Tag Archives: PxP

From Woody Allen’s Paris to the Pressbox: Part 2

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

From Woody Allen’s Paris to the Press Box: Part 1

While sitting in a small New York City movie theater on Sunday, May 22, watching Woody Allen’s masterpiece Midnight in Paris, my phone received an e-mail. It went unnoticed by me, while engrossed in Owen Wilson’s time-traveling dilemma of  Ernest Hemingway and Rachel McAdams, and only upon exiting the theater and plugging back into the circuit did I read an opportunity that immediately gave my week a kick-start.

The story begins a year earlier, in Towson, MD, which hosted the 2010 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament. Northwestern faced Maryland in the championship game, and I was the lead broadcaster for Northwestern’s student radio station, WNUR. Having won five consecutive national championships, it was almost unfathomable that Northwestern would lose. Yet, when the dust had settled,  I found myself declaring Maryland the national champion with more than a pinge of disappointment in my voice.

That would be the last game I broadcasted for WNUR as a Northwestern student. I broadcasted several games the following fall and winter, mostly for the University of St. Francis, a small, NAIA school in Joliet, IL. Upon moving to New York City at the end of February, I assumed my days as a play-by-play broadcaster were essentially numbered.

Fast forward 51 weeks from the 2010 Final Four. While walking the streets of SoHo on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I was mentioned in several tweets by good friend Aaron Morse, who said another broadcaster who I did not know, Mike Radomski, sounded like I did while calling a game. The three of us exchanged several messages, culminating with Morse telling Mike that I no longer was “in the broadcasting game.” My roommate, Fus, then asked whether I had completely given up on the broadcasting dream. He was of the opinion that anything I did to keep the broadcasting dream alive was a step in the right direction. The ensuing conversation took place about 6 hours before I read the e-mail.

The 2011 women’s lacrosse Final Four took place in Stony Brook, NY this year. Located on Long Island, Stony Brook is not the easiest trip from, well, anywhere. The tournament also happened to coincide with Dillo Day, Northwestern’s annual spring concert, which is generally one of the most anticipated days of the school year. Still, I was surprised to receive an e-mail from Seth Bernstein, Sports Director for WNUR, asking me to broadcast the Final Four games because only one staffer was able to fly out to New York for the weekend.

Eric Mayo was the only staffer able to make the trip, a WNUR Sports staffer who I knew very well. I found the tone of the e-mail requesting my assistance quite amusing. The station needed my help, yes, and they were very kind in asking for it. Yet, after so many unbelievable opportunities that I had while a student at Northwestern, from roaming the sidelines at the Horeshoe to broadcasting the Outback Bowl and a million broadcasts in between, I owed it to WNUR to help out.

But I didn’t need guilt or an “I owe you” to accept this offer. The itch to broadcast sports has never left me, like a mosquito bite from a super-mosquito. Sure, you can spray Benadryl mosquito spray on it and feel the itch subside momentarily, but it will eventually resurface. It just so happened that a giant backscratcher presented itself just as the itch reared its head.

I was going to call the 2011 women’s lacrosse Final Four. A chance to broadcast a national championship victory. But that meant I had a lot of work to do to get ready.

Stay tuend for Part 2: Prep work, learning a season and the broadcasts.

In the meantime, check out the audio from this weekend:

National Championship Highlights vs. Maryland

The National Championship Call

Semifinal Highlights vs. UNC

Andrew Gothelf on the Big Ten Network!

I have been fortunate enough in recent weeks to make two separate appearances on the Big Ten Network, broadcasting women’s lacrosse games between Northwestern and UNC and then Northwestern and Virginia.

For the UNC game, I was an analyst while I served as the PxP broadcaster for the game vs. UVA. After both games, we recorded post-game recaps for the network’s website.

You can find the recaps below. Both show highlights and give me a little camera time. Enjoy:

UNC post-game recap (on-site stuff starts around the 2:00 mark)

Virginia post-game recap

Honored to be Added to STAA All-America Top 20 List

Last year's trophy- courtesy of STAAtalent.com

The Sportscasters Talent Agency of America has recently released a preliminary Top 20 list of college broadcasters all across the country, and yours truly was on the list.

You can see the list here.

I would like to thank STAA for adding me to the list. It is definitely an honor. Stay tuned, as I have applied for the Jim Nantz All America Award, presented by STAA in June to the nation’s top collegiate sports broadcaster.

To Be or Not to Be? The Homer Announcer

mets broadcast

There’s an obvious difference between a national PxP sports broadcaster working for a big-time network and a local television or radio announcer. The difference, of course, is the fact that the national broadcaster (think Joe Buck, Al Michaels, Marv Albert) is supposed to stay neutral, giving equal time and excitement to both teams during a game.

The local broadcaster, on the other hand, does not hide behind a cloud of objectivity; rather, they make no secret of their hope for their team to win, and, for obvious reasons, devote more time and attention to that team. There are clear reasons behind this. For one, the broadcasters are often employees of the team, so if they are too harsh on their employer, they probably won’t last very long. The broadcasters are also playing to their audience, who is overwhelmingly going to be fans of that team.

For instance, Pat Hughes, radio PxP man for the Chicago Cubs, is going to yell louder when a Cubs player hits a home run as opposed to a Cardinals player because most people listening to the game on WGN are Cub fans.

But there is a line between pulling for a team and being an outright, obnoxious homer. Below are a couple examples of calls from announcers, both national and local. I want to know whether you feel any of them are too over the top in their excitement for the team, and whether the national broadcasters are being too objective (not showing any sort of passion).

John Sterling, Yankees’ Radio PxP Man:

Pat Hughes and Ron Santo during the ’98 season:

Marv Albert’s radio call of David Tyree’s great Super Bowl catch:

Hawk Harrelson’s call of a Mark Buerhle homerun:

A collection of NBA announcer Kevin Harlan’s best calls:

I actually don’t have a problem with a broadcaster favoring the team he announces; in fact, I prefer it when I am watching my local sports teams. As a fan, I want my announcer to share my passion for the team, without taking it too far. But if my team hits a three at the buzzer to win a game or a grand slam in the 11th inning to win, I want the announcer to go crazy just as I am.

But I don’t want the announcer saying “We are winning,” as Harrelson does. The announcer, even if he used to play, is not a member of the team, and thus has no business saying “We need some runs” or “The bad guys are winning.” That’s just plain amateurish.

My favorite broadcast team, though, might be what the New York Observer aptly named “The Anti Homers” crew of New York Mets’ television broadcasters. I have listened to these three a lot this summer, and find myself laughing out loud throughout the entire game. I highly recommend this article, which highlights all the reasons Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling make such a great team (hat tip: Whitehead).

The problem I have with some local announcers, such as Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox and John Sterling of the Yankees, is not their fanaticism for the team they broadcast; instead, it’s their gimmicks. I can’t stand “You can put it on the boaaarrrddd….YES!” I cringe when John Sterling goes into his “It is high, it is far” routine, only for the ball to land on the warning track. And, like everyone else, I can’t stand Chris Berman’s “Back, back, back.”

Genuine excitement is one thing. Gimmicks are another. Something simple like Marv Albert’s “Yes!” is fine with me, because it’s simple and pure and doesn’t sound forced.

Announcers don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend their nights coming up with a catchphrase. I just want them to show some passion and let their calls come to them. Is that too much to ask?

The end of the Radio PxP Broadcast?

michaels madden

Whenever I consider the consolidation of media outlets, particularly in regards to sports broadcasting, I would always tell myself this:

“There will always be jobs for PxP broadcasters, because sports aren’t going away and fans will always need access to their team’s broadcasts.” I apply this theory to television and radio broadcasts alike, knowing how different the two are in style and content.

But that all changed when I read this report from Darren Rovell, former WNUR Sports staffer and namesake of the famous “Darren Rovell Cultural Embodiment Award,” given to the WNUR Sports staffer who best exemplifies what WNUR Sports is all about.

Anyways, if you were too lazy to click the link, let me give you a quick summary. The New York Islanders last week canned their radio announcers, Chris King and Steve Mears. Instead, Islander fans will now be able to listen to a simulcast of Howie Rose and Bill Jaffe on both television and the radio. This is the third NHL team to simulcast their television announcers on the radio; the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars have done so as well.

Rovell points out that the deal was made easier because Cablevision owns the rights to both the television and radio broadcasts. He asks whether more radio stations will follow suit by negotiating with stations that own the television rights to simulcast the tv broadcast on their airwaves. This will allow radio stations to save money by not paying the salaries of the broadcasters (they would probably help subsidize the tv broadcasters’ pay, which definitely would not equal what they pay their own talent) while continuing the keep the steady stream of advertising revenue they get from broadcasting the games.

So from a business standpoint, this all makes sense. Keep the revenue flowing while cutting back on expenses. As Rovell wrote, “The bottom line is the bottom line.” But from a fan’s perspective, and from a broadcast quality perspective, the move makes very little sense, and is a trend which, if it continues, will frustrate any team’s fans trying to follow their team without a tv in front of them.

There’s a reason that, until now, radio and television sports broadcasts were always done by two different teams. Without overstating the obvious, the ability for fans to see what is happening on the field creates a different role for the television broadcaster in contrast to the radio broadcaster. On television, the PxP broadcaster’s job is to deliver something to the fans that they would not get from watching the game on mute. In other words, they must bring analysis, anecdotes and stats that a fan at the stadium watching the game would not know. The TV PxP man’s job is NOT to describe every play for the viewer, because that would be redundant. They can already see what is happening.

baseball stadium

That’s the job of the radio PxP man. He needs to be the eyes of the listener. My favorite phrase use to describe the role of the radio PxP man is to “paint the word picture.” Radio broadcasts relay everything that happens on the field, on the sidelines and in the stands. Their job is to make the listener, through description, feel like they are actually at the game.

In my opinion, radio broadcasts are more suitable for television than vice versa. There are obvious logistical problems with the idea, but at least you are not compromising the ability for television viewers or radio listeners to understand what is happening on the field or court. By putting television broadcasts on the radio, you are subjecting the listener to descriptions of instant replays that they can’t see and jokes about a fan doing something in the stands or a coach’s antics that again, they can’t see. TV broadcasters are not going to change their style for their radio listeners, and tv color men will not stop talking over plays so that the PxP man can call the action. Basically, if tv simulcasts take over radio, it will eliminate a listening radio audience in sports.

It would be annoying for the television audience to have to listen to the PxP man describe everything they are watching, as well. It would probably drive a lot of people to mute the broadcast. There’s just no need in television for the announcer to call every pitch, describe in detail every shot or tell the viewer every yard line that the running back is crossing. But, again, it’s all about money; however, unlike Rovell, I believe that fans will refuse to listen to radio broadcasts if they can’t follow what is happening in the game. There will be so much complaining on message boards and blogs that radio stations will be forced back into providing their own broadcasts.

Now, if there is one sport that this idea COULD work, it would be hockey. With the constant action, television PxP men are already calling most of the action, so it wouldn’t take a huge adjustment for them to cater to a radio audience as well. Still, some of the problems mentioned above, such as the color man talking over plays, will plague the simulcast from the radio end. But in every other sport, putting a tv broadcast on the radio would be disastrous.

Packer

Can you imagine having to listen to John Madden diagram a play on your radio? What about Joe Morgan explaining a hitter’s swing while you drive on the highway? Wouldn’t this cause you to drive over the divider? This is not just an inconvenience, but a major safety hazard for drivers everywhere. Plus, this would put an end to one of my favorite sports traditions: picking out the fans who wear headphones to the game to listen to the radio broadcast while watching.

So here’s hoping this experiment fails, both from an aspiring broadcaster’s viewpoint, and from a fan’s perspective. I really, really, REALLY hope the next time I’m driving and turn on a college basketball game, I don’t hear Dick Vitale blaring through my car stereo. It might just cause me to drive into oncoming traffic.

The Art of the Home Run Call

home run

The home run is the baseball pxp man’s best friend. During a typical three-hour baseball game, the ball is only in play for about 10 minutes. Of those 10 minutes, most of the action is routine- balls, strikes, ground balls, routine fly balls, etc. Thus, the home run gives an announcer a chance to stretch out the vocal chords, build some excitement and show some creativity and uniqueness.

Over the years, home run calls have ranged from the classic to the horrible to the downright bizarre. Below are some of the home run calls I could find online, with a test for all of you know-it-alls at the bottom. And, of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a home run call from yours truly.

We’ll start with Kirk Gibson’s famous home run in the 1988 World Series, courtesy of Jack Buck:

Jack Buck calls Kirk Gibson Home Run

The video below is of Harry Kalas, the late Phillies announcer. His signature “Outta Here” will always be remembered. Here is the last time he ever uttered that call:

There’s also John Sterling’s famous “It is high, it is far” call, followed by some sort of catch phrase for whoever hit the homer. He’s butchered the call many times, thinking the ball would be gone, only to see it stop at the warning track. Here, he went into the wrong catch phrase:

Often times, the best home run calls are the unscripted ones, where pure emotion shines through. Here are a couple examples of that:

Then there’s this great Joe Buck commercial. Whenever I sought the opinion of people for my own home run call, someone would inevitably recommend this:

As promised, here’s a home run call from your truly:

Home Run call from the CCBL

So here’s your test. Below is a link to a series of home run calls (click #7 on the playlist on the right side of your screen). In the comments section, write, in order, the pxp announcers calling the home runs. Whoever gets the most correct, wins.

The quiz