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There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Prep

“Baseball is filled with numbers, stats and tons of information provided by the team. From all of that, you have to decide what is important to your listening audience.”

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Before the ballparks fill up, before the microphones go on and before the lineups are given, your team’s broadcaster has been hard at work. Probably for a few hours. A casual fan probably would say, “that can’t be, don’t they just show up a few minutes before the game and broadcast?”. Wrong! 

Any play-by-play broadcaster worth his or her salt is busy several hours before the action starts. Prep, as it’s known in the business, is the key to a good, informative, interesting and entertaining call.  

“Prep is the foundation of play-by-play. Whether it’s talking to players & coaches in the clubhouse or during BP, calling high school football coaches for info a few days before you broadcast their game or updating statistics & biographical information during the off-season or whenever you learn something new.”, says Robert Ford the radio voice of the Houston Astros, who is in his 7th season with the club.

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“I view it as continuing education; I’m always learning & looking for more information about teams, players, coaches, managers, even umpires. The better prepared you are (& the better you get at compiling information in such a way that it’s easy to find & at your fingertips), the better the broadcast will sound.”, said Ford. 

If you think this is a new process or requirement, think again. Jack Corrigan now in his 17th season of calling Rockies games on KOA knows exactly how important prep is. “Preparation remains paramount for a play-by-play broadcaster. No matter how many years you’ve been doing this (34 in baseball for me) never assume that a game can be covered solely on your experience. It is such a part of the daily rhythm of the job. It would feel too strange not to have it in my routine.”

There is no one way to prep for a baseball broadcast. It is a personal process for most, that develops over time. It’s up to each individual how to present the information and what information gets presented. Baseball is filled with numbers, stats and tons of information provided by the team. From all of that, you have to decide what is important to your listening audience. It’s not an easy process, but one that is critical to a broadcast. 

Remember there is no right way or wrong way to do this, but there are differences among broadcasters. 

“Because I’ve been blessed to be in the game for a long time, I tend to focus my prep on areas less obvious. A personal angle on a player or players becomes the perfect way to humanize the game beyond the numbers,” the veteran Corrigan says. “The audience remains a mixture of fans in terms of their interest. You must be able to keep the casual listener with you by offering something personal to keep them from being overwhelmed by the statistical/strategic information that the hardcore fan seeks. I enjoy the pursuit of something beyond the obvious, beyond the headlines.”

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The way the game is trending, younger broadcasters go about things a bit differently. Ford breaks down what he focuses on before a game. 

“Pre-game, I try to focus more on what’s happening right now. I mark up my stat sheet with notes on hot/cold hitters & relievers, & fill my OneNote (Microsoft program/app) with daily team info & news.”, said Ford. “I’ll usually circle the clubhouse to see if there’s anyone I want to talk to or ask something about a previous game, or to confirm any notes I may have read elsewhere. I usually go to the pre-game press conferences held by both managers to glean more information. If I know the opposing manager well, I may ask him something one-on-one, before or after he talks to the media. Sometimes, I will go into the opposing team’s clubhouse to talk to a player or two, particularly if it’s someone local from Houston, or someone who previously played for the Astros.”

I know my routine has changed over the years and has become a little more streamlined. I had a great mentor in my early career, Pat Hughes, the Cubs’ play-by-play announcer for the last 24 seasons, taught me a lot. He is meticulous in his pregame prep. He has folder upon folder with information on baseball history as it relates to the Cubs and in general. More importantly he is a fountain of baseball knowledge and a student of the game. I’m lucky to have learned under him. 

Corrigan learned early from some of baseball’s great announcers as well. 

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“I was fortunate in that my early years in baseball were spent with Joe Tait, the Hall of Fame basketball broadcaster who was also a terrific baseball man, and Herb Score. Joe led by example in simple things like the arrangement of your workspace, proper timing for when to do what at a particular moment, the understanding of how much information was required, even when much of it won’t be used because of how the game’s storyline played out.”, said Corrigan. “It sounds a little funny, but from Herb I learned how to listen. As a former player that might’ve been one of the all-time great pitchers if not for an injury from a line drive to the face, he was a great source of information regarding the game from a player’s perspective. When Herb had some comment about strategy or a player’s approach, it made great sense to pay attention. Both men also taught me how almost as much can be gained from hanging around scouts in the press dining room as it can behind the batting cage.”

Ford’s routine is more of a work in progress, “In some ways, I feel like it’s still developing; I usually tweak a few things every year. It really started for me in 2002, when I was calling games for the Yakima (WA) Bears in the short-season Northwest League. Going into the year, I had no idea how to prepare for a broadcast. But each day I fiddled with my routine & preparation until I got to a point where I felt I was comfortable with my routine & felt prepared going into every game.”

The technology age has really changed things for some broadcasters. Those that have climbed aboard that train find things are a little easier in putting together notes and stats. In Ford’s second season with the Astros, he purchased an iPad Mini and used the One Note App to streamline his process. “Before that, I kept mini loose-leaf binders with pages on every player, manager & team. Going digital cut down on my prep time, particularly in the baseball off-season, & gave me more time to process & synthesize all the information that’s thrown my way on a daily basis during the season.”, said Ford. 

The internet not only changed things for broadcasters and how they prepare, but also for the fan and what they know. There’s so much information out there. Multiple places to get the information on news and analytics puts some pressure on the guys calling the games. 

“You must be well-versed in your own right to maintain credibility.”, says Corrigan. “I think there is a need to talk in more detail about the entire industry. The team you cover is still paramount in your approach, but you also need to be able to discuss what’s happening elsewhere in the game, too.”

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What’s important for young broadcasters to realize is that doing play-by-play at a high level requires a lot of hard work. What’s important for the fans is to realize what goes into the broadcast and putting it together. Appreciate it and understand that all the hard work is really for you. 

BSM Writers

Mike Tirico Has ‘Never Pretended to Be Friends’ With Athletes

“I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust.”

Ricky Keeler

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Mike Tirico has been covering sports on network television for 32 years. Over those 3+ decades, he has made it a point to not be so close with the athletes he covers in whichever sport he is broadcasting.

Tirico was a guest on the most recent episode of the GOLF’s Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. While Tirico knows he is not doing extensive journalism work, he wants to make sure that he can be able to ask the hard questions if he has to any athlete.

“I never pretend to be friends with the athletes I cover. I like having a healthy relationship where if I need something, I can ask whether it’s for on-air or for background and build trust. I’m not in a position where I’m working for Outside the Lines at my old place, ESPN. It’s not a knock. It’s just you’re not in a position where you have to do these journalistic-type interviews all the time, but there are times you have to ask hard questions. I always try to keep a little bit of a buffer or a distance.”

The context of that question came when Tirico was asked about how good of a relationship he has with Tiger Woods.

“It’s good….If I reach out, he will usually get back to me. He’s been really good and really nice along the way.”

As for broadcasting sports in this day and age of social media, Tirico believes that it can make a broadcaster better whether or not the complaint from someone on Twitter is real or not.

“It makes us better because you know that people are going to catch you. If something is artificial or not, real or not, embraced or not, it forces you to be better at what you do.”

For that same reason, Tirico thinks that LIV Golf is going to make the PGA Tour have to be better going forward because now they have another tour to go up against.

“I think LIV Golf, and we all have our own opinions on it, is going to force the PGA Tour to be better. Competition is good. Checks and balances are really good.”

Even though Tirico doesn’t feel nervous about many broadcasts anymore, there was one event in the last decade where the nerves kicked in when he was hosting his first Olympics at NBC.

“The only time in the last 10 years that I’ve been nervous was coming on for the first time hosting the Olympics because Bob Costas has done that since most of us have been alive and most people had never seen anyone but Bob Costas host the Olympics in primetime…2 minutes before, I’m like ‘should I be this? Should I have fun?’ and then the minute before, I cracked a joke in the studio.”

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BSM Writers

Kyle Brandt’s Rant a Reminder to Consider the Messenger

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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Kyle Brandt

This week, a massive announcement was made in the National Football League regarding the immediate future of Deshaun Watson. Judge Sue L. Robinson recommended a six -game suspension with no additional monetary fine for the quarterback. While the NFL mulls what it will say further, most others didn’t, including a really prominent personality: Kyle Brandt.

Brandt, a co-host on Good Morning Football, reacted like a lot of people did upon hearing the decision: forcefully. On Monday, Brandt denounced the decision to limit Watson’s suspension to six games, saying in part, “…I look at six and I find it very light. I hope it doesn’t stay that way personally. I think that Deshaun Watson leveraged his status as an NFL player against women. In my opinion. And I think it happened more than one time and I think it was was in closed doors in small rooms against women who were probably intimidated. And it pisses me off to even talk about it. And frankly it pisses me off to see the number six. And I don’t think it’s going to stay that way and I hope it doesn’t.”

Those words resonated. Once they were said, the clip was grabbed from the show and then distributed on Brandt’s Twitter account which reaches 333,000+ followers and on his Instagram which speaks to 96,000+ followers. That video has been seen over two million times. Viral, they say. Here it is if you did happen to miss it. Passionate stuff from Brandt.

If you believe in the message, it’s an easy to like, retweet or share idea. It’s not a hot take, frankly, because there is a large section of those that have been following this story that agree. Deshaun Watson is settling cases because people believe he did something bad. Something bad enough that judge did seem fit to point it out and recommend what is generally speaking, a strong suspension. The only problem here is the platform hosting the message.

This is not a Kyle Brandt-bashing piece. He isn’t the platform. If anything, he’s the vessel of this message he wants out. He also, very likely, feels exactly the way he said he did in the above tweeted video. In fact, the next day, Tuesday, Brandt doubled down on his opinion. The newer video was viewed over 400,000 times. You can check it out right below these words.

The distinction needs to be noted that the message Brandt is delivering, is the NFL’s message. It is what Roger Goodell wants to be the prevailing wisdom regarding how we feel about the current state of Watson’s suspension. That message is being amplified by a very popular co-host, on a very popular morning television show that is seen by a lot of people and that is owned by the National Football League.

Again, I am here waving to you wildly to say that I have no reason to believe that Brandt is being told this particular messaging needs to be voiced. But, I do know that the NFL has until Thursday to appeal the decision. Three days is a lot of time to gather data on whether or not the public might support you appealing for more games, something that the league most certainly will look into judging by their statement released shortly after the ruling.

I also know that the NFL was seeking a much longer suspension as well as a hefty fine to be issued to Watson. The NFL has taken a lot of hits for how it has handled players violating league rules and the player conduct policy. No matter which case you look at, comparing it to the one previous or the one right after is an exercise is madness. The one common theme seems to be is that when the NFL feels like it is delving out punishment, it wants to be severe, no matter the consistency. Remember, Tom Brady was a short ‘yes’ answer away from appealing his case to the Supreme Court. The NFL isn’t particularly interested in just letting things go.

It is well within the realm of possibility that the NFL is getting what it rarely gets: an overwhelming opinion that actually sides with it in terms of punishment. For the majority of the modern cases I can remember, more fans than not disagreed with the NFL’s stance on a case. This time, they might have the court of public opinion on their side. I hear far more ‘kick him outs’ in reference to Watson than I do ‘no suspensions’.

We might have the perfect storm for the NFL in terms of support and Kyle Brandt’s message lines up exactly with the leagues desires, no matter how they may have gotten there. Both want more punishment for the Cleveland quarterback. Brandt can hope, the NFL can fight.

This doesn’t mean Brandt is wrong or even that he is being told to echo the NFL’s position, it’s to note that he took a very powerful stance on a very powerful platform and they both matter.

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BSM Writers

Producers Podcast Episode 6: Jackson Safon, The Volume

Brady Farkas

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Jackson Safon has produced for a number of high profile digital networks. Now, as a freelancer, The Volume has put its faith in him to get the most out of Draymond Green, and CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco have trusted him to make R2C2 the best it can be.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-producers-podcast/id1630978079

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2XBTp3PnrBvGv2n4Y19tCE?si=c84eee71512e49a5

iHeart: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-the-producers-podcast-98564690/

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ibHVicnJ5LmNvbS9mZWVkcy9wcm9kdWNlcnNwb2QueG1s?sa=X&ved=0CAMQ4aUDahcKEwiQpvak__P4AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQRw

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/241160ba-ad26-4297-a37a-107dfb10b462/the-producers-podcast 

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