Diary of a commentator

Meanwhile, I'm feeling a little red-faced by the fact that we'd been referring to the winner of ROC-Denmark as facing the winner of Finland-Switzerland. I had been told by my bosses about 36 hours ago that I'd be doing play-by-play on the FIN/SUI vs. ROC/DEN semifinal, and that Aaron would be calling USA/SVK vs. CAN/SWE. So after the results of yesterday's games, I was assuming that I'd gotten the marquee semifinal call of FIN vs. ROC (and then the bronze medal game), and Aaron would be doing SVK vs. SWE (and then the gold medal game). I guess I should have double-checked their work! But anyway, I got back to the hotel fairly early last night - around 10:30 instead of after midnight - and was trying to get to sleep after seeing the Canada vs. Sweden result when I thought I'd double-check to see which semifinal was at which time tomorrow. And of course, it turns out that they reseeded after the quarterfinals, and it's actually FIN vs. SVK and ROC vs. SWE. I tried to send an email from my hotel room, replying to everyone who'd been cc:ed on my SF/medal game assignments to ask what the deal was, and because WIFI in my room is so bad I popped down to the lobby to discover that emails had already been sent out...and saw that I'd been given Finland vs. Slovakia, at 11 p.m. ET tomorrow. Total bummer. I mean, it might be a great game and a great story, but once again I've been given the lesser assignment. Took me a while to get to sleep!
 

Ale Xander

doesn't like to back it in
SoSH Member
Oct 31, 2013
55,764
Sorry about that, you deserve to get the bigger game.
hope you call a great Slovakian upset.

And amusingly, I made a similar mistake, but thinking it would be ROC v SVK in the semi, based on the bracket that NBC put up (USA in the first quarter and ROC in the second)
 
I keep trying to tell myself that the reason I've been getting the lesser games I've been getting is because the likes of NBC and CBC want to use me on them, given that their own guys will be calling the marquee games! But I'll be interested to ask the question and find out. (I'll only ask it on Monday, once the Games are over, but I think I will ask it - is it that they think Aaron is better? Is it a seniority thing? Is it along the lines of what I'm suggesting? Or is it something else? Or will they just not tell me anything?) :)
 
So...I've discovered another reason I might not have been picked for the higher profile games going forward. Apparently, I used "Russia" instead of "ROC" or "Russian Olympic Committee" six times in the build-up to yesterday's quarterfinal against Denmark, including immediately after the opening faceoff at the start of the game. I also, I think in the context of the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" from four years ago at PyeongChang, referred to "ROC or OAR or whatever you want to call them", and I've been told that the bolded is definitely inappropriate, even (or perhaps especially) in the lighthearted context I was trying to use that phrase. In THAT context, I guess I can understand why they wouldn't want me to be doing play-by-play on the ROC's semifinal. I wonder how truly important that is in the context of their decision, but I have had a very severe slap on the wrist, and I must confess to having felt very morose while watching much of the women's gold medal game just now.
 
I don't know if that was it...but I do know that NBC/Peacock used my play-by-play call of an Olympic semifinal just now, so maybe it is the other way around? (Never honestly thought that I'd be on NBC for a semifinal call!)

Finland vs. Slovakia was, of course, the worst game I've been involved with in Beijing - figures. And of course, the one non-empty-net goal was very difficult to call: far end of the ice from our commentary position, far side of the ice as well, a scrambling goal rather than a clean shot, and the player ID was almost impossible. So of course, that was probably my worst goal call of the tournament - I said "great hustle by Finland" and, shortly thereafter, "One-nothing Finland" in quick succession. (I *hate* using "Finland" twice like that, instead of maybe "One-nothing for the Finns", but the real issue is that I tried to wait as long as I could for the CIS system to show who had scored the goal so I could sneak it into my call. Sometimes they are very prompt, but this time they waited about three seconds too long for me.) I mean, not a huge deal, but I'm going to look back on this game and have no actual memories to call upon, except maybe the empty-net clincher - which was a good call, but I mean, how tough is that to call?

It was also a weird game to call, insofar as I was tired - struggled to sleep last night with my ROC debacle preying on my mind - and freezing in the rink to the point that my teeth were almost chattering, even with my heavy OBS jacket and five layers on in total. I felt in the entire game that I was about half a second from catastrophe, and the words were only *just* coming out in time, and because of that I felt like I was being extra artful with my word choices to try and cover for the fact that I felt slow. Also, it was my first time working Aaron as my color man, and his style took a bit of getting used to: he was doing good analysis, but he was talking for longer than Sami Jo (he's got a very good ability to waffle at length to fill the available space), and although I did trust him not to step on a goal, I also sort of didn't trust him to not step on a goal, you know? Anyway, I avoided disaster - and probably did better than that - but I do rather feel as though one of the biggest games I've called to date was a letdown in multiple ways. At least I never said the R----- word in full once, so there is that!
 

Red(s)HawksFan

Member
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Jan 23, 2009
17,594
Maine
So...I've discovered another reason I might not have been picked for the higher profile games going forward. Apparently, I used "Russia" instead of "ROC" or "Russian Olympic Committee" six times in the build-up to yesterday's quarterfinal against Denmark, including immediately after the opening faceoff at the start of the game. I also, I think in the context of the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" from four years ago at PyeongChang, referred to "ROC or OAR or whatever you want to call them", and I've been told that the bolded is definitely inappropriate, even (or perhaps especially) in the lighthearted context I was trying to use that phrase. In THAT context, I guess I can understand why they wouldn't want me to be doing play-by-play on the ROC's semifinal. I wonder how truly important that is in the context of their decision, but I have had a very severe slap on the wrist, and I must confess to having felt very morose while watching much of the women's gold medal game just now.
Is calling them "The Russians" okay? Because that's what the NBC pair is consistently calling them right now, and all I can think about is why you're not calling the game.
 
That first period tonight, trying to figure out how to be a remotely passable color guy *and* to not say "Russia", was completely and utterly terrifying. I pushed through and, I think, just about succeeded...but man, to have to do this for the first time, with a new partner, on this stage was something else. (More tomorrow, if I don't have an overnight heart attack.)
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2005
5,141
Alberta
That first period tonight, trying to figure out how to be a remotely passable color guy *and* to not say "Russia", was completely and utterly terrifying. I pushed through and, I think, just about succeeded...but man, to have to do this for the first time, with a new partner, on this stage was something else. (More tomorrow, if I don't have an overnight heart attack.)
Can’t you just call them “Douchebags Who Shouldn’t Even be Here”?

Literally, the big hammer of the whole “banning Russia from the Olympics because they’re chronic cheaters” thing is that YOU got dressed down for saying “Russia” instead of “Russian Olympic Committee”. Did you also receive a strongly worded memo?

Basically it was YOUR job to hold a nation accountable for fifty years of sports bullshit? THAT is the bullshit. Don’t let yourself feel bad about that, even for a second!
 
Did you also receive a strongly worded memo?
Literally, yes - more than one, actually! And I also had one of my bosses speak into my ears literally three minutes before going on the air to remind me/us again not to say the R word. (Which was right out of the "Don't think of pink elephants!" school...)

But in fairness, this is what I signed up for: OBS is an arm of the IOC (and the IPC). I'm not working for NBC or an independent journalistic entity. I do try to be pretty journalistic in the way I view and commentate on everything, and by and large OBS does want us to do that - we're not really supposed to reference drug bans at any length, but that's more in the spirit of trying to stay positive and not cynical rather than being told to whitewash everyone per se, insofar as we are trying to promote the Olympics to the world and certainly not tear them down. And I did reference Slava Voynov's domestic violence issues without getting my knuckles rapped, for example. Anyway, I have no problem with the guidance; I just did have quite a big problem wrapping my head around having to use "ROC" and not "Russian" as an adjective, even if I did use "Russian" twice in the opening and then had a situation right at the end when I said that "hockey is the national pastime, the winter pastime of Russia, the ROC" - which should be fine as I was referring to the nation, not the Olympic team, but still.

Anyway, here are Aaron's two goal calls last night along with my analysis of same, and then the entire penalty shootout (including build-up and aftermath):

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sBjCLUcINqj1fBnfh8TYFMjaxyTtmnrs/view?usp=sharing

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1olEWK3rgTQk1_tyHD_EN9OIW8VFRzhyY/view?usp=sharing

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Fnfs6BtiWexe-KymSYgo9Lg3K9qAFsJ5/view?usp=sharing

For a first-time color guy...this isn't bad, is it? On the first ROC goal in particular, I thought I was pretty much spot on, and both before and throughout the shootout I thought I got in and out pretty much right on time without generally resorting to cliche or banality (one or two exceptions notwithstanding). I think I have more vocal talent than Aaron does, by which I mean that I do a better job of speaking in complete sentences rather than staying mostly in the same register - and e.g. I think I would have done a noticeably better job of setting up the drama, shot by shot, toward the end of the shootout. But he's certainly a perfectly competent play-by-play guy, and although I think the delivery was a bit screechy, "The ROC is A-OK!" is actually a pretty great line in the moment if you don't mind the fact that it's a little bit corny. (He said after the fact that he had no idea where that came from - it wasn't planned and canned.)

By the way, the other reason that first period in particular was so frightening was that Aaron and I hadn't properly worked out a set of hand signals to communicate with each other. And several times, Aaron waved his hand in a circular motion which I thought at first meant "Keep going, keep going", but which I eventually figured out from his facial gestures meant "Wrap it up as soon as you can". That's kind of a problem, no? I mentioned this in the first intermission, and he apologized - that's visual language he uses with his normal analyst partner - but we still had a few glitches later on, particularly in the third period insofar as we had quite a bit of physical distance between us, and he was standing while I was sitting, and when he looked at the far end of the ice I had no way of catching his attention if I wanted to butt in with something. So on a couple of occasions I just shut up and didn't say anything...which is of course fine, but hopefully we can figure out a way to make this work a tiny bit better for the gold medal game.
 
I reached the finish line...and I'm pretty much out of gas, not unlike the men's tournament itself. It wasn't much of a spectacle, really: my verdict is that asking non-NHL players to play on NHL-sized ice when they're used to wider passing lanes was a recipe for negative hockey. Yesterday's bronze medal game was a real struggle, with both of the non-empty-net goals I called again at the far end and far side of the ice which caught me by surprise; my last three proper goal calls were all among my three worst in Beijing, although I did nail both empty netters - "Slovakia...Will! Win! Bronze!" - and summed up the competition well, and it was great to see Slovakia win their first Olympic hockey medal. (I also got to call a victory ceremony, strangely: Slovakia were awarded their bronze medals after their game, rather than having them all stick around until today, which I guess is bubble-related?) And today's final was close and fairly tense, but not of the highest quality; Finland won their first hockey gold medal, which is great, but it's not a final or a tournament which will live long in most people's memories, even if I will certainly remember Juraj Slafkovsky's name for a long time. Which is a shame, but maybe I'll get to call the best-on-best gold medal game in four years time? (I won't bother posting highlights of these last two games.)

So...I get on a bus from my hotel to the airport tomorrow evening at 9 p.m., I get on my flight at 1:30 a.m. (at an airport in which every shop is closed), and six days after I get home I fly to Copenhagen for the CHL Final. And then I fly from Copenhagen to Beijing via Istanbul to do it all over again for the Paralympics! It's nice to be this busy, even if I'm absolutely dog tired at the moment.
 

Mugsy's Jock

Eli apologist
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SoSH Member
Dec 28, 2000
14,387
UWS, NYC
Good travels, Conig. Enjoyed the updates.

So how was the food?? Was the spread in the Beijing Olympic press box distinguishable from the spread in Clarkson's press box?
 
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Bosoxian

lurker
Aug 17, 2021
123
Really enjoyed following this.

one suggestion- stay away from the hamburgers at the Beijing airport. Had one there and was followed by 8 hours of food poisoning while on my plane home. Not pleasant for me or anyone nearby.
 
So how was the food?? Was the spread in the Beijing Olympic press box distinguishable from the spread in Clarkson's press box?
I ate *so* well over the last few weeks. The OBS compound at each venue included a big catering area that served one or often two meals each day - meals with four different main course options, usually rice or potatoes, two vegetable options, a soup, a hot dessert and at least one cold dessert, along with several pre-packaged salad options. Honestly, I've not eaten that well for a while - I probably put on 10 or 15 pounds just from pigging out on the desserts! (And they had Powerade to drink as well as water - I mean, I'm more of a Gatorade guy back home, but we have neither in the UK, so that felt like luxury to me.) Not to mention, all of that was provided free of charge simply because I happen to have worked in a venue; I've still been getting paid €50 per diem on top of my regular pay for food, and I've spent so little of that it's crazy. I think I paid for maybe four meals at the IBC and six or seven meals in my hotel in my whole time here. No complaints!

Mind you, with regard to the Paralympics...even though I'll be at the National Indoor Stadium for all of those games as well, let's just say I've been told to bring a lot of snacks back with me to China. (No catering there for us...)
one suggestion- stay away from the hamburgers at the Beijing airport. Had one there and was followed by 8 hours of food poisoning while on my plane home. Not pleasant for me or anyone nearby.
Heh - not an issue at all, insofar as all of the shops and food courts etc. at the airport are closed at the moment. My bus leaves the hotel for the airport at 9 p.m. tonight, ahead of my 1:30 a.m. departure time (Aaron and I are both on the same flight to Doha before he goes to Dublin and I go via Heathrow to Edinburgh), and we've been told the only thing we'll be able to do is fill up water bottles at fountains once we get through security. So, um, yeah...let's just say we've been told to bring a lot of snacks with us tonight. (There was some buffet-pillaging at breakfast this morning.)
 
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While waiting at our gate in Beijing airport for three hours before being allowed to board our plane, Miroslav Satan dropped by and stayed for a chat for about 20 minutes. The whole Slovakia hockey team is on the flight to Doha with me and Aaron, and we were just talking hockey with one of Slovakia's greatest players (and the team's current General Manager) - about Slafkovsky, the other good Slovak prospects, the club situation in Slovakia, what it means to the country and their hockey program, Craig Ramsay, and how they expect to be greeted back in Bratislava. A wonderful coda for our trip!
 
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Once again into the breach: I'm currently at the Catena Arena in Ängelholm, watching Tappara Tampere at their morning skate ahead of their CHL Final date with Rögle tonight. It's so bizarre - normally this would be my biggest and most exciting assignment of the year, definitely in hockey but possibly of them all, but after the Olympics it kinda feels like just another gig. (Which should help me stay calm tonight, of course, not that I've ever not risen to the pressure of whatever commentary situation I've been in.) It's a much nicer arena and indeed commentary position to be than I had in the Olympics: just to the left of center ice, and VERY close to the rink itself relative to the Olympic arenas where the seating was separated from the glass by open areas. This is a proper hockey arena, with a capacity of just over 5,000, and it's going to be full and pretty noisy tonight - also very much unlike my recent Olympic experiences.

(I was just talking with one of the technicians here - he saw my OBS jacket, the logo of which I'll apparently need to cover up before transmission tonight for some reason, and he mentioned he was working on the skeleton/luge/bobsled events at the Olympics. I asked if he lived close to here, and he shook his head and said, "No - I'm Russian." Gulp. After tonight he's supposed to go back to Moscow, but he's not sure how he's going to get there given all of the airlines that are now refusing to fly to Russia; his current plan is to fly to Helsinki and hope that he can cross the Russo-Finnish border by train, but who knows if the border will still be open a day or two from now?)

Meanwhile, I'm due to fly Copenhagen-Istanbul-Beijing, leaving tomorrow and arriving on Thursday. My journey just to get here to Ängelholm yesterday was long enough, given that my suitcase didn't make the connection at Heathrow and I had to wait another four hours at the airport in Copenhagen for it to arrive on the next BA flight. The train to Ängelholm took another 90 minutes, so I didn't get to my hotel until 12:30 a.m. - and when I got there, the night manager told me that someone had already checked into my hotel room, so she had to scramble to find me another room. I kept telling myself that a) at least I got my suitcase on the day, unlike Sami Jo in Beijing, and b) that journey was still much shorter than the one I'm facing over the next couple of days!
 
I can't begin to describe how different today's game was from the Olympics. More than 5,000 fans in a small, sold out arena made SO much noise: they sang and chanted and behaved like the best European soccer crowd you've ever seen and/or heard. The stakes of the CHL Final were certainly lower than the Olympics, but it felt like they were dramatically higher. I could barely hear myself commentating over the noise. (I particularly liked the Swedish national anthem being sung by Ängelholm native and Sweden's 1998 Eurovision Song Contest representative Jill Johnson, who sang beautifully and then unbuttoned her jacket to reveal a Rögle jersey underneath.)

I did repeat a mistake I made at least once in Beijing by saying "Swinland" instead of "Sweden" or "Finland" - this time as part of my scripted introduction, which is pretty embarrassing (although I'm pleased at how I responded by just laughing it off and carrying on rather than getting flustered in any way). But generally, the broadcast went well, although in listening back to my commentary, I'm bemused by a) how my voice seems to have been in a slightly higher register than it has been, and b) how clear my voice sounds relative to the crowd noise all around me. I'm not sure if it was the headphones I was using or the audio mix of the broadcast or what it was, but I was hardly hearing any crowd noise in the background at all, which is crazy. I'll try listening again at some point over the next few days.

The game itself was hardly a classic; one of Rögle's very recent acquisitions from the KHL, Daniel Zaar (who at least was a Rögle player last year before moving to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod), scored at even strength in the first period and again on Rögle's one power play chance all game in the second period to give his side a 2-0 lead. Tappara chased the game and scored quite a good goal in the third period to make it 2-1, but that's as close as they got, and they barely managed to pull their goalie at the end to skate 6-on-5 for more than 30 seconds or so. Rögle's fans again went ballistic and were still singing and chanting more than half an hour after the final buzzer, until literally every player and coach and equipment manager had finally left the ice...and then, finally, another CHL season was over.

And now I'm back to Beijing tomorrow! More on that front later...I can report that I seem to be OBS's #1 hockey commentator this time (ahead of Rob Snoek, a former Paralympian athlete himself who has called para hockey in the past for the CBC and is part of our team commentating on the Opening Ceremony on Friday evening), insofar as I've been given some of the better assignments like the key USA vs. Canada group stage game, and two days of Group A games vs. only one day of Group B games instead of the other way round, and the 5th place consolation round game instead of the 7th place game, and the A4 vs. B1 quarterfinal instead of the A3 vs. B2 game. Anyway, I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting Rob on Thursday, ahead of a briefing session on Friday morning...and after many more hours of travel between now and then to come.
 
The Paralympics are underway, and I've called my first game - a surprisingly easy 5-0 win for the USA over Canada, in a matchup of the top two teams in the world. I was supposed to call the RPC vs. South Korea earlier today, but obviously the Russians aren't here, and although that unbalances the competition format, I'm finding myself less inclined to care about that with every day that passes. Anyway, I really, really enjoyed that; here's a snippet of action from the USA's first power play just to give you a sense of what para hockey looks like and how I sound, including a good Canadian save and the first goal of the game:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pTib300VWwbzaQs_upiEZb7iepH8AETU/view?usp=sharing

I think I've adapted well to the sport, and now know enough about para hockey terminology and its players not to embarrass myself. (Sami Jo was invaluable in this, as indeed is our other commentator Rob Snoek - Rob is a former Paralympian himself in athletics, and he's been calling para hockey for the CBC for years.) It's a really fun sport to call, too: just a tiny bit slower than women's hockey, I think, which means I have that split second of additional time to get my words out and feel like I'm in control of the flow of the game. And of course, what these guys are doing is incredible, although I'm trying (and I think succeeding) to call the games pretty much exactly how I would call non-disabled hockey.

Anyway, I'm still horribly jetlagged and running on fumes (I think I've slept maybe nine hours in total over the last three days), but I'm still having a blast. For some reason I've been given a suite at our hotel and have an obstructed view of the Bird's Nest from my bedroom - I was able to enjoy the opening ceremony fireworks last night - and everyone in the commentatary team is staying with me, so there's always someone to chat with at breakfast, etc. And of course everything is SO much less busy than it was during the Olympics; I should be able to sneak across to the curling during my off day on Monday, for example. Not too much to complain about, really!
 
By the way, I should also note that a) our commentary position in the National Indoor Stadium is now pretty much perfect, right at center ice and with very clean sightlines, and also b) it's at least 15-20 degrees warmer in Beijing right now than it was during the Olympics, so I'm very comfortable in every sense at the moment.
 
The USA is pretty good at this whole para ice hockey thing. They defeated South Korea 9-1 today, outshooting them 39 to 3, and it was 9-0 after two periods against the #4 ranked team in the world. Still a fun game to call - particularly insofar as the slightly slower pace of para hockey makes it easier for me to deliver clean goal calls - and the Korean goal was joyously celebrated by their bench as well, which was a lovely moment; it was actually only their second ever goal against the USA, at least going back through all Paralympics and World Championships back as far as the 2010.

I did have a funny moment at the end of my broadcast. I was speaking with Shannon, one of the two commentary monitors for the tournament, and during the final highlights montage (with music rather than commentary) we were talking about how long my final wrap-up would be. I was saying that usually I normally aim to do 30-45 seconds, but she asked me to aim for more like 45-50 seconds, so when I got my cue I started going through the American stat sheet, saying that Jack Wallace had a hat trick, Declan Farmer had 2 goals and 3 assists, Joshua Misiewicz had a goal and 3 assists...and right as she said I had 30 seconds left, the closing animation suddenly appeared and I went dead silent. It was such a bad mistake that I just laughed and said, "Um, that wasn't my fault, was it?" Shannon sounded like she'd gone pale and immediately said that investigations would be made and questions would be asked! And a short while ago Shannon passed along this note from Kostas (my uber-boss) via email: “Trevor from NIS/IHO sends his apologies for the miscalculation in the run-out of the KOR-USA game. He says it won't happen again.”
 
yeah, guy sounded a bit like you but there was a second voice doing analysis who was grating. Interesting info provided about the skate blades on the Canadian goalie in their commentary
Funnily enough, Channel 4 in the UK seems to be using my commentary - my wife shared clips not only featuring my voice but also a "COMMENTATOR: DARREN KILFARA" graphic on the screen. So that's nice. (I'd imagine NBC will use me for non-USA games; both of the two games I've called so far have featured Team USA, but I'll be calling CHN v ITA and also CZE v SVK tomorrow, and many other games besides thereafter where I'm likely to appear. In particular, I think I'm likely to do play-by-play the semifinal featuring Canada, rather than the one involving the USA, although actually I'll be calling every game from the quarterfinals onward either as play-by-play or color alongside Rob.)
 
Also, I should note that I'm currently in the Ice Cube watching the wheelchair curling (including USA vs. CAN). The strict "don't visit other venues" rule from the Olympics has been scrapped for the Paralympics; I'm even allowed to go up into the mountains on my off days if I really want to. Today I'm on a standby shift later on, so I can't go too far afield, but I have another full day off coming up with no standby assignments, so I may get adventurous. (The curling venue is amazing, by the way.)
 
That was a bad outing by the USA team. I had never seen this form of curling before and was hoping they had some sort of sweeping involved. It is basically throw and hope, at least for the US team.
Yeah, there's no sweeping in wheelchair curling, which means your margin for error is *so* much smaller than it is in non-disabled curling. That said, one compensating factor is that the throwing sticks the curlers get to use impart the same amount of rotation on the stone every single time, whereas in non-disabled curling, being able to twist the stone just the right amount each time is an important part of the game. (That nugget of knowledge came to me from Logan Gray, one of our two OBS curling commentators here - he worked for the BBC back in England during the Olympics, called the recent European Championships for Eurosport, etc., and in addition to spending a fair amount of time chatting with him at the hotel and in the IBC, he was there with me at the Ice Cube today.) Apparently curling at a percentage of between 60-70% is pretty good in top-level wheelchair curling, but one of the Canadians in the match against the USA today was over 95%, which is pretty insane.
 
I do like para ice hockey...but I really, really wish this current tournament was more competitive. We've had one close game, the shootout between Italy and Slovakia which Rob got to call; apart from that, no game has been won by fewer than three goals. Yesterday Rob called Canada's 6-0 win over South Korea, and then I had China's 6-0 win over Italy (which they led 3-0 after four minutes of the first period) and the Czech Republic's 3-0 win over Slovakia. The USA appears to be much better than Canada, who might be on a par with China but probably won't get to face them in the tournament at all; Canada and China are I think both much better than South Korea, which is probably better than the Czech Republic, which is definitely better than both Italy and Slovakia. It's entirely possible that I might leave here without having called a single close game; Rob is down to call the game I'm most looking forward to, the likely USA vs. China semifinal, and the other matchups I'd most like to see - South Korea vs. Czech Republic, and Canada vs. China - almost certainly won't happen. (The RPC's exclusion from the tournament has really hurt it, at least from a competitive standpoint.)

That said, the games are still fun to call, and apart from misidentifying one Czech goalscorer yesterday - I had no real chance, insofar as I was glancing at my notes when the shot was taken from distance and went in, and the camera zoomed in on the wrong person - I think I'm doing a bang-up job. The pace of life is certainly more relaxed than it was during the Olympics; I usually have breakfast with at least 2-3 colleagues, my bus trips to and from the IBC and the hockey arena are all much shorter, and I even had time to introduce a colleague to boardgamearena.com and played c. 20 games of Can't Stop, Patchwork and Lost Cities with him while procrastinating from doing the small amount of commentary prep I had to do that day. And it's *so* much warmer - at the end of the Olympics, I was wearing six layers of clothing on my upper body while calling the medal games from the National Indoor Stadium, whereas yesterday I was wearing two layers. It's really quite pleasant, in every sense.

So, today the knockout stage begins with the Qualifying Finals (or quarterfinals, if you prefer), and Rob and I are now working every game together. Rob is doing play-by-play on South Korea vs. Italy, which I think should be a comfortable Korean win, and then I do PxP on China vs. Czech Republic, which is the one game I think *could* be closer than expected. The Chinese won their group game 5-2, but most of that offense came in a short burst at the start of the second period, and one of the goals came on a bad giveaway by the Czech goalie (he basically passed it to a Chinese player who had an almost empty net to target). So if they stay tighter defensively, things *might* remain at least vaguely interesting into the third period. Even if they don't, though, I can take solace in the fact that I'm still doing something I enjoy and getting paid relatively well for it - so really, I have nothing to complain about!
 
I'm enjoying a day off within the closed loop of Beijing - I actually considered taking a 90-minute bus ride into the mountains and perhaps connecting from there to the Alpine Skiing center, but in the end I thought better of it and have instead stuck around the IBC to be social and get all of my prep done for tomorrow. Clayton, our commentary monitor, has been so not-busy that he and I have played a bunch of boardgames over the past few days, mostly via boardgamearena.com but also including some Rummikub contests with one or two other people here and back at the hotel. Like I said, everything is much more chilled out during the Paralympics.

Yesterday, though...wow. The first quarterfinal was mostly a snoozer, with the South Koreans demonstrating their class over the Italians and winning 4-0 (including the first empty-net goal of the tournament). Rob was doing play-by-play and was struggling a bit with the Korean names and player identification, in no small measure because the number "8" and the number "0" (which looks more like an "Ø") on the Korean jerseys are incredibly difficult to tell apart. I felt like I was well into the flow as the color commentator, and Rob seemed pretty happy with me even as he seemed a little down on himself; alas, it was another mostly non-competitive game, even though the shots on goal tally was surprisingly close (17-15).

But the second quarterfinal was everything I'd hoped for from a para ice hockey game. The Czechs had clearly learned from their 5-2 loss in the group stage to China, and they had a game plan which they managed to stick to pretty well: keep #17 Shen Yi Feng from roaring up and down the ice, get a bit physical, and make the most of their shooting opportunities. After a fantastic penalty shot save by Martin Kudela on Shen, China did take the lead through Wang Zhi Dong, in part because the Czech defender on the two-on-one committed to Shen and left Wang to bear down on goal alone, but their best player (Michal Geier) equalized to make it 1-1 after one. China managed to score in the 2nd and again right at the start of the 3rd to go up 3-1, and I feared that was probably that, but the Czechs dug deep and somehow found two goals to tie the game up with just under six minutes remaining. But the Chinese regained the lead with less than two minutes left, Shen digging the puck loose and feeding Wang for his second goal of the game, and the Czechs didn't have enough left in the tank to score one last equalizer. Easily the game of the tournament, and quite possibly my favorite commentary game in Beijing, Olympics or Paralympics - I nailed pretty much every call, felt like I was in complete control of everything, and thought Rob and I dovetailed quite nicely (except perhaps insofar as Rob's color commentary was slightly sparse, and I wound up adding some color of my own on the back end). Here are highlights of the key moments in the game that I've just cut together myself and should be ready on Google Drive to view momentarily...and if you're interested in para ice hockey at all, you should really watch this one all the way through:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mledjVAJJ_ymzOBiOomq6nH49j-23eyV/view?usp=sharing

Oddly enough, I chatted with Clayton this morning, and he felt like our flow was better in the game that Rob called...and it's quite possibly that my skills as an analyst may mean I cost myself a chance to do play-by-play in the gold medal game! That said, Rob (unaware of my conversation with Clayton) offered to let me call the gold medal game and take the bronze medal game himself; I said that was fine by me, of course, but that we should make sure Clayton and the other commentary monitor Shannon agree in due course. I won't be *that* bothered to not call the gold medal game, insofar as I think the USA will throttle Canada again and it won't be very close...but I still would like to do it, so let's wait and see what happens.
 
Are you able to get all the World News there? Or are your “hosts” curating the sources that get through.

any locals’ thoughts on the war in Ukraine?
When I'm connected to my hotel WiFi, I can't access Twitter, or Facebook, or Google, or Wikipedia, or Reddit, or YouTube, or most reputable news sources (BBC, The Guardian, etc.). I can access SoSH, and ESPN.com, and some other sites; SoSH is my best news source, actually, although the lack of Twitter access is annoying. But I can get to all of these sites on the official Beijing2022 WiFi network, which I can access on the ground floor of my hotel, at the IBC, at the hockey and other venues, and (usually) on the buses between sites. No idea what the Chinese think about Ukraine, to be honest.
 
I called three games yesterday, and what a series of contrasts. The two semifinals both finished with 11-0 scorelines: I did the play-by-play as Canada thumped South Korea in the early game, which was expected (if perhaps not by such a wide margin), and then I was on color commentary duty as the USA crushed China, which is definitely not something I expected. China had looked so fast against their Group B opponents, but they were made to look very ordinary by a US team that hadn't played in five days and skated unbelievably well. Rob and I both had the same 6-2 score prediction in mind, and when I spoke to the Chinese commentator calling the game right in front of us, he also thought that China would score but the USA would win. But we had no idea just how big the gap between the teams would be; if the USA doesn't defeat Canada by multiple goals in the gold medal game, I'll be pretty shocked.

In between those two games, we had the 5th/6th place Classification Game between the Czech Republic and Italy, which I got to call. The score in the Group Stage meeting between both teams was 5-0 for the Czechs, but Italy managed to hang around this time and even opened the scoring through Gianluigi Rosa in the second period. (Rob had a nice line when he said "Rosa was Johnny on the spot, or maybe Gianluigi on the spot" in getting to the rebound to score the goal.) The Czechs equalized on the power play, and then took the lead with eight minutes left in the third, but Rosa scored again to make it 2-2 with 4:12 to go. The Czechs kept pressuring, and Michal Geier scored his fourth goal of the tournament with 45 seconds left to put them back in front. But Italy called a timeout, pulled their goalie and got an attack zone face off draw with 15 seconds left: they won the draw straight to Andrea Macri, who pinged a shot into the top corner with 11.6 seconds left to tie the game again! Unbelievable stuff. So we went to a 10-minute, 4-on-4 sudden death overtime period, and with just over three minutes left Christoph De Paoli got the puck at center ice and came forward: I said, "De Paoli one against two, but sometimes you can win these battles...De Paoli, onto the right hand - HE SCORES!!!" I now know just enough about para ice hockey to have provided that kind of speculative analysis in the moment and gotten it exactly right, and that feels pretty darn great. What a game, and I feel blessed to have been able to call the two best games of the tournament, even if yesterday's game in particular was of no particular consequence. (Not that the celebrating Italians would have felt that way.)

Alas, this morning I found out that I'll be doing play-by-play for the bronze medal game (China vs. South Korea), and Rob will get to call the gold medal game (USA vs. Canada). This time, I'm pretty sure I know the reason: our two bosses both think I'm way better than Rob at color commentary. Or at least, in relative terms the gap between our play-by-play skills is narrower than the gap between our color commentary skills, and as such they think the broadcast is better with Rob in the play-by-play chair. Personally, I think it's more important to get the play-by-play as good as it can possibly be and not worry nearly as much about the color...but I suppose I would say that, wouldn't I? I mean, I've really been hoisted by my own petard here - if I weren't trying to hard to be good at color (not that I'd ever tank an assignment as such) or even if we'd kept our original assignments and not started working together at the start of the knockout stage, I'm sure I'd be doing play-by-play on the gold medal game. But it is what it is...and now I have to call the game featuring all of the Asian names as well. Which kinda sucks, and I'll be pretty cross if Rob doesn't raise his game for the final and the game winds up being close and he should somehow mess up a key call. But at the same time, this entire Paralympic assignment is a bonus, really, and it's not like I was dreaming of calling the para ice hockey final three weeks ago or anything like that. And I've had some amazing moments to call already. So it is what it is.
 
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It's all over, and it ended more with a whimper than a bang. The bronze medal game finished 4-0 for China, with South Korea never looking dangerous and China scoring one goal in each period plus an empty-netter right at the very end. And the gold medal game went haywire during Canada's first power play of the game, with the score still 0-0 just over halfway through the first period: the USA scored a two-on-none shorthanded goal to take the lead, and then 25 seconds later, the Canadian goaltender came well out of his crease passed the puck right to the USA's Brody Roybal, who basically scored into an empty net for another shortie to make it 2-0. Just a catastrophe, and the USA went on to win 5-0; I'm virtually certain the USA would have won anyway, but that was brutal. Canada came closest to scoring when Sami Jo's husband Billy Bridges hit the post; I was trying to watch the first period highlights on the OBS Player website during the first intermission and couldn't get the Player to work, so I went to YouTube and accidentally found the live CBC feed on which Sami Jo was actually being interviewed that very minute, so that was weird! (I was WhatsApping her yesterday before and during the game, and she seemed pretty nervous and anxious; haven't heard from her yet since the game ended.)

I was pleased with my performance in both medal games. After having been terrified of providing color commentary during the Olympics, I think I've really embraced that role during the Paralympics and was getting rather good at it by the end, although I think part of my confidence in that was knowing that far fewer people know more about para ice hockey than me now relative to the number of people who know more about non-disabled hockey than me. I think the reason I was most disappointed by not being able to call the gold medal game was for resume-related purposes - e.g., I'd like to be able to demonstrate that I was picked for the final on merit, whereas it's tougher to explain that (and expected to get work because) I was picked to do color for the final because I was really good at it - rather than because I desperately wanted to call the game myself. And as it happens, I wound up leading (doing PxP on) the Victory Ceremony with Rob in a supporting role, a suggestion I made which Rob readily agreed to, on the grounds that a) I was more familiar with the running order for the medal presentations from the Olympics, and b) I had all of the stats and player information in a form whereby I could rattle through every player on all three medal-winning teams very quickly and leave Rob just to chip in regarding the star players, rather than the other way around. I think that was the cleanest medal ceremony I've been involved with, and that too was a reason I'd wanted to do PxP on the game itself, because I knew I could help the postgame stuff flow really well.

Anyway, I managed to snag a ticket for the Closing Ceremony that was on offer, so that was my first opening/closing ceremony I've attended at an Olympics or Paralympics - and I'm so pleased that I got to do that, despite all of the logistical hassles involved. The ceremony itself started at 8 p.m., but the last media bus to the stadium left at 5:10 p.m., so there was a lot of chilling out (literally and figuratively) before anything started happening. But I managed to sit very near to where our commentating trio was positioned, at the ARD/ZDF (German TV) commentary position that wound up not being used, and had a monitor I could watch in addition to the live spectacle unfolding in front of me - a perfect way to enjoy the show. And it was a very tidy ceremony, over and done in about an hour but with some lovely moments and touches. (The sequence beginning around 40 minutes in with the timpani players on the virtual clock on the stadium floor beneath them was particularly breathtaking, and worth seeking out on YouTube etc. if you haven't already seen it.) After taking many bus detours early in the day, particularly insofar as I'd left my ticket in my hotel room and unexpectedly had to go back to fetch it, we got back to the IBC surprisingly quickly after the ceremony was done...

...and then nearly all of us wound up hanging out in a third-floor common area before going down to the (24-hour) hotel restaurant to order food and watch the Arsenal-Leicester match on my laptop via Sky Sports and my VPN connection until nearly 3 a.m. There were only 10 of us commentators and two supervisors involved with the Paralympics, and everyone got along brilliantly together - not a bad person in the bunch - so it was a wonderful social experience in addition to a fun commentary experience. We've got one last block of time together between when we're all done packing and our bus to the airport at 9 p.m.; Rob is already gone, but the majority of us are on the same Beijing-to-Istanbul flight departing at 12:50 a.m. overnight. And when I get back home, the first thing I'm going to do is make a volleyball demo tape, because Clayton - my HCM who is a former Team GB player and oversees a lot of international volleyball commentary - says there is work available in that regard. And Clayton is also involved in picking commentators for the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile next year, and he has a contact at the Asian Games who will know what might be happening vis-a-vis Hangzhou later this year, and I might have some Korean baseball on the go when their season starts in a few weeks' time, and so on...the merry-go-round never ends, but I certainly seem to be getting a firmer seat on it as time goes by.
 
Meanwhile, at the urging of Clayton, one of my Paralympic OBS supervisors and a volleyball commentator (and former player), I've started to prepare a volleyball demo reel - here are the first two sets of the final from last year's European Championship between Italy and Slovenia:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rYMyL9MzF8qyfeLOp1VywmTW5cnwZ6vx/view?usp=sharing

Clayton is going to review this before I call the rest of the match, but if we have any volleyball experts out there who wouldn't mind reviewing this and giving me some tips, I'd appreciate it! I watched a decent-ish amount of volleyball back when I was much younger, in the days when you could only score points on your serve, but I had to undergo a crash course in refamiliarizing myself with the sport to get this far, and I suspect I've got quite a ways still to go. (Apparently though, there is a high volume of relatively lucrative volleyball work from home out there, and Clayton - who I've established a very good personal relationship over the last few weeks - is in charge of rostering all of the commentators for a lot of it, so this is definitely a promising opportunity.)
 
On top of that, Clayton contacted me on Monday to say that he was going to be unable to make it to Doha next week for an assignment calling the first event of a new world Padel tour, and asked if I'd potentially be able to take his place - flying out this Sunday, staying for the whole tournament and coming back next week. "Padel?" was my response - it's a sort of tennis-meets-squash sport played in a cage with tennis scoring. Anyway, for a few days I thought I'd have another big earning week coming up, but apparently this has fallen through, on account of the fact that the producers forgot they'd booked Clayton in the first place and decided they didn't need English-language commentary after all? (Padel is apparently really popular in Spain and some other Spanish-speaking countries but hasn't penetrated the English-speaking world, so this makes a fair amount of sense.) Just another odd data point in the weird world I now inhabit.
 

Pablo's TB Lover

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Sep 10, 2017
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Quick update: I haven't done any commentary since the Paralympics, and don't have any gigs scheduled until the European League of Football kicks off again in June. The ELF has expanded to 12 teams, but we still only have the five English-language commentators, so there will be weeks when we pull double duty, which is good. I also have my first WTA tennis work since last August lined up for June, the week before Wimbledon (Bad Homburg, the German grass court event). It's all a bit lean, but I've been enjoying the time off and doing some marketing communications consultancy work - mostly designing PowerPoint presentations - to pass the time.

One fun assignment I've been given lately is to polish the script for the CHL Group Stage Draw event taking place in Tampere on 25 May. I'm not actually going to Finland or anything like that - TSN's Lindsay Hamilton is presenting, with Pekka Rinne and Olli Jokinen among the studio guests, and I'm rewriting the text that'll be put on the teleprompter for Lindsay (e.g., the questions she'll be asking to Pekka and Olli). It's quite interesting, really! I was also asked to rewrite the Power Break procedures that the CHL sends to all of the local production crews to make sure they know when their two commercial breaks per period; it's fun trying to find edge cases that don't fit the procedures, like what happens if there are no stoppages of play in the last eight minutes of the period and asking whether an ad break would roll over to the next period, and if so, how long into the period would you wait to squeeze it in. That sort of thing. For one, it's nice to get paid a bit of extra money to do this, but it's also helpful for me in embedding the procedures into my brain so I'll know exactly when the breaks are coming next season - I've always basically known the procedures, but now I have them down pat.

By the way, this year's Asian Games in Hangzhou have just been postponed on account of COVID. I'd been hoping to reprise my 2018 baseball/softball commentary work in Jakarta again this year, even though the production is being handled by a different company (and I don't have an "in" there, yet), but now I don't need to worry about that for a while....
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Is everything on your side wrapped up on the Tennis Elbow project? I know Manutoo keeps pumping out small updates each month or so with the new stadiums.
 
Is everything on your side wrapped up on the Tennis Elbow project? I know Manutoo keeps pumping out small updates each month or so with the new stadiums.
Good question! I really don't know - I haven't been contacted at all about it in 2022, but I'd imagine that once the commentary starts to get incorporated within the game, I'll have some tidying up to do. (And I'll want to do that tidying up as well, to make sure the game's commentary reflects well on me!)
 
I'm back in action tomorrow, commentating for the first time since the Paralympics - I'm pretty sure this is the longest gap I've had between assignments since I started this thread five years ago. It's Week 2 of the European League of Football (ELF) season, and I'm calling the Hamburg Sea Devils vs. Barcelona Dragons game. Not a bad draw, insofar as Hamburg and Barcelona recorded the two biggest victory margins in Week 1, but we'll see how this translates to the game I get to call. Luckily, I had called multiple games for both teams last season, so I didn't have to prepare either team completely from scratch; I have, however, taken it upon myself to collate all of the stats from all of the box scores of all of the games at both the team and individual level, mainly for myself but also for all of the other commentators, so that's kept me busy over the last few weeks.

Not too many names on the field any of you will know, although Giorgio Tavecchio is kicking for Barcelona, and the German former Boston College standout Kasim Edebali (who recorded 8 sacks for New Orleans in the NFL) is at the heart of the Hamburg defense. Oh, and as I was researching Barcelona, I thought I recognized the name Michael Sam...and oh yeah, remember when he was the first openly gay NFL draft pick (but failed to make the Rams out of camp) after his All-American senior season at Missouri? He was signed by Barcelona as an assistant coach, but when one of their other imported players suddenly retired a couple of weeks ago, Sam decided to suit up and get back on the field for the first time since 2015. So that's kinda interesting - certainly by ELF standards!
 

InstaFace

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Sep 27, 2016
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Glad to see you still letting us know how it's going! This thread is one of a handful where I have "notify me of any new posts" checked.

Love the Michael Sam anecdote. Bit like The Rookie - "screw these young'uns, I can do a better job myself!"

Can you share anything about how the business-generation part of your job has gone? Like, the sales aspect of networking to these producers, if Agent Tim is still doing well by you, other leads you're chasing down, how many millions of dollars Fox offered you to fill Joe Buck's shoes on NFL coverage, that kind of stuff.
 
Can you share anything about how the business-generation part of your job has gone? Like, the sales aspect of networking to these producers, if Agent Tim is still doing well by you, other leads you're chasing down, how many millions of dollars Fox offered you to fill Joe Buck's shoes on NFL coverage, that kind of stuff.
Eh...it hasn't been great, to be honest. Agent Tim has basically stopped generating work for me - I still pay him tribute for the WTA and FIBA assignments I get (as they were based upon the relationships he created for me), and every so often I'll benefit from my connection with him (like when he had to drop out of a WTA gig because of COVID, and I got to replace him). But I have to chase up those connections myself, and he doesn't seem to have anything else in the pipeline. I've also not succeeded in generating positive links with any US-based agents, not that I'm necessarily desperate to move back to the US given the way things are at the moment. On the plus side, the links I've made through OBS at the Olympics have been positive, and I'd like to think I'll now be in the running to call future Paralympics as well as other gigs in OBS' orbit like the Youth Olympics. Those long trips are really useful in terms of generating a lot of income in a short window, and if I can just get in for a few more of those, I'll be very happy. (I did mention the volleyball connection I made with my Paralympic colleague Clayton, and if I'm desperate for more work I could probably research the sport further and get onto his relatively lucrative volleyball commentary rota...but I'm not *that* desperate just yet.)

I did just a few minutes ago get asked if I would commentate on two more days of WTA action from Washington DC at the start of August, so that's nice. Still haven't gotten picked to call any WTA semifinals or finals yet, but at this point I'm just happy to be asked to get any WTA gigs, having dropped off of their radar for a while. Hopefully I can work my way back up that ladder in due course.
 
By the way, I just bought a big new printer (which is taking up an annoying amount of space now in my living room) - my old one still works for printing, but its scanner function seems to have died out, and I figured I was worth a decent upgrade. I mention this because this new machine is capable of printing sheets of A3, the UK equivalent to 11"x17" in the US, and that is *so* helpful for me in the context of the research notes I'm always printing out in my commentary work. For my ELF game yesterday, for example, I was printing off two sheets of A4 with each team's roster information and having to guillotine them precisely and then scotch-tape them together. So being able to print directly onto A3 is very helpful for me!
 
As for that ELF game yesterday, it was so much fun to be back behind the mic and calling a pretty good game of football. Barcelona (3-7 last season) scored on their first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead - Kyle Sweet, who used to catch passes from Gardner Minshew at Washington State under Mike Leach, scored both TDs - but Hamburg (last year's losers in the Championship Game) kept it close. It became 14-14, then Barcelona scored on a great shovel pass late in the 2nd quarter to lead 21-14 at halftime, then it was 21-21, then Tavecchio kicked a FG to make it 24-21 in the 4th. Hamburg chose not to go for it on 4th and 8 around midfield with five minutes left, and Barcelona picked up a few first downs and looked like it could run out the clock, but then their QB fumbled on a scramble and Hamburg recovered at midfield with about 2:30 to go, with no timeouts remaining.

After only picking up two yards in two plays, on 3rd and 8 Hamburg through a pass close to the first down marker which the referees originally ruled as a catch (with the clock winding down to the two-minute warning), but then after a discussion they changed it to an incompletion. Looking at the replay, it was *very* close, and I think on review it might have been overturned back to a catch. But Hamburg didn't have any timeouts left and so couldn't challenge the play outside of the final two minutes - and yet, their coach threw their challenge flag, and in doing so picked up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. So what easily could have been maybe 4th and 1 instead became 4th and 23, and a strip sack on the next play put Barcelona in victory formation.

I'm keen to watch the game highlights when they're eventually posted on YouTube - my game is the only one whose highlights weren't posted by the end of last night, grrr - but I think I did pretty well and thought I was definitely in command of the broadcast. It's weird having to jump into a sport that isn't in season (in the traditional sense) like football and have to get fully up to speed without being able to watch other games or listen to contemporary podcasts about the sport, but I didn't feel like I missed a beat in terms of terminology, remembering all of the NFL rules, etc. I was also very pleased that a rudimentary live stats service was up and running yesterday, for the first time in my ELF commentary history; although the service was always at least about a minute behind the action, and it went offline from around the two-minute warning in the first half until the end of the third quarter, being able to reference any live stats at all - and not having to write down any stats (or drive charts) myself - makes such a difference, particularly when you're flying solo.