any sheets of paper. Because the Olympic Information System will be available on a monitor in my commentary area at the arenas, and therefore I won't have to use my laptop to show live stats or scores of other games (etc.), I could just copy and paste my research notes from both rosters in a given game from Excel into a PowerPoint slide. Or I could even insert notes with extra information into the cells for each player, like I do when commentating on baseball and softball. These solutions would probably each require me to remain seated when commentating, whereas often I (and many other guys) prefer to stand when calling hockey games. They would also require a certainly amount of extra work from me, and I'm not reeeeeally sure I want to go too far down that road. I think I'll probably bring my laptop along for our site visits to the two arenas tomorrow and try to get a feel for how that might work in practice.
 
You should do a Twitch stream of a broadcast.
I wonder how many Olympic copyright and related regulations that would violate?

Incidentally, an updated hockey commentary rota has just been sent to me. Only a couple of changes in it for me, both on Sunday 13 February - where instead of calling the men's games Germany vs. China and then Russia vs. Czech Republic, I'll be calling Switzerland vs. Denmark after...(drumroll)...the USA vs. Canada, which immediately shoots to the top of my list of games I'm super-psyched to be calling. ROC vs. CZE would have been good fun, but USA vs. CAN has to be the marquee game of the men's group stage, doesn't it? The only other contender is probably Finland vs. Sweden - and I'm still down to call that one as well. So fingers crossed that those assignments don't change!
 
I'm back from my two site visits today. We've got plenty of space at both of our commentary positions; at the National Indoor Stadium, there's quite a big gap between the rink and the seats, almost the equivalent of attending a soccer game where there's a running track between the stands and the pitch, so it feels like we're slightly removed from the action there. But sightlines are good, and I can definitely spread myself out as much as I want.

At NIS, the Czech men's team was on the ice practicing - or at least, those players on the team who have arrived in China already, as I guess some of them are still with their club teams or are only just in the process of getting ready to come out. We were standing around watching when this kinda short, grey-haired man with an Eastern European accent wandered over. He said, "Hi - I'm Igor," and started chatting in a very friendly manner; I glanced down at his credential, and flipping heck, it was Igor Larionov. You know, just one of the greatest players of all time. He's with the ROC delegation in some capacity; he had been the head coach of Russia's B team at the Deutschland Cup tournament back in the autumn, and I think he might be working for Russian television here, but it was lovely to speak with him (or mostly listen to him and Aaron talk, which was fine by me).

We travelled in a car between the venues - there were four of us, including me, Aaron, the OBS venue manager (Aris), and our Chinese driver. When we got to the Wukesong Arena, we could not gain access to the facility: apparently the designated entrance had changed since yesterday, and the Chinese officials guarding each gate not only wouldn't let us in, but they were being singularly unhelpful in terms of giving our driver any guidance in finding the correct entrance. We circled the entire facility for more than half an hour, probing every possible entrance point and at one stage winding up in a gated and fenced in parking area that looked like a holding area for prisoner transfers or something. There was a fair amount of yelling between our driver and several guards, but eventually we found a sort of back way in; thankfully these delays happened today rather than on Thursday! Anyway, in part because we were delayed so long, we were still at the venue when lunchtime came around, so we got to partake of the OBS catering for the first time...and the food there is rather good. You win some, you lose some.
 

caminante11

Member
SoSH Member
Nov 17, 2006
2,866
Brooklyn, NY
This is great! Sounds like an incredible experience.

Looking at your schedule above and comparing to the NBC schedule. The ROC vs SUI womens game is at 11:10 pm ET Thursday.
 
We had a long commentators briefing this evening - nearly two hours, starting at 5:30 p.m. - covering all sorts of information. Key takeaways for me included:
  • We're using the Western names for the naturalized Chinese players in the ice hockey, thank goodness.
  • It's definitely "the Czech Republic", not "Czechia".
  • If any competitor undertakes any sort of political protest or the like, our stock line is: "[NAME], expressing his/her personal views there." (In other words, don't ignore it, but don't go any further than this.)
  • Once again, always say the surname first for Japanese and Chinese competitors (and Koreans, etc.).
  • These are the "Winter Olympics" or the "Olympic Winter Games" - never the "Winter Olympic Games".
  • Similarly, we have "Victory Ceremonies" (not "Medal Ceremonies"), and "Venue Ceremonies" (not "Flower Ceremonies").
And, perhaps most importantly:

1) Unlike in past Olympics (like Tokyo 2020), all of the commentators are being or have been assigned their roles in advance - play-by-play or color. No more worrying about who is doing what or having to agree amongst ourselves how to divide the labor between us. (Thank heavens.)

2) The reason the hockey commentators haven't yet been assigned for the men's semifinals and medal games haven't yet been assigned is that they will be listening to us and want to pick the best people for those assignments. So I do indeed have a very real chance of getting that men's gold medal game - plenty of motivation to make sure I'm at the top of my game for the next two weeks!
 
Do they have a plan if commentators don't show up or leave early or are unavailable (Covid, Re-education Camp, etc)? Could you end up having to fill in on, say, Curling?
Yes, they have a plan. But no, it's very unlikely that I'd wind up calling any curling - except maybe on the day of the women's gold medal game, which Aaron is calling and which means I don't have anything (currently) to do. Otherwise, I've got 1-2 games every day at the venues, and it wouldn't make much sense for me to come to the IBC just for this when there should always be other commentators on standby.

That said, yesterday Aaron shared a really funny story from his time at Sochi 2014, when for some reason he was hanging out at the IBC a few hours before one of his hockey games (at an arena which wasn't too far from the IBC), and Kostas press-ganged him at a moment's notice to start calling a curling match when the assigned commentator had a problem of some sort. He started calling the match, knowing he wouldn't be able to finish it before he had to leave for the hockey, and with about an hour to go before the hockey started he was yanked and someone else was pulled from whatever they were doing to take over for him; Aris, our venue manager, had to drive him to the hockey arena on a golf cart, but the golf cart didn't have the right credentials on it, which led to the spectacle of Aris and Aaron facing down a bunch of Russian soldiers armed with AK-47s, Aris getting nowhere with his protestations, and then him just driving on past the security barrier and basically daring the soldiers to stop them. (Aaron made it to his commentay position in time.)
 
Didn't go into the IBC today - just stayed in my room and did loads of prep, particularly now that all of the official jersey numbers have come in for the women's teams. In fact, I might not see the inside of the IBC again until I show up after the men's gold medal game (hopefully) to hand in my phone and headset - it's all trips to the venue from here on in.

I had dinner with Aaron, and we got into a bit of a heated debate about the Chinese and Japanese naming convention. OBS is again insisting that we follow the Asian convention of saying the surname first and then the given name - e.g., "Osaka Naomi" instead of "Naomi Osaka" - which I'm totally fine with and he's...kinda not. Or possibly he doesn't understand what it means, I'm not sure - I think he thinks that because "Naomi" comes second in this forumlation, we would call her "Naomi" instead of "Osaka" on the second reference and thereafter, which absolutely isn't the case. I personally would agree that someone famous in the West like Osaka should be called "Naomi Osaka" to English-speaking audiences - particularly given that's what she herself wants to be called - but given that Osaka isn't part of the Japanese ski jumping team, we're really talking about lower-level athletes that few people except diehard fans of their sports will know well enough to be bothered about. And I absolutely think that we in the Western world should be open to understanding that maybe it's OK for people in different parts of the world to employ naming conventions which sound foreign to us in both senses.

Anyway, our other hockey commentators finally have their credentials and flights, although Sami Jo Small's husband (a paralympian hockey player for Canada) just tested positive for COVID the other day. He'd left four days ago for their pre-Paralympic training camp, so hopefully for her sake he was infected in transit and she can continue to travel as normal! There is an oddity developing with regard to our schedule, which is that Sami Jo is arriving to call the USA v Canada women's group game on the 8th and then...we're not sure what she's doing the next two days. The idea was that she would next work alongside me on the 10th for Canada vs. Germany (men's), but apparently we have to be careful about not using two commentators for some group games and not others. Also, there's a move afoot to let her do the play-by-play on Canada vs. Germany instead of me, so that a) she's doing some work, and b) we get to show off a female play-by-play voice. (This despite her having said that although she thinks she can do play-by-play, she's way more comfortable doing analysis.) So there's a chance that I may not work GER v CAN and may either not work at all that day myself, or I could get shifted to cover one of the two games Aaron is down to call (USA v CHN or FIN v SVK). I'm not really bothered; I mean, I'd like to call GER v CAN, but I'm happy to go with the flow and said as much to our coordinator on the phone a short time ago. "I've prepared all 22 teams, men's and women's, and I'll go where you point me to go" was the gist of my response.

So that's that - the waiting is just about over. I start with two women's games tomorrow: CHN v CZE (at 11:10 p.m. ET tonight) and then JPN v SWE (at 3:40 a.m. ET). CHN v CZE is on at the same time as CAN v SUI, and the latter will surely get most of the attention - Aaron gets to call CAN-SUI and USA-FIN tomorrow - but that's fine. I think Group B is actually going to be more fun than Group A, at least in terms of the hockey being both competitive and unpredictable, but we'll see!
 
So...what did you guys think? :)

That was a very long day - and it's not over yet, as I'm sticking around to watch USA vs. Finland (while Aaron commentates). A pair of 3-1 wins, one for CZE over CHN, and then one for JPN over SWE; a few moments of quality (the Czechs in particular scored a couple of very tidy goals), a large smattering of dross, and the Olympics are now underway. And as I type, I'm watching the USA and Finland warm up; figure I might as well stick around for the second game, do some prep work, scout some of my future commentary teams, and have a 15-minute bus ride home later on instead of a two-stop journey via the IBC which might take me 90 minutes.

Anyway, the biggest moment of panic - not for me, but for my OBS colleagues - apparently came between my sound check 45 minutes before the start of the second game (JPN-SWE) and when I put my headset back on about 8 minutes before the start of transmission. Everyone else was freaking out that I'd disappeared, even to the point that they were looking to source an off-tube commentator back at the IBC; in fact, I'd just been listening to parts of my first game on the OBS media player and then went to the toilet, and my Chinese phone was still on mute from the first game. I mean, where did they think I was going to go? Lesson learned for next time, I guess....

But yeah, it's great to be underway. I'm going to have quite a short night; my bus gets back to the hotel after midnight, and I have to be on my bus to the other stadium at either 8:03 or 8:23 a.m. tomorrow. So really, I should stop typing and start doing my prep work so I can go straight to bed later on!
 
I was at the National Indoor Stadium today for the Russian Olympic Committee vs. Switzerland, in front of almost literally nobody. There were definitely at least *some* fans at WKS yesterday, but nobody had made an effort to get along to NIS - except Igor Larionov, who I once again bumped into (this time in an elevator) and who was again very friendly and chatty. I mentioned how our commentary position at NIS is very much at one end of the rink; it's basically even with the top of the faceoff rings on the left side of the ice as we look at it, which is problematic when the puck is at the other end (of which more in a moment). Also, it's basically at the mouth of the first entrance to the rink that everyone in the press comes through when they first arrive, so a) when I'm preparing to commentate there are always people milling around, and b) it's bloody freezing from the draft of cold air entering the building. I spent a lot of time in my heavy OBS-provided winter jacket today, even while at my post.

One of my biggest fears before heading to Beijing concerned the printer situation at the two arenas. I like to print my lineups (in color, ideally on A3-sized paper) as late as possible, but I had no idea how easy or difficult that might be. Thankfully, it's all worked out fine: yesterday I managed to get the media center at WKS to print off my sheets for me, and after several false starts a couple of their techies managed to install a printer driver on my laptop - hopefully while not installing any spyware in the process - so that I can print directly from it to one of the downstairs printers, which is really as good a solution as I could have hoped for. Today was lower-tech, but I was able to use a USB stick and take it down to an office for immediate printing there - and it only took a few minutes to get back to my post, crucial given that there were several late Russian lineup changes (including two new players I'd not researched yet) and I didn't have too much room for maneuver.

Anyway, the game itself was pretty entertaining, and I recorded a few clips off of the OBS media player on the bus on my way back to the hotel. After the ROC scored a scrappy opening goal, the Swiss equalized on the power play, but it took the ROC only 13 seconds to regain the lead:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1E-FEMtZH2IBqM3WKhtP9Fl3eYrh8ikt2/view?usp=sharing

(I'm pretty pleased with the prep I'd done - I was ready with the stats regarding the fastest ever consecutive goals in the women's tournament, and knew 13 second wasn't the smallest gap straightaway.)

The Swiss retaliated with a shorthanded goal to make it 2-2...I don't think this call could have been any better, really:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fBbEBoYecsHQE6MTUZKjFC2JhWqNYurd/view?usp=sharing

But the Russians took command thereafter - this was a weird goal which seemed to almost develop in slow motion, with both teams tired at the end of their respective shifts:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1E3-RSFeBZPkHr69awm1psVrUU-vJsoyO/view?usp=sharing

Alas, Russia's own shorthanded goal in the third period which effectively sealed the game at 5-2 was...unfortunate. Bolgareva, the scorer, beat the goalie through her five-hole in such a way that the puck hit the camera inside of the goal and ricocheted straight out - I called it as a save, then corrected myself fairly quickly. Which was mostly fine, but in the muddle I wound up talking about how far from the goal our commentary position was and reiterating why that was easy to miss, and in the process I failed to realize it was Bolgareva's hat-trick goal, a fact which eluded me for the rest of the game (and right through the highlights package at the end). So a bit of a double-whammy, although really, I never should have been so hard on myself in the first place: even watching the as-live replay, it was tough to tell even on the monitor that the puck had gone into the net and come straight back out. Sigh...these things happen, and I shouldn't let them cancel out my positive thoughts about most of my call.
 
Because I care, I've stitched together my calls of all 12 goals from the Canada-Finland women's game today. (My favorite calls are those of Canada's 1st, 3rd and 11th goals; the 3rd Canadian goal is pretty special.)

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-AM8hsAgbIcb_Y_zK8qYDEa5s-MEz-QX/view?usp=sharing

I'm not sure what's wrong with Finland - they got unlucky with the draw to have to play the USA and then Canada first, but with their head coach having left China for a family medical emergency and their goaltending looking in tatters (with arguably their best goalie having been left off of their roster), the race for the bronze medal appears to be wide open.

I'm now watching USA-ROC, having finished both CAN-FIN and JPN-DEN (the latter a straightforward 6-2 win for Japan). I had a rather strange conversation during the 2nd intermission of CAN-FIN with a producer in which I was advised not to show bias in favor of Canada - which is utterly preposterous, given that if anything I would have been rooting for Finland to keep it close if I were anything other than totally impartial. I get excited when I call goals and see such a dominant performance, and that was reflected in my commentary - certainly not any bias! I suspect that either someone made a judgement having only been half-listening to the broadcast, and/or some RHB (rights-holding broadcaster) made an ill-informed complaint to OBS, but I'm not going to worry about it.

To be perfectly honest, I'm kinda ready for the men's tournament to start. On the one hand, these women are the very best players their countries have to offer, and as such the nature of the tournament is much purer than the men's event will be. But on the other hand, the USA and Canada are still so far ahead of everyone else - particularly with Finland in tatters - that it's rather like the softball event I called in Tokyo, and unless the other countries can start catching up, this is going to remain a very unbalanced competition (even if Group B is fun to call because it's much less certain who will do well). And absolutely anyone could win any game in the men's tournament - that's going to be super-competitive.

Anyway, I'm still thrilled to be here, even though it appears as though Eurosport in the UK is no longer exclusively using our OBS commentary and instead has someone working off-tube in London, and as such my reach to everyone back home is rather narrower than I'd hoped and expected. Tomorrow I've got Switzerland-USA - my last Group A game, before reverting to Group B for the last two days of the Preliminary Round.
 
Not gonna lie...USA vs. Switzerland was quite a slog yesterday. USA was up 5-0 after the first period and chased the Swiss goalie, and in the end Switzerland did well to lose only 8-0. The Americans were wearing their white jerseys with white numbers across a narrow strip of blue, rendering them almost unidentifiable - another win for the marketing folks and a loss for common sense. I just wasn't as fast to spot everything as I normally like to be; I'm going to try experimenting with a new way of organizing the information on my boards today when the Czechs play the Danes, but a lot of my difficulty was probably just down to those stupid uniforms. My worst moment came when Kelly Pannek scored the USA's 6th goal and didn't even raise her arms in celebration, which confused the heck out of me - I reacted very late to the fact the puck was in the net - but you know, whatever. (Funny to feel this way about calling my own country's national team, but really, my games today - the Czech Republic vs. Denmark and then Sweden vs. China - should both be much more competitive, and therefore more interesting.)

Sami Jo Small, our third hockey commentator, has finally appeared in Beijing! She had a ridiculous flight odyssey - she was originally booked to fly west to Beijing from Toronto, but after her first plane never took off she was rerouted here via Frankfurt and Tokyo. Meanwhile, her suitcase is apparently in Vancouver at the moment. Anyway, we had breakfast with her, and she seems very friendly and super-psyched to get involved; she's off to the IBC this morning for orientation and to pick up her uniforms, etc., and then I think she's going to go to NIS to watch Finland v Switzerland. She'll be calling the USA-Canada game tomorrow with Aaron, then she'll have a few days off because a) OBS has decided not to show bias toward any men's team during the group stage by assigning color commentators to some games but not others, and b) she's decided she's not comfortable doing play-by-play on any men's games, which is perfectly fair enough. So my schedule remains unchanged - my first two men's games on Wednesday and Thursday are ROC v SUI and CAN v GER, both of which I'm really looking forward to. (Tom Kirkland, our fourth and final commentator, had a positive COVID test followed by two negative ones, so we're still hoping to see him in a few days' time; FWIW, Sami Jo's husband, who is on the Canadian Paralympic hockey team, also tested positive after showing up for their team's training camp in Calgary, but thankfully Sami Jo has passed every test on her end.)

By the way, I forgot to mention something funny that happened to me during the Canada-Finland game: I decided about halfway through the first period to do my commentary standing up, having begun the game seated, and during the first intermission the man operating the main center-ice camera called down to me and asked if I could either sit down or take a step backward. Because if you look back on the highlight reel I shared of CAN-FIN, in the buildup to the second Canadian goal you can see my head bobbing around in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Aaron always stands up when commentating, but he's only 5'11"; I'm 6'3", and now I've pretty much been frightened into sitting down for the rest of the Olympics when commentating.
 
Drama at the moment in the rink, as the Canada vs. ROC game hasn't started on time - Canada came out for their warmups as usual, everything was going fine, and then when it was time to come out for the start of the game, the Russians appeared on the ice but the Canadians are nowhere to be seen. We're now 15 minutes late in starting, and wondering what the heck is going on - there's no word from anyone just yet.