Diary of a commentator

Today has been like a series of London buses stopping outside my door, to use a cliched British phrase. I've just been offered three FIBA World Cup qualifying games in a single day (Friday 1 July): the immortal troika of Syria v Bahrain, Egypt v Senegal, and Virgin Islands vs. Bahamas (Caribbean derby!). I mean...I guess I'll take it? I'm certainly going to be pretty busy now over the next few weeks - in the 12 days from 22 June to 3 July, I'm going to call four tennis matches, three basketball games and three football games. Good job I'm versatile, I guess.
 
Here are highlights of my ELF commentary game earlier today between the Barcelona Dragons and the Cologne Centurions:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmXBf4BOS7I

You'll notice that there is no commentary on the first two touchdown highlights - include a Philly Special-style WR-to-QB touchdown pass by Barcelona. That's because I wasn't able to begin commentating until there were two minutes left in the first quarter. Last year, technical difficulties meant I wasn't able to commentate at all on my first ELF game of the season...which was also from Barcelona. For a long time today I thought that fate awaited me again; I kept refreshing the Spalk studio (on my PC), and I'd get a bit of picture for a few seconds before the picture slowed down and then froze altogether. I must have done that at least 30 or 40 times, in such a way that I could actually see glimpses of what was going on and catch quite a few plays, but never in a commentate-able way. All I could do is wait, and pester my production contact on WhatsApp for updates. And then eventually I was told to log out, log back in and connect to a different stream...and suddenly it was working. A pixellated picture, but it was working, and so I just turned on my mic and went. (I was actually very calm about the whole thing, at least by my standards.)

The game itself was another barnburner between two 2-0 teams, with Cologne's Jan Weinreich becoming the second QB in ELF history to throw for more than 400 yards in a game - after Barcelona's Zach Edwards did that against Cologne last season, and at times threatened to do again today himself. There were long TD passes, missed extra points, a few big defensive plays, and an attempted game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter...loads for a commentator to sink his teeth into. I was also helped by the total lack of ad breaks during the game, in contrast to what I had last week (and what I was supposed to have this week). After the bad start, I really can't complain about the way the last three quarters went!

Anyway, it's onwards and upwards - I'm down to Leeds for two days of WTA Bad Homburg commentary on Wednesday and Thursday, and then back home for back-to-back ELF games on Saturday and Sunday. It's going to be a busy week of travel, prep and vocal work for me, that's for sure!
 
Flipping heck! I commentated on my first two WTA tennis matches today since last August; both were interesting enough (Sabine Lisicki continued her comeback with a three-set win over Greet Minnen, while Bianca Andreescu also reached the quarterfinals in Bad Homburg with a straight-sets win over the unheralded Katie Swan), but the real drama for me happened off court. I woke up at about 5:20 a.m. and set off for Leeds just before 6:00, and I made very good time, arriving at the office/studio around 9:15 ahead of my 9:45 call time, 10:40 sound check and 11:00 match start. As soon as I opened my laptop bag in the commentary booth, however, I discovered that I'd left my power cable for my laptop back in Scotland. I have two of them, but forgot to pack both of them - just a stupid, stupid mistake. I quickly dashed to the shopping mall across the road, hoping I might find a replacement at Argos - a sort of Sears Catalog-type store here in the UK - but after phoning up the store from which I purchased what is a high-powered gaming laptop, I discovered that you can't just buy a universal cable and make it work - most laptops operate on 65W or 90W chargers, but mine requires 180W and a special connection.

Back to the studio I went, nursing the battery power of my laptop as best I could to get me through the day - it died about halfway through the second match, and I had to use my phone for scores, stats and other random information. (There is a PC in the studio, but it's only used for video processing work and isn't connected to the internet, which isn't at all helpful.) Not ideal...but worse still were my fears about how I'd go about preparing for my two matches tomorrow, without any spare laptops available in the office. I phoned up a computer shop on the other side of Leeds, about a 15-minute drive away, who said they had a cable matching my specs; I was hopeful but didn't count my chickens, and sure enough, while the specs were correct, the fit into the socket of my laptop was not. I decided to risk it and buy the charger anyway (for £15), having been advised that I might be able to find an adaptor to fit my laptop at Currys/PC World, a chain store with several locations in Leeds. So I drove another 15 minutes to Currys/PC World...and they said not only did they not have an adaptor, they don't really exist. I pondered buying a brand new laptop on the spot, which is something I've been thinking about anyway - something small and cheap I can use on airplanes and short-haul trips - but the cheapest price they quoted for me for any machine was £550. Hard pass. I then drove to the B&B where I'm staying tonight, thinking that maybe they might have a computer I could borrow or use, but one look at my accommodation - which it turns out is really someone's spare room in their house, in a not-super-nice part of the Leeds suburbs - disabused me of that notion.

Discouraged, I went to Five Guys to drown my sorrows in a burger, fries and milkshake, and then popped back into the studio to do my work: I'd bought an A4-sized notebook and decided to do my research on my phone and write my notes down on paper, old-school. About 15 minutes of that went about as well as you might expect, and then I actually started trying to edit one of my PowerPoint files on my phone, which went even worse. Now I was starting to freeze in the hyper-air-conditioned studio, so I went outside to ask the production assistant (who had arrived toward the end of my shift) if there was anything he could do about that...and when I shared my sob story about the laptop, it turned out that he was about to leave and I could use the desktop PC he was on after all! While Google Sheets and Google Slides ain't the same as Excel and PowerPoint, this proved to be a satisfactory solution, and so I have now - as of about 9:30 p.m. - finished preparing for both of my matches tomorrow, Lisicki v Caroline Garcia and the tasty Andreescu v Daria Kasatkina matchup. Yikes...I need about two nights' worth of sleep after today!
 
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More chaos in Leeds...I was in the middle of calling the Lisicki v Garcia match, using my phone for live stats and other research, when I got an alert from my Xbox Family app in which my son was asking for more screen time. I normally have him on a two-hour limit each day, but getting the alert was odd because a) he's not really been playing the Xbox at all recently, instead being heavily into Civilization VI on his PC, and b) it was the middle of the school day. So I ignored the request...but then five minutes later I got it again. And then I realized that when I was using the desktop PC in the office to do my research the night before, I'd logged into Windows to try to access Office using my normal email address, but which in my Windows ecosystem is actally the address I've assigned to my son. And so the production assistant using that PC was on the verge of getting locked out, because he was being viewed by Windows as my Xbox-abusing son. This time I accepted the request, granting unlimited screen time for the rest of the day, and wondered whether Joe Buck or Jim Nantz ever had to put up with anything quite so absurd when commentating. (Last night I unlinked the machine in Leeds from the Windows account in question, so hopefully that's that, but I did wonder aloud whether the guys at DAZN ever wanted to have me back. Not that they have a choice - I'm back next Friday on FIBA duty!)

As for the tennis itself, I was quite pleased to get a couple of straight-setters and to get out of Dodge pretty quickly. Lisicki's feel-good comeback story ended in a second-set tiebreak, while Kasatkina was in one of her dark moods and succumbed all too easily to a fired up Andreescu. I'd realized yesterday (after reading a Tennis Forum comment) that I'd been mispronouncing Andreescu's surname - I strongly suspect that she goes with "An-DRESS-koo" rather than "An-dray-ESS-koo" because the former is easier for dumb people to pronounce, not because it's actually correct if you go back through time, but what can you do? I was shooting the breeze with Ravi Ubha in the studio yesterday morning, he being on Eastbourne duty at the same time I was calling Bad Homburg, and at one point he stopped and said, "By the way, just so you know, you were mispronouncing Andreescu yesterday..." Grrrr - a friend of his back in Canada had been watching. I *hate* being wrong, of course.
 
After a frantic day of prep work yesterday, today I had the first of two ELF games this weekend to call. It was a rematch of last year's playoff semifinal between the Frankfurt Galaxy and the Cologne Centurions, and the good news was that a) I had no technical difficulties with the broadcast at all, b) I hit all of my ad break marks on time or early, and c) I generally did my normal professional job of commentating. The game, however, was a terrible reminder of how far short in terms of quality the ELF is relative to the NFL, or indeed the NCAA, or indeed many Texas high schools. Cologne started the game with a run for no gain, two sacks, and a botched snap which led to a blocked punt and a Frankfurt TD recovery in the end zone, and it didn't really get any better than that. Frankfurt won the title last year with an 11-1 record, and three of those wins were against Cologne by scores of 41-20, 45-7 and (in the playoffs) 36-6; even though Frankfurt started this game at 1-2 and Cologne was 2-1, this game was 35-6 at halftime to Frankfurt and finished 48-12, with a combined total of five missed extra points (and a missed two-point conversion) between the two teams. Ugly, ugly football, particularly as the benches emptied in the fourth quarter.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg1DzxmfRNU

Tomorrow should be better, with 3-0 Barcelona travelling to face the 3-0 Rhein Fire - whose head coach is Jim Tomsula. (He coached the original Rhein Fire in NFL Europe before coming back to the 49ers.) But even if it's not...I mean, I'm still commentating on football, right? There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
 
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View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja0ui8mNrTI

That was...fine? Some more horrid special teams - the first touchdown of the game was Keystone Kops behavior by the Fire, who also missed a 19-yard field goal attempt - and not the most brilliant offensive play I've ever seen, but the Fire had a final two-minute drive trailing by four with a chance to win, so at least there was drama. (Barcelona held on to win 17-13.)

In listening to my highlights from yesterday, I actually wasn't all that pleased by my performance - my volume levels weren't consistent (I was mumbling occasionally), and the pitch of my voice was rising too high when I got excited. So I tried to dial that back, and I think I mostly succeeded, although I did stumble on the first play of the fourth quarter. I was trying to refer to the game as a "battle of unbeatens", or possibly a "battle of undefeated teams", but I mixed the words up and think I was trying to say "unbeateds" or "undefeatens" or something. And of course, that stumble came directly before Barcelona's go-ahead TD, and as such I knew it would wind up prominently in the highlights package...and I just about smacked my table in frustration. But in listening back to it here, it doesn't seem quite so bad, so that's nice.

Three FIBA basketball games to call down in Leeds on Friday coming up, and then I'm calling the Fire's trip to Hamburg on Sunday - so plenty still going on in my world at the moment, and plenty of research to be done in the week to come.
 
I've just discovered that for the first time, I'll be calling a game tomorrow in which a player currently on one of my favorite teams is playing. I mean, the link is incredibly tenuous - I barely knew that Senegal's Gorgui Deng was on the Hawks, and he's not likely to be playing for the Hawks next year - but still! (When I was doing NFL studio work for DAZN, I was involved with three Falcons games, but not in a play-by-play capacity.)

The process of preparing for international (FIBA) basketball games is kinda ludicrous, by the way. I generally prepare for each country by researching all of the players who have suited up for it in the current qualifying cycle, using a combination of the FIBA website and https://basketball.realgm.com/ and https://www.latinbasket.com/ (or the latter's other regional equivalents) - the amount of information available for each player ranges from "virtually none" to "way more than I could ever use". But of course, particularly in an international window like the current one, players who may not have taken part in the current qualifying cycle yet (e.g., because they were in the NBA or a big European league and wouldn't be released for qualifying games) might get involved. And the official rosters won't be made available until worryingly close to game time - particularly bad when I'm calling three games in the one day, like I am tomorrow. So I do stuff like email everyone on my list of FIBA-sent contacts who will be at the game who might be willing and able to give me an early sneak peek, and visit the websites and Twitter feeds of the various national basketball federations hoping that the rosters (and ideally everyone's jersey numbers) will have been posted. The latter is how I found out who was in the Senegal squad; I've also found a Tweet regarding the Egypt squad, but it's not exactly helpful:

View: https://twitter.com/EBBFED/status/1539239472155578369

The player names are embedded in the image, so I can't even copy them across to Google Translate - thanks, guys! (I tried using the camera function of the Translate app on my phone, but the results were sketchy and incomplete as to be effectively useless.) I'm hoping to finalize everything tonight, but we'll see; my first game, from Leeds, is at 3 p.m. tomorrow, so I can leave at a reasonable hour and still probably have time to finalize some things before the opening tip between Syria and Bahrain.
 
As a follow-up to the above post, I got a start list for the Syria vs. Bahrain game about an hour ago - three of the Syrian names were new to me, and no fewer than seven of the Bahraini squad have never played for their country at senior level before. And while I pulled some facts on Wayne Chism, the naturalized American who was 1st-team All SEC at Tennessee back in 2010, most of them have almost no information available on the internet - it's basically name, rank and serial number type stuff. The latter makes my research job easier, but could make my commentary life harder if any of these newbies are involved in the game. (Bahrain also a brand-new Lithuanian head coach, Mindaugas Lukosius, in place of former Celtics legend Sam Vincent; not much publicly available about him either!)

This is truly the glamorous side of basketball commentary.
 
I survived my basketball marathon yesterday and made it back to Scotland this morning. A few quick notes:
  • I'd gotten the time wrong for my games, which were listed in GMT and not British Summer Time - luckily that meant they all started an hour later than I'd expected instead of an hour earlier, but it also meant that my last game didn't finish until 2 a.m. my time instead of 1 a.m.
  • There was a legitimately awesome atmosphere in Aleppo for the Syria v Bahrain match - 8,000 fans (sold out arena), people bouncing up and down, loads of fun. And then when Syria wound up somehow losing to a vastly inferior team, the fans threw bottles (of water) on the court toward the end of the game. So that wasn't good...but it was a somewhat dramatic game, with Syria going behind by 20 and getting as close as 3 but never coming all the way back, and Bahrain had a 5'7" point guard who drained some 3s and just about led his country in scoring.
  • Egypt vs. Senegal started slightly late because of an unspecified technical issue in Alexandria. The feed from the arena was very glitchy, freezing briefly on multiple occasions and with the audio dropping out occasionally as well (so I was speaking with no background noise). And the lighting in the stadium was...odd, to say the least. The reflected glare on the floor from the lights was hideous. And this wasn't a good game; Egypt went on an early 15-0 run and was never threatened. Also, just when I was looking to get out of the studio to grab some dinner at the nearby Five Guys, Gorgui Dieng decided to randomly clothesline an Egyptian player with 1.3 seconds remaining, and the referees spent at least five minutes looking at the replay monitor to decide who needed to get kicked out of the game. Ridiculous.
  • The final rosters for the U.S. Virgin Islands vs. Bahamas game didn't arrive until the second half of the Egypt-Senegal game, and there were six new Bahamas players for me to research - one of them being Buddy Hield! Watching Hield play in what looked like a quarter-full high school gym, with a name patch on his back that looked like it might come off at any moment, was a slightly surreal experience; he actually struggled in the first half, with sweat pouring off of his body and him looking like he was very much in the middle of his offseason holiday...and yet he finished with 24 points in what was an easy Bahamas win. (If they can get Deandre Ayton and Kai Hunter to join up during the second phase of qualifying...)
Proof that I was indeed involved in calling all three games, before I start catching up on my research for the Hamburg vs. Rhein Fire ELF game tomorrow:

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

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z3HNEMjLto

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDZS2-HH0hw
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGNnHQi8wMQ

Not the closest ELF game I've called so far, but it was fun. The first touchdown was kinda crazy, a sort of 1-on-1 Hail Mary on a busted play which somehow came good, and then the extra point attempt was blocked and returned for two points the other way. Hamburg's Glen Toonga scored 4 TDs and gained more than 200 yards on the ground, and the Sea Devils got a sack in the end zone for a safety (I referred to Tim Haenni, totally off the cuff, as "the Swiss Sack Machine"), and there were several other interesting moments before the fourth quarter petered out.

It's maybe worth pointing out just how much more fun it is for me to watch a game - any game, really - that I'm commentating on relative to the normal sports I watch on TV. I'm not sure I've really talked about this before, but it's so true...not least because I'm actually part of the game in a tangible way, and I know that at least a few people are also listening to me watch the game. I get to hear the raw audio, without any other commentator voices over the top of it. My attention span is fully focused on the game; I'm not tempted to change channels. I know every player, at least to some extent. I'm fully invested in the result, usually because I'm hoping (as a neutral) for a close game. And when something interesting does happen, I get a double frisson of excitement, both for the incident in question itself and for how it relates to my commentary. Would I rather watch one of my favorite teams in a playoff game or the final round of a major championship in golf than a random ELF regular season game? Sure. But even with the former, my attention is rarely undivided, and I'm rarely as invested as I am when I'm commentating. It's kind of amazing.

That said, after what proved to be the last score of the game, late in the fourth quarter, I realized that my wife was AWOL and probably hadn't turned on the oven like she said she was going to...so while everyone loitered around waiting for the kickoff, I made a quick dash to the kitchen. As soon as I was done commentating, I had to go and make dinner, which felt like a bridge too far for me after everything I'd been through over the past few days, and I have now well and truly hit the wall. I should probably take tomorrow off.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL6BxVuOlCc

That may have been the worst broadcast I've been involved with as a professional - or amateur - sports commentator. Final score: Hamburg Sea Devils 70, Istanbul Rams 0. Hamburg is now 5-1, and Istanbul 0-6, so it was a mismatch on paper and proved to be in real life; the previous biggest margin of victory in an ELF game was 55-0. But much worse than that was a) the lack of live stats available to me, so I had to serve as my own spotter and quasi-statistician in addition to commentating, b) the inadequate camera coverage, with only the one sideline camera at midfield making it very, very difficult to ascertain jersey numbers at either end of the field, c) the lack of a time clock (or play clock) on my screen, so that I had to guess where we were in each quarter except when the referee announced that the clock needed to be rewound to a specific time, and d) the usually inaccurate down-and-distance graphics I was also saddled with. (Apparently the production team chose not to send a dedicated GFX operator to the stadium in Istanbul; well, it showed.) And we also had some audio bleed from the local Turkish commentators at the start of the broadcast, which you can hear on the first clip of the game. It was a truly inadequate production, and my boss at Spalk was watching and taking notes himself as we went along; I have a personal bye week coming up, but then the following week I'm calling another Istanbul home game, with another Istanbul away game to come two weeks after that. (I have at least extracted a promise that I won't get assigned any more Istanbul games across the remainder of the season after that!)

The funny thing is, I thought I did incredibly well under the circumstances - except perhaps in saying "gash" too many times on Hamburg running plays in the above clip. I stayed on top of everything and actually added a nice flow to the full broadcast despite getting no help whatsoever from the feed on my screen. And I was actually thinking at the start of my call about how I had no pre-commentary butterflies: normally there's always a little frisson as I wonder what I'm going to say, whether my voice will crack when I open mouth, etc. Mostly irrational worries, but the worries are usually there...but today, I didn't feel anything. Which I think is a very positive sign regarding how far I've come in this job.
 

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MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,563
Pittsburgh, PA
It always drives me nuts when the audio and video aren't synced. But in this case, I have to ask: is it because your own feed is lagged due to signal transmission over to you, and so you're always seeing the action a little late and that's just how the broadcast looks? Or was this a sync issue just in the highlights package, and to someone watching live it's all nicely synchronized?
 
It always drives me nuts when the audio and video aren't synced. But in this case, I have to ask: is it because your own feed is lagged due to signal transmission over to you, and so you're always seeing the action a little late and that's just how the broadcast looks? Or was this a sync issue just in the highlights package, and to someone watching live it's all nicely synchronized?
Honestly, no idea - sorry. (I will note that before my FIBA broadcasts from Leeds like this get started, a test pattern is put on my screen with a clock, and I'm asked to read the time in seconds in sync with the numbers as they appear on my screen to make sure I am in time. So I'd be inclined to guess this is a highlights editing issue?)
 

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MDLzera
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
15,563
Pittsburgh, PA
yeah I'm asking not to criticize, but because I'm putting myself in your shoes a bit. Just thinking about all the myriad room for tech discontinuities between what's happening in the arena, how long before you see it on screen and commentate, and then it going back to the screen of a viewer. You've seen just about every way that could go wrong over the last few years, but one I hadn't really considered before is maybe the most banal: a mere lag between the video and your audio, which makes it look like you're slow. Would someone catch that before it goes out? Do they rely on someone on twitter getting noisy about it? (I've definitely seen that when it happens with, say, NFL broadcasts). Seems like a hard problem to detect, even if it's relatively easier to solve.
 

jon abbey

Shanghai Warrior
Dope
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
63,182
I’ve actually seen the reverse problem a surprising amount in recent years, the announcer’s call comes just a bit early on a made basket in basketball or a called strike in baseball because of syncing problems, and that is infuriating as a viewer.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbjbqCfL0jE

After a personal bye week last week, I plunged back into the quagmire of Istanbul football today, as the 0-6 Rams hosted the 5-1 Barcelona Dragons. Istanbul and Barcelona had both had byes of their own last week; the Dragons didn't practice at all during the first week, whereas Istanbul released their starting QB, signed a new QB in the form of Isaiah Green (who started at Marshall for two years), signed a couple of new wide receivers and some young Turkish players as well, and generally overhauled their roster. So I had some hopes that they might at least be vaguely competitive...

...but I wasn't for a minute expecting that the Rams would eventually win 22-19. Is that the biggest upset I've ever called in any sport? While not an earth-shattering occasion at the macro level, it might well have been. Barcelona committed at least four or five key drive-extending personal fouls on defense; their center twice snapped the ball along the ground past their QB at key moments, once stopping a 3rd and goal chance and once gifting Istanbul a safety; and they generally looked super complacent throughout, like they just needed to show up to defeat the team that had been defeated 70-0 last time out. And Istanbul, while far from perfect, played a gritty game and made only one bad mistake (a red zone INT thrown by Green to a linebacker in zone coverage he never saw). In the end, the former NFL kicker Giorgio Tavecchio had a 42-yard FG attempt to tie the game in the final minute, which became a 47-yard attempt after an illegal procedure penalty, and he just pushed it wide left - that final penalty may have made all the difference.

The production quality from Istanbul again left a lot to be desired. At least I did have a live stats feed, but once again no graphics specalist had been flown to Istanbul for the game, so I had no access to a live clock or trustworthy down-and-distance numbers. I figured out a way to guess the game time pretty accurately by consulting the drive charts in my stats feed and subtracting the time of possession from the starting drive times; of course, then during the third quarter the stadium clock started to malfunction, and time thereafter had to be kept by the officials on the field, which meant that the stats people didn't have access to to the game time either, which left me entirely guessing. Luckily, I'm always able to find ways of coping, but still. What was potentially the worst moment was actually Tavecchio's final FG attempt, when the camera work (which was pretty atrocious throughout) was exceptionally bad and zoomed past the referees underneath the goalposts to the mostly empty stands, so that I had no idea whether the kick was good. But I took a chance the instant I heard the fans begin cheering and called it as no good, and I wound up being correct. Whew.

One other funny wrinkle: my favorite type of disposable razor hasn't been on sale at my local supermarket for about a week now, and I forgot to get one when I was elsewhere and had the chance to do so, so I decided not to shave yesterday or today. Which normally wouldn't be a problem - I wasn't leaving the house for work - but I forgot that in using a lip microphone, I'd be pressing the mic into my stubble throughout the broadcast. It wasn't exactly painful, but it was abrasive, and that's something I'll try not to do again in the future!
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uxtGduoBdQ

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LPww3HEmfo

Just a really fun pair of games for me to call this weekend - fun with one notable exception (that I'll cover below). Rhein @ Barcelona featured a 97-yard pick six, and a potential tying or winning drive with just over two minutes to go end in a fumble return for a TD. And Istanbul @ Hamburg - the reverse fixture of the game which just a few weeks ago finished 70-0 to Hamburg - saw Istanbul lead 17-0 at halftime (including a pick six; defensive TDs are loads of fun to call) before Hamburg rallied in the second half. Istanbul wound up kicking a 45-yard FG at the buzzer to send the game to overtime - NCAA OT rules in effect - and after Istanbul kicked a FG in their first OT possession to take the lead, Hamburg fumbled the ball right at the Istanbul goal line; it was ruled a TD, but one of their offensive linemen recovered in the end zone (after an Istanbul player should have recovered it first). Crazy finish to my first call of an overtime game!

I don't feel like I'm *entirely* in control of my voice as a football commentator yet. I get a just a little too high-pitched and emotional in big moments; I do want to sound excited in big moments, but within my core range of pitch. I will say that calling back-to-back football games in 24 hours is definitely taxing on my voice, but in truth, I felt slightly less in control yesterday, in my first game of the weekend. I'm always trying to work on this sort of thing - if you're not actively trying to get better as a commentator, you're only going to get worse.

One other incident of note: we had an injury-related delay of more than 25 minutes in today's game, as late in the second quarter Hamburg's Giovanni Nanguy went down after what seemed like a minor collision and stayed down for ages. I could see him moving his arms, so he wasn't paralyzed, but something obviously bad had happened, and he stayed down and very still while first a Red Cross van and then an ambulance came out onto the field to move him as carefully as possible onto a stretcher and then into the ambulance. Meanwhile, with no commercial breaks I just had to vamp and keep talking, remaining respectful of the situation but trying to be informative and at least marginally entertaining in a situation where there was really very little to say. At one point what looked like a little girl seemed to be lying on Nanguy's stomach; it looked like a doll, to be honest, but then I realized that presumably his partner (wife?) and daughter had come onto the field. I have no idea what happened, and you can hear from my calls of the incidents at the end of the first half and throughout the rest of the game that I wasn't at all subdued in any way. But this is part of being a football commentator, and presumably a boxing commentator or calling any other sport where serious injuries are an ever-present and regular threat - this sport can suck sometimes, in a way that transcends sport itself, and that's doubly true when you're talking about guys making very little money and playing almost entirely for their love of the game.
 
Oh, hahaha...totally forgot to mention another highlight from the Rhein-Barcelona game. Rhein's running back Daniel Rennich had picked up a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first half, and then in the second half he went out of bounds after a very long gain, gave two pelvic thrusts on the sideline in celebration, and promptly got flagged for a second personal foul and got kicked out of the game. I burst out laughing and said something like, "This totally reminds me of a Key and Peele comedy sketch - if you know the one I mean, you know what I'm talking about." It was only two pumps and not three from Rennich, but still:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGJb2iLvOKE
 

snowmanny

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 8, 2005
13,908
I’ve actually seen the reverse problem a surprising amount in recent years, the announcer’s call comes just a bit early on a made basket in basketball or a called strike in baseball because of syncing problems, and that is infuriating as a viewer.
I’m sorry, I only saw this now. I am pretty sure that’s largely intentional and very widespread. They want the announcer to say “home run” as the ball leaves the field of play, but naturally that takes a beat or to to come out of the announcer’s mouth, so they send the audio a bit before the video. But sometimes the basket is announced as “good” before we see it go in.

There was some play in a Chargers game where there was lots of debate about the whistle being blown before something else happened and I was amazed folks didn’t realize that the audio and the video are not synced. Although I have no idea whether it’s all audio that is a little ahead or just the announcers.
 
I'm back in Leeds on tennis commentary duty, waiting for Victoria Azarenka's match against Tereza Martincova to start at the WTA 250 event in Washington, DC. It's a nice match assignment today, and I only have the one match to call tonight...but what was a 9 p.m. call time for me (on account of my match having a "not before 10 p.m." UK start time) looks right now as though it might be as much as 5 or 6 hours too early. Mine was the 5th match due on court, after four men's matches...and at 11:45 p.m. UK time, it's 4-4 in the first set of the third of those four matches, and we're in the middle of a rain delay that looks likely to last at least another 30 minutes if not more. So I'm looking at possibly being lucky to get back to my hotel before dawn at this rate, with two more matches to come tomorrow evening.

At least I'm in good company here. Nick Lester, who is one of *the* voices of tennis around the world, is doing a rare stint of WTA world feed commentary this week - he called the two women's matches on the Stadium Court earlier today (and in the end was rather lucky to get away before the rain), and I had a brief chat with him after Emma Raducanu's match finished. Also, there's a WTA 500 event this week in San Jose, so around the corner from me are Oscar Chamberlain and Pete Odgers, both of whom I've worked and chatted with before; Pete was one of my OBS colleagues in Tokyo. It's a very rare week when I'm one of four tennis commentators and think I may well be the worst of the four - but that's a good thing! There's a list of all of the WTA assignments between now and early October on a whiteboard outside of the commentary area in the building, and I'm really impressed by the depth of good tennis commentators that are being used. I mean, I wish I was getting more tennis assignments, but it's much easier to tolerate not getting gigs when you rate the people getting assignments you're not getting.
 
My first ever washout last night! Left the office around 3:10 a.m., not having spoken a word on air, with torrential rain coming down. Azarenka vs. Martincova had been moved to a different court, and I was potentially around a set-and-a-half of the previous men's match away from being able to start...but no such luck. (I had several length chats with Pete Odgers, who is calling San Jose and had no such weather issues while waiting to call Gauff vs. Osaka.) At least I'll get paid for being on call, which in the past wasn't always the case on WTA duty when your entire slate was washed out.

Anyway, today I'm now calling Azarenka vs. Martincova at 5 p.m. (UK - noon ET), then taking a long break before possibly calling Emma Raducanu vs. Liudmila Samsonova - getting to call Raducanu would obviously be a big deal over here! - and then Wang Xiyu against the winner of my first match. I say "possibly" because the weather forecast for this evening is pretty dire again; I expect to call Azarenka-Martincova, and for the rest of the prep work I'm now doing to be wasted. But I am booked into my hotel room for tonight, and I've offered to stick around tomorrow - and get an extra day's pay - if required, so we'll see.
 
I actually got on the air earlier, as Azarenka vs. Martincova went off without a hitch. Oddly, this was the very rare occasion where I almost had reason to root for a longer match if my goal was to finish my work as early as possible - on the basis that a) it was the only women's match on my court today, so its length didn't affect the timing of anything else; b) I figured to have a long break between matches anyway, and who cares if that break was slightly shorter; and c) a long three-setter might encourage the winner (especially if it was Azarenka) to concede the quarterfinal later today by walkover if the turnaround time was too short, given the heat and humidity in the area. Of course, this is all probably immaterial given that play has been suspended on the later matches due to lightning in the area, and there is a wide band of rain apparently on the way, but still...

As far as the match is concerned, Azarenka saved a set point in the first-set tiebreaker and ultimately won 7-6(7) 6-2 in over two hours. For my part, my oppressive tiredness - from a general lack of sleep lately, exacerbated by the late night I had last night and the kid talking loudly in the hallway outside my hotel room this morning - is making it tougher to string coherent thoughts together than I'd like. But I like the sound, pitch and tone of my voice on the playback, and that's not nothing.

Anyway, Raducanu vs. Samsonova is potentially just over one set away, depending on how quickly the Dan Evans vs. Yoshihito Nishioka match gets back on court and then is able to finish up. Will I get to call any of it tonight, I wonder? (If I had to guess, probably not.)
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dt5q9lb6l4

I was wrong. The rain stopped, play resumed, and - after Dan Evans and Yoshihito Nishioka finished a 3 hour, 35 minute marathon - Raducanu and Samsonova finally took to the court at 3:27 a.m. my time. Or rather, that's when they would have taken to the court had there not been a problem with the net: whenever a court switches from an ATP to a WTA match or vice versa, the nets have to be swapped out so that the correct sponsor logo is shown. Well, it had to be this time that the people in charge of making the change had a glitch, and by the time a new net was brought out to the court in a box (no joke) - with Rennae Stubbs of all people doing stand-up on court to try and fill the time - another 15 minutes had been added to my evening/night/morning.

Samsonova is a big, big hitter of a tennis ball, and Raducanu basically had no answers to her but to push the ball back into the court and hope that the Russian would make errors. She made plenty in the first set, and Raducanu ultimately had four set points - two at 5-4, and two in the subsequent tiebreak. But she took none of them, Samsonova won the tiebreak 9-7, and Raducanu just ran out of gas and enthusiasm for the match right around the time that the clock struck midnight in Washington (with no small amount of irony). So my first - and who knows, quite possibly last - time calling Raducanu ended in a 7-6, 6-1 defeat, and me signing off the air at 5:39 a.m. I walked out to my parking garage with the sun having come up at least 10 or 20 minutes earlier, which did not feel good at all...and I had to check out of my hotel by noon to drive back to Scotland, so I'm pretty freaking exhausted, I'm not going to lie.

And I was pretty exhausted during the match as well, but for all of the difficulty I feel I can have stringing coherent thoughts together when I'm as tired as that, I always seem to summon up just enough adrenaline to get the job done. It definitely helped that Pete Odgers and Alexandra Dulgheru (the former world #26, calling her first day of English-language tennis commentary after several years of calling matches in Romanian), commentating around the corner, had enough time after Gauff's loss to Badosa in San Jose to pop round and chat for half an hour between roughly 2:15 and 2:45 a.m.; the sense of cameraderie I get from such encounters really helps me not feel alone in the middle of the night, even when I'm working alone on my own match.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLe-l_vGExQ

After an ELF bye week, I was back in action yesterday calling Barcelona's 37-15 win over Cologne. Barcelona is now 7-2, and Cologne is 2-7, but Cologne actually started the game by forcing two Barcelona three-and-outs, scoring a TD on their first drive and getting to 4th and goal on the 2 on the second drive. But a fumble put paid to their chances of extending their lead, Barcelona rediscovered their equilibrium, and normal service resumed thereafter. Both teams scored safeties, which was weird, but otherwise it was a pretty unremarkable game.

I actually had the start time of the game wrong on my end. Every other Saturday evening game this season had started at 6 p.m. CET, but this one started at 5 p.m. CET, and I didn't figure this out until an engineer WhatsApped me, asking me to start our audio test. I was very lucky to be ready for the broadcast and at my computer at the time, but still, that's not something I ever want to have happen again! I thought my commentary was fine, even though the live stats feed wasn't working; the only other point of note from the broadcast was the fact that my mother is over from the States at the moment, and before the game I'd invited her to come into my living room to watch and listen to me whenever she wanted. Because my lip mic has such a short sound radius, I knew she wasn't going to make any noise that would make it on the air...but what I hadn't anticipated was that she would settle onto my sofa during the second quarter with a book, and that within 30 seconds of sitting down she very loudly turned several pages in a very distracting manner. Sigh. (I had to shush her, and it wasn't long before she banished herself from my presence.)
 
Incidentally, my FIBA commentary supervisor organized a call with me for yesterday - I was quite excited and nervous about it, only for him to explain that he wanted to call me and tell me personally that he didn't have any games for me in the upcoming window at the end of August. I continue to be baffled by his non-use of me, although I'm actually kinda OK with that at the moment, given that the Champions Hockey League resumes at the start of September, and I was worried about having a LOT on my plate in the near future. (I've just submitted a preliminary commentary rota for the first two weeks of CHL games; there are likely to be two days when I have CHL games after ELF games, and those are definitely going to be very taxing!)
 
Absolute madness in my ELF game today:

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

In front of the largest regular season crowd in ELF history (12,055 fans - everything is relative!), Jim Tomsula's Rhein Fire (5-4) needed to win against the reigning champion Frankfurt Galaxy (6-3) to have any chance of reaching the playoffs, and with 10 minutes left it certainly looked like they would do just that: they led a very tense and entertaining game 20-15 and had 2nd and goal at the Frankfurt 2 yard line. Then an attempted handoff to the fullback was botched and led to a fumble which the Fire somehow recovered...and no sooner had I called the recovery, I lost the feed from the stadium. I didn't know if it would be a short glitch or something more serious, so I made a quick judgement call and decided to refresh my connection. I succeeded and resumed commentating just in time to see the subsequent shotgun snap on 3rd and goal catch the Fire QB unaware, and this time, Frankfurt recovered the fumble.

The Galaxy then marched slowly and methodically down the field with no timeouts, having wasted them all during the third quarter, and got the ball into the Red Zone just before the two-minute warning. Tomsula surely had to start calling timeouts at this point, insofar as a) if they ever got the ball back with the lead, they could just kneel three times to win the game, and b) they needed to save time in case Frankfurt scored to take the lead. But...nope. Tomsula did nothing, keeping all three of his timeouts when Frankfurt threw a TD pass to Reece Horn with 21 seconds left, and the Galaxy led 21-20. It was a truly hideous job of clock management, and I said so repeatedly in my commentary; Frankfurt missed the 2-point conversion, but that seemed unimportant, especially after the Fire's kickoff return only came out to their 31 yard line with 12 seconds left.

On first down, the Fire completed a 14-yard pass up to the 45: out of bounds with 6 seconds left. Tomsula finally took a timeout, and both coaches came onto the field to chat with their players. I'm looking at normal pictures on my feed of the sort that you would get during a timeout...and then suddenly the Fire had snapped the ball without warning and receivers were sprinting down the field. Their QB threw the ball deep, and they somehow seemed to have gotten one-on-one coverage: WR Timothy Knuettel caught the ball around the 10, wriggled free from the man guarding him and got into the end zone. And as I was incredulously commentating on this, I heard what seemed like an whistle and said "Hold on - hold everything!", and then I saw the yellow "FLAG" graphic on my screen, and surely there was no play and the TD wouldn't be allowed to stand. Sure enough, the referee announced an illegal motion penalty against the Fire - but then he also called a 15-yard penalty on the Frankfurt bench, on account of their coach being on the field during the play that I thought had been waved off. And then I see the replay, and the referees had spotted the ball so quickly that when the Fire snapped it, there were at least 15 Frankfurt players on the field as well as several coaches and I think a couple of cameramen. It was borderline farcical.

So I now announce that the ball should be spotted at the Frankfurt 45 - from the Fire 45, minus 5 yards for the illegal motion, plus 15 yards for the unsportsmanlike conduct - which, I noted, is exactly where the ball was spotted for the Championship Game-ending 62-yard FG attempt against Frankfurt last year which fell just short. Instead, the ball was now somehow at the Frankfurt 37. Huh? No idea how that happened, and apparently, neither do the live stats people at the game, insofar as they recorded a 5-yard penalty and a 13-yard penalty against Frankfurt. The Fire were still never going to attempt a FG from there (more on that in a moment), so with 6 seconds still left on the clock, they set up in Hail Mary formation...but I immediately noted in commentary that a quick completion might be enough to get them in field goal range. And sure enough, they ran a quick out and picked up 11 yards against non-existent coverage to get the ball to the 26 yard line with 3 seconds still on the clock.

Now, the Fire's kicking situation this season has been an utter shambles. Their specialist kicker at the start of the season - who kicked a game-winning FG against Frankfurt in Week 1 - was released after Week 8 due to gross incompetence, but the player they intended to sign to replace him then failed his physical, and somehow they never got around to finding a different replacement before the signing deadline a couple of weeks ago. Their punter had done OK kicking field goals and extra points in his first game, but after missing three PATs in a row to start last week's game, Tomsula replaced him in the middle of the game with one of his cornerbacks - René Hanssen - and he'd gone 3 for 3 on extra point attempts. Today, Hanssen's first XP attempt was a low line drive that barely cleared the crossbar, and his second was an even lower line drive that went UNDER the crossbar. Have you ever seen an extra point attempt not get as high as 10 feet off the ground? His third attempt, after halftime, was much better, but this was the guy they now had lined up to attempt a 43-yard buzzer-beater. He'd not attempted a field goal all season, and moments before I was speculating as to which of three possible kickers might be called upon to take a kick from that sort of distance...and of course Hanssen promptly drilled the ball almost perfectly through the uprights to win the game and keep the Fire's season alive. How's that for a way to call my first-ever game-winning field goal?
 

GreenMonster49

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If they are using NFL rules, then on offsetting penalties with one being a 5-yard penalty and the other being a 15-yard penalty, then only the 15-yard penalty would be enforced.
 
If they are using NFL rules, then on offsetting penalties with one being a 5-yard penalty and the other being a 15-yard penalty, then only the 15-yard penalty would be enforced.
They are using NFL rules, and in retrospect I missed the fact that the 15-yard penalty was assessed as a live ball infraction - I was thinking in the moment from the way the penalties were announced that the 5-yard penalty was live ball and the 15-yarder was dead ball, in which case both penalties would be enforced (right?). (An NFL referee would have added at the end of his explanation, "By rule, the illegal motion penalty is ignored, and the 15-yard penalty is enforced," or something like that.) But I don't think I'm mistaken in saying that the ball was still moved 18 yards forward instead of 15, which is super weird and a clear mistake.
 

GreenMonster49

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They are using NFL rules, and in retrospect I missed the fact that the 15-yard penalty was assessed as a live ball infraction - I was thinking in the moment from the way the penalties were announced that the 5-yard penalty was live ball and the 15-yarder was dead ball, in which case both penalties would be enforced (right?). (An NFL referee would have added at the end of his explanation, "By rule, the illegal motion penalty is ignored, and the 15-yard penalty is enforced," or something like that.) But I don't think I'm mistaken in saying that the ball was still moved 18 yards forward instead of 15, which is super weird and a clear mistake.
It's clear that there ought to have been a better explanation.

The NFL rulebook was clearly not written (or influenced) by either Strunk or White, but I think that when there is a 15-yard penalty and a 5-yard penalty on the two teams, the 15-yard penalty takes precedence except in cases where there is a change of possession. (I'm looking at rules 14-1-9 and 14-3-1.)
 
The NFL rulebook was clearly not written (or influenced) by either Strunk or White, but I think that when there is a 15-yard penalty and a 5-yard penalty on the two teams, the 15-yard penalty takes precedence except in cases where there is a change of possession. (I'm looking at rules 14-1-9 and 14-3-1.)
FWIW, I went back and listened to the call again, and the referee actually said the illegal motion penalty against the Fire was before the play, whereas the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Galaxy coach was during the play. When they announce that a penalty is before the play, doesn't that normally mean it's a dead ball foul and there should be no play? Would that render the unsportsmanlike conduct call moot? (I feel like @CFB_Rules ought to weigh in here as well...I'm normally pretty good with the rules, but this was such a weird situation that I'm struggling to get my head fully around it.)
 

CFB_Rules

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FWIW, I went back and listened to the call again, and the referee actually said the illegal motion penalty against the Fire was before the play, whereas the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Galaxy coach was during the play. When they announce that a penalty is before the play, doesn't that normally mean it's a dead ball foul and there should be no play? Would that render the unsportsmanlike conduct call moot? (I feel like @CFB_Rules ought to weigh in here as well...I'm normally pretty good with the rules, but this was such a weird situation that I'm struggling to get my head fully around it.)
What a video! Seems like every play there was something that someone on the officiating crew did mechanically that was a head scratcher for me.

But for the play in question: The video starts late, but it looks like the ball is snapped from the minus-48. I'm saying that based solely on the position of the down judge at the top of the screen who is expected to hold the line of scrimmage. Of course there is no other reference to help us here (no box or chains in sight....where the hell are they? They are there for every other play so it's not a Euro league thing). In that case the 15 yard penalty would bring you to the plus-37 and the mystery is solved.

The announcement wasn't horrible, but for a pro league game I'd expect a little better. He announced false start, not illegal motion. So the play never happened and was whistled dead prior to the snap, albeit a little lackadaisically. Then he should have announced what was going to happen to that penalty (declined by rule or whatever). Then announce the second foul for UNS. You can tell he tried to get there on the back end by saying "This foul will be enforced", which obviously implies that one of the fouls will NOT be enforced.
 
But for the play in question: The video starts late, but it looks like the ball is snapped from the minus-48. I'm saying that based solely on the position of the down judge at the top of the screen who is expected to hold the line of scrimmage. Of course there is no other reference to help us here (no box or chains in sight....where the hell are they? They are there for every other play so it's not a Euro league thing). In that case the 15 yard penalty would bring you to the plus-37 and the mystery is solved.
Thanks - that's it, mystery solved. I now know what my problem was: the live stats feed I get during the game just isn't very reliable. That feed, as well as the play-by-play in the postgame box score, told me that the previous play had started at the Fire 45, whereas in fact in looking at the replay - the full replay, not just the highlights feed - the ball was very clearly snapped at the Fire 48 on the play with the two penalties. So yes, 15 yards from there takes the ball to the Galaxy 37. (This is just part of calling lower-league, lower-production-quality football, I guess: I'm not always lucky enough to have a full live stats package available to me when commentating on the ELF, but I clearly need to be even more skeptical of certain things it is telling me when I do have it.)
 
I belong to a FIBA World Cup Qualifying group on WhatsApp, with the feed being used by commentators to keep the producers abreast of issues in their games and by producers to let commentators to know the rosters before each game, etc. Let's just say that it's more than a touch irksome to being bombarded with messages by commentators that I clearly believe are inferior to me at basketball during a WCQ window in which I've not been assigned any games. (I've turned notifications off, but the messages are still coming in.) I can't exactly withdraw from the group, either, as I don't want to put my hopes of future work in jeopardy...it's all rather frustrating.

In other news, I participated in a CHL commentary test yesterday which involved me calling the first period of last year's CHL Final while the production team listened and made sure the settings were OK. It's funny...I called the game in person last year, so now I was calling it off-tube for the first time! It was actually quite good practice ahead of this year's competition, which starts in six days' time; I'm currently busy researching the nine teams I'm going to be calling over the next two weeks as part of Group Stage games 1-4 for each club. I've got a hideously busy schedule coming up, with 2 ELF games and 8 CHL games to call between 1-11 September (inclusive) and another ELF game this Sunday, along with an all-day trip I'm taking with my daughter on Monday to tour a Scottish university; I'm already weary of researching hockey players, but there's nothing I can do but keep pressing on.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDMKSZSjN9g

Two playoff-bound teams - Vienna at 9-1, Barcelona at 8-2 - faced off in Austria today, and it was another fun game to call. The key moment came after Vienna intercepted a pass with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter, leading by 4; a long bomb was thrown down the sideline and caught by Johannes Schuetz, and I was certain in my call of the play that he must have been down by contact, even though he got up and raced into the end zone. A touchdown was signalled, but I was sure that the play would go to a video review to make sure...and then it didn't. The extra point was attempted and converted, and the Barcelona head coach earned himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for being on the field as the kick was being taken, presumably for complaining about the lack of a review. I'm glad the edit in the highlight reel includes the replay of the touchdown, instead of just leaving me sounding silly for having assumed the play would be brought back; in looking at it again, if I had to guess I think Schuetz was down by contact at the point of the catch (even if it was closer than I thought at the time, and I should have left both possibilities open in my call instead of guessing one way or the other), but I'm baffled as to why they didn't review the play at all.

Anyway, I did feel very positive about my commentary on the whole, although I did stumble slightly on my call of Barcelona's final touchdown; I was rattling off facts and figures and transitioning between topics pretty effortlessly, even though this was my first Vienna game of the season. And the game was done from start-to-finish in two-and-a-half hours, which was a result in and of itself!
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaIOB94EbOI

My new hockey season began today, as I called a pretty decent and competitive 3-2 win for Fribourg-Gotteron (Switzerland) over CHL debutants Ilves Tampere (Finland). I realized after I'd finished the first period that I hadn't called a hockey game off-tube since the CHL semifinals in January...and in looking back after the game at my assignments from this year, I see I had called 39 hockey or para hockey games live from venue in the interim, including the Olympics and the Paralympics and the CHL Final in March. So perhaps it's quite natural that I felt a little bit rusty calling hockey off of a TV screen! My voice didn't quite seem to be in the right register again; I feel like I need to listen to more of my call of games at the Olympics, where I sounded pretty much right on point, and compare and contrast that with how I sounded this evening. But it's all fine.

(By the by, the above video is the postgame highlights reel I voiced over, rather than highlights including my actual commentary. This is the way we've always done it on CHL games - I do this unscripted, downloading the raw video file and plugging it into Adobe Premiere Pro to give me the most flexibility with regard to editing anything that needs fixing. Tonight, it took 14 minutes from the moment I'd finished downloading the video file to the moment I finished uploading the audio file; I'm pretty much in midseason form in that regard, particularly given that newbies in our crew have been known to take an hour or two to get this process done.)

I'm again herding cats this season with regard to the other CHL commentators, assigning them to their games and helping keep everyone on the straight and narrow. Having produced a comprehensive team name pronunciation guide, it was disappointing to hear (and hear of) several commentators getting it wrong in that regard! Even more disappointing was being told by my production contact at Spalk that he had me and two other commentators down to call different games tomorrow than the ones I'd put down for everyone. Not an immediate problem for me - I'm definitely going to call the game I've prepared for (Jukurit vs. Luleå) - but it likely will for at least one of the other guys if they haven't prepared for the correct games, which obviously sucks for them.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QHtCKy5zIU

Not too much to say about this game, which Luleå dominated pretty much from start to finish. I've been experimenting with different ways of displaying who is on which line for both teams in my prep, with several quite colorful Excel spreadsheets giving me marginal benefit relative to the effort I've put into them, but I'll keep working at it as and when I have the time. I've certainly been kept busy with my commentator cat-herding; one new guy is in danger of being sacked after only one game after someone in the CHL hierarchy formally complained about his performance (!), and I had an unfortunate to-and-fro involving another commentator who thought he was being accused of shoddy preparations when it was pointed out to him that he had started commentating later than he should have on both of his games so far, only for it to emerge that he'd been affected by technical glitches on both occasions. (His response, though understandable, was somewhat over the top.)

Tomorrow is going to be quite a day. My son has a (field) hockey game in Edinburgh in the morning that I have to take him to, so I'll be out from roughly 8:30 a.m. until noon; then I'm calling my final regular season ELF game of the year (1-10 Cologne vs. 2-9 Istanbul, which should be a high-scoring mess for both teams), with my broadcast starting at 1:45 p.m.; then I also have a CHL game, Red Bull Salzburg vs. Ilves Tampere, to call at 7:30 p.m. I'm already just trying to survive the next week-and-a-half, really.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9jbFXT6Mu4

I am very, very tired. The first half of the Cologne-Istanbul football game took an hour and 43 minutes - full of points, penalties and way too many stoppages. This is a league where the average game takes about 2:45 from start to finish; it was 30-23 at halftime, and I thought I was in for the full college football length experience. Thankfully, the second half was faster, and it was still a fun enough game to call despite the lowly nature of the teams (and the lack of proper live stats). Plus, the Terryon Robinson TD catch at 1:25 of the video was a thing of beauty. But it did mean I was already a bit winded ahead of my second game of the day...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94uYx_-yE1Y

...which of course had to go to overtime! Not that I'm complaining - I got to call a 6-on-5 game-tying goal by Red Bull Salzburg and then a late OT winner by Ilves Tampere - but after voicing over the highlights (and getting quite a few things wrong in the process), and now turning on the Georgia-Oregon game to see the score is 28-3 (of course), I think I'm just about ready to fall fast asleep.
 
So... @CFB_Rules, I meant to flag this crazy play from my football game yesterday for you - I think I've set the video so it starts at the 2:23 mark:

View: https://youtu.be/Z9jbFXT6Mu4?t=143

I don't think I actually knew you could muff a kickoff, but presumably the refereeing crew actually got this right (after a lengthy review)? Istanbul was receiving a kickoff, and the returner muffed the ball in such a way that it ricocheted 20 yards forward; a Cologne player recovered and seemed to be headed to the end zone when an Istanbul player punched the ball out and into the back of the end zone, where another Istanbul player recovered. I assumed in my commentary that Istanbul would be awarded a touchback, but because you can't advance a muff - which I think I would have remembered was the case on a punt - Cologne got to keep the ball at the sport of the recovery. That's all in order, correct? (NFL rules, of course, if that makes a difference.)
 
Meanwhile:

View: https://youtu.be/xWnwl9pdGug

My first marathon week ended with a 3-2 Luleå win at Sparta Prague. 1-0 going into the third before Sparta equalized, then Luleå retook the lead five minutes later and scored an empty-netter to seal the wiin, before Sparta scored a consolation goal with 3 seconds left. Not a brilliant game to call, but at least a pretty close one...and for whatever reason, I felt much better about how I sounded throughout the broadcast. I think being tired and slightly lower-energy actually works for me; maybe I get a bit too ramped up when I'm less tired, and taking just a little bit of the edge of puts me more comfortably in the range of where I want my voice to be. Strange.

Anyway, now I get three whole days off - days in which I need to prepare for five more games (and one of which will see me taking my daughter to and from Glasgow for another university open day). I'm very lucky that my ELF playoff game on Sunday will be a repeat of the regular season game I called last week - Barcelona at Vienna - and as such the prep work I'll need to do should be fairly minimal. But still, my nose is very much still to the grindstone.
 

CFB_Rules

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Nov 29, 2016
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So... @CFB_Rules, I meant to flag this crazy play from my football game yesterday for you - I think I've set the video so it starts at the 2:23 mark:

View: https://youtu.be/Z9jbFXT6Mu4?t=143

I don't think I actually knew you could muff a kickoff, but presumably the refereeing crew actually got this right (after a lengthy review)? Istanbul was receiving a kickoff, and the returner muffed the ball in such a way that it ricocheted 20 yards forward; a Cologne player recovered and seemed to be headed to the end zone when an Istanbul player punched the ball out and into the back of the end zone, where another Istanbul player recovered. I assumed in my commentary that Istanbul would be awarded a touchback, but because you can't advance a muff - which I think I would have remembered was the case on a punt - Cologne got to keep the ball at the sport of the recovery. That's all in order, correct? (NFL rules, of course, if that makes a difference.)
Yup they are spot on. The kicking team can never advance a kick (whether it’s a free kick or scrimmage kick beyond the neutral zone) and a kick is a kick until the ball is fully possessed.

What’s the deal with the restraining lines being 30 yards downfield on the kick?
 
What’s the deal with the restraining lines being 30 yards downfield on the kick?
The ELF is using the kickoff rules that the XFL tried a year or two ago. Major touchback (out to the 30) if a kickoff lands in the end zone, minor touchback (out to the 20) if it bounces into the end zone; penalty (equivalent to out-of-bounds) for not kicking it in the air to at least the other team's 20; players in the two lines can't move until the ball is caught or until it's been on the ground for 3 seconds. It's worked...OK, I guess?
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojpbAs9VzRY

Back in CHL action today with a very entertaining game between EV Zug (SUI) and Grizzlys Wolfsburg (GER). (And no, that's not a typo: they call themselves the "Grizzlys", not the "Grizzlies".) Zug led 1-0 through a goal by Dario Simion, but Wolfsburg scored twice thereafter to make it 2-1 after the 1st period. Zug scored the only two goals of the 2nd period - including one on a penalty shot - but Wolfsburg scored on a power play with five-and-a-half minutes in the game to tie things up and eventually take us to overtime. But Zug began OT on the power play, and Simion scored the game-winner just before the 4-on-3 chance ended. All of that makes it sound like an even game, but in fact Zug outshot Wolfsburg 53-18 - including 27-3 in the 2nd period! - and it took a great performance in the Grizzlys net by Dustin Strahlmeier to keep it close. Lots of shots and saves, seven goals, a strong narrative, an overtime winner...what's not to like?

I also felt really on top of my game today, thanks in no small part to a very good decision I made shortly before start of the game: I brought a desk lamp into my commentary setup and shined it on my notes pages. That sounds kinda stupid, but being able to see everything so much more clearly - with direct, bright light that was angled down and away from the TV on which I was watching the game, instead of using all of the overhead lights in my living room - really seemed to energize me. This will definitely become part of my home/Spalk routine going forward, even when calling games during the day!

One other point of note: two of Wolfsburg's goals were scored by Tyler Morley, a well-travelled Canadian who played for Tappara Tampere in the most recent CHL Final in March that I called in Sweden. Morley played for four years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, which gave me a chance during my call of the game to (tastefully, appropriately and briefly) reference my first-ever commentary game on radio or television - which was in Fairbanks on December 21, 1994. I don't know if I've told this story before or not, but I remember that date without looking it up, because it was the Winter Solstice and the sun was only barely over the horizon for about four hours that day, and it was -22 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Harvard scheduled a pair of games that season at UAF on the 21st and 22nd, and although I was covering the team that point as a writer for The Harvard Crimson rather than as a commentator for WHRB 95.3 FM, the two organizations decided they only had enough money in their budgets to send one person on such a long trip, and I was able to perform both duties. I did the play-by-play, and Assistant Sports Information Director Mike Jackman did the color, and it was a memorable trip from start to finish; I travelled with the team, and I remember going to a restaurant the night before the game (having flown to Fairbanks via Salt Lake City) and most of the players getting Alaskan King Crab at $42 a person, and I remember visiting a Santa-themed shop in nearby North Pole, Alaska on the day of the first game. And although my commentary was probably terrible by my current standards, I remember listening to my tapes of the games very fondly...and I definitely remember two specific moments of commentary. First, one of the UAF players had the surname "Moberg", and Mike made a reference to having recently read The Catcher Was a Spy, and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Second, one of the UAF goaltenders had the surname "Fish", and when Harvard scored its 7th goal (I think it was) in the second game en route to a blowout win, I shrieked, "And Fish is totally at sea!" - because his positioning on the goal was very poor. I had no idea I'd made such a terrible pun until I got back to Cambridge.

Anyway, if I hadn't called those two games, I'm not sure I would have returned to call two full years' worth of games for WHRB after my year abroad in Scotland - and if I hadn't done that, I almost certainly never would have become a professional commentator as such. So, yeah. (Also, my alcoholic father committed suicide back in Atlanta two-and-a-half weeks after I got back from Fairbanks - while I was in the middle of a road trip with Harvard hockey away to Clarkson and St. Lawrence, actually - and those were the only two games he ever knew I'd commentated on. I don't think about him all that often these days, but given that I bonded most closely with him when we were watching sports on television together, and that my interest and love of good commentary is inextricably linked with those childhood memories, I really would have loved to have him in my life now to see what I've become able to do for a living. So, yeah, again.)
 
Meanwhile, to segue to much more mundane matters, I've learned that the big ELF playoff semifinal this weekend that I'm calling between Vienna and Barcelona can't take place at the Generali Stadium, where the Vikings have played all of their home games to-date. There's apparently rain forecast for Vienna this weekend, and FK Austria Wien - the stadium's main tenant - doesn't want the turf to get chewed up. So the game will be played at what I think is Vienna's practice facility, which I understand has seating for barely 1,000 people...and I have no idea how it will look on television (e.g., what sorts of camera positions will be available), or whether they'll be able to convey live stats to us during the game, etc. It's not a great look for the league, but it is what it is, and as usual I'm sure I'll find a way to cope.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huZlN6k_bVY

I got to commentate on one of my favorite ever CHL Group Stage games today. Luleå was favored over Jukurit in a rematch of their game I called last week, but Jukurit led 1-0 after the first period and 2-0 early in the second. Then a few minutes later, Jukurit's starting goaltender - Markus Ruusu - got plonked on the head in a goalmouth scramble and had to leave the game. And for some reason, the #1 goaltender on Jukurit's depth chart (Frans Tuohimaa) hadn't dressed for the game, which meant the 20-year-old Lukas Silvennoinen had to come in and make his senior debut with the club...and although he gave up one goal in the second period to Isac Brännström, he still stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced *in the period* (in 13:21 of ice time). It was one of those awesome stories you just love as a commentator; he was unconscious, and Jukurit was still in front 2-1 going into the third. But Luleå scored 1:08 into the third to tie it up - Silvennoinen was now very conscious - and although Jukurit snatched the lead again on a breakaway goal a few minutes later, that lead lasted only 22 seconds, as Brännström scored one of the craziest tip-in goals I've ever seen (I called it "prestidigitation of the highest quality" and can hardly describe it in words) to tie it up at 3-3. And then a very lucky deflection saw Brännström get the puck alone in front of the net to score his hat-trick goal with 6:48 left, and Luleå wound up winning 4-3. I felt bad for Silvennoinen in the end, but his narrative arc during the game definitely set it apart from your average run-of-the-mill hockey game.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2VFk11T9A0

This was a butt-kicking. Zug led 1-0 after one, 2-0 after two, and 6-0 just past the halfway mark of the third before finishing 6-1. And it's just as well that Zug usually had the puck...because the TPS Turku jerseys were almost impossible to decipher. White jerseys with white numbers: I mean, in HD I'm sure the black outlines are legible, but even with my very fast laptop and decent internet speed, the picture quality I get from Spalk is always much lower than I get when watching the YouTube replay. And as such, the numbers were a total blur to me. I think I coped well, often by referencing the Zug player covering defensively instead of the TPS player with the puck, but obviously this is not an optimal situation.
 
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKZ00VBOUwE

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9DvIDUqdSw

My marathon is over, and I just about survived. My ELF playoff game was a snoozer - Vienna just dominated on defense, and scored enough points that both teams' reserves were into the game early in the 4th quarter. Which, annoyingly, extended the game as both teams continued to call normal plays; with 3 hours and 50 minutes between the start of my football game and the start of my hockey game, I was rooting for a quick game (and worrying for weeks about a long game). The game was on course to end very quickly, but it would up being pretty normal...which was fine, and got me where I needed to be, but didn't give me the lengthier turnaround time I was looking for.

So I was definitely feeling it by the end of the hockey game. I didn't have time for a proper meal in between games - I had a baked potato in between periods - even as I was drinking enough water to keep my voice soothed that I needed the bathroom pretty frequently. In fact, during one of the one-minute media timeouts in the second period I did jump out of my living room and made a quick pit stop, which I don't think I've ever done before. (And certainly couldn't have done, were I in a studio instead of in my house.) But the Luleå and Sparta Prague jerseys were very easy to read, and I knew the players pretty well, and there was enough incident in the game that I was able to cope with my fatigue quite well. Apart from the seven goals in the game - with Luleå rallying from 2-1 down to win 5-2 - there was an episode at exactly the two-hour mark of the YouTube video where there was an issue with the scoreboard as a pair of matching minor penalties were supposed to go up, and suddenly all of the numbers disappeared from the board. I said, "Looks like they may have to reboot the ol' Windows 98, or whatever the operating system they're using." The Luleå coach was laughing, and I remarked that he saw the funny side of it, and then suddenly I went into third-person mode: " 'Have you turned it off and turned it back on again?' " " 'Hello, Coop Norbotten Arena Support, can I help you?' " It was a silly little vamp to fill some time, but I enjoyed it, and I hope I made someone else laugh at least a little.

And that's me done commentating for two weeks. My next assignment will be the ELF Championship Game on Sunday the 25th, and then I'll have another week-and-a-half before the CHL resumes. I still have to evaluate the other CHL commentators and create the rota for everyone's October games (including my own), but I'm really looking forward to chill out after a few weeks which have been very intense on a number of fronts.