Immediately upon accepting WNUR’s invitation to broadcast the women’s lacrosse Final Four, I felt a touch of anxiousness.
Admittedly, I had only followed Northwestern lacrosse from a distance all season long. Because of an unhealthy obsession with Twitter, I had received updates throughout the year on the team’s progress from Northwestern’s Athletic Department. Yet, having hardly seen the team play for more than a handful of minutes, combined with the fact that I had not called a lacrosse game since one year prior, I was very much self-aware of the potential for rust.
Since starting my broadcasting career as a freshman, I had never gone as long a time between broadcasting games as I had to this moment. The last game I broadcasted was a basketball game for the University of St. Francis in December, 2010. Much had changed since that time: I moved to a new city, the weather turned nice, I took a new job and I turned a few shades tanner (still working on the latter change. It’s a work in progress).
I had no idea whether the whole “it’s just like riding the bike” cliche would apply in this situation. Sure, I have done a little bit of podcasting in between. And yes, my job requires me to “broadcast” to clients on a daily basis about my company’s technology. But when the whistle blew, and play began, how would I handle it? Would I freeze up as if I had never done this in my life? Would I stumble over my words, forget to give location descriptions, repeat adjectives and verbs and forget the names of the players? Why was I bugging out/freaking out/worrying about this?
As the week progressed, and I got back into the flow of preparation for the game, I snapped out of my natural Jewishy-worrying state. I said to myself: “Hey! Andrew! Or Gotti, as many call you! Why don’t you cut your worrying crap and get ready for the game! Stop worrying about the worst-case scenario! Because when you screw up on Friday, you’re only going to have yourself to blame for not being prepared!
Apparently, my inner monologue speaks in many exclamation marks. I was just as surprised about it as you probably are.
After my internal struggle concluded, it was time to begin the preparation for the weekend’s games. On Tuesday, I called into a teleconference in which the Final Four coaches answered questions from the media. I even stepped up to the plate and ask a few questions myself! Seriously! If you don’t believe me, look at this transcript from the conference. It makes me sound almost…articulate
Thus, having reacquainted myself as a member of the working media once again, I began the deliberate process of reacquainting myself with Northwestern lacrosse and North Carolina lacrosse.
Over the years, I have changed the way in which I prepare for games. Every broadcaster has his/her own style, and it takes a ton of trial and error to find the most efficient and helpful means by which to study and create a resource for the broadcast. For lacrosse games, I have used a manilla folder, Sharpees and a lot of small writing to create something like this to use as my spot chart:
It’s not the prettiest thing in the world (but look at how pretty that comforter on which it lays is!), but it gets the job done. Player number, name, position are all in big, bold letters. Below that lists the height, year and hometown for each athlete, and the right side displays statistics and other noteworthy nuggets that may or may not be used during a broadcast. I have found that many of the stats and notes I learn in preparation for a game are never actually used during a broadcast. Yet, when there is a little something-something that is relevant to a situation in the game, and I can recite that note without hesitation and it provides extra color to the listener, I know my prep work is not for naught (tongue-twister).
After a long week of preparing for Friday’s matchup, the process of memorizing the names and numbers of each player began.
Google receives millions of searches each day. Of those searches, there is no doubt that the phrase “how do I get a photographic memory?” is entered into the search bar a number of times. Many of those searches probably originate from college students taking an art history class. But another large portion of those searches have probably come from me, the guy who does not have a very good memory. Thus, the process of memorizing names and numbers is never an easy thing for me. It takes many repetitions of player names and numbers, mostly out loud. And if you think I am crazy for repeating “number 8, Kara Mupo” over and over again until it finally sticks, well, you’re probably correct.
So if any of you have cracked the photographic memory code, I’m all ears. Or eyes. Whichever sense it uses, I’m willing to barter.
Coming up on Part 3: The Broadcasts and my return to the Press Box