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College Kids Are Different From Professionals

“When it comes to calling either college games, pro games or a combination of both always be prepared. That is the one thing that never changes no matter what sport or level you are calling.”

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When it comes to doing play-by-play chances are pretty good that you’re going to be calling a multitude of sports. Probably on several different levels, NCAA, G-League, Minor League Baseball, MLB, etc. Is there a difference to how you call one or the other? Should you do something different when calling a college game vs. a pro game? The answer isn’t quite as simple as yes or no. It’s kind of like being a parent of two kids, love them both but parent them differently. After all, they are two different organisms. Right? 

The same basic principles of play-by-play apply to everything you call. That shouldn’t change. Describe the action accurately, follow the ball, give time and score often and use your voice as an instrument. We’ve covered a lot of that in previous columns. So make sure to understand this foundation will serve you well no matter what level you are announcing. 

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I’ll talk about College Basketball and G-League hoops from the perspective of a radio broadcaster, but basically the same things apply to television as well. 

The college level lends itself to a little more promoting the product, portraying schools as not just athletics but academics as well.  It’s also about telling stories about the student athletes. After all, these are 18-year old kids as freshman that become 21-year old men as seniors. Some of these players have amazing backgrounds. More and more they’re coming from foreign countries to play basketball and get an opportunity to get an education as well. I always try to keep in mind that even when a game gets intense and every play is meaningful, these are youngsters learning life lessons. How to handle adversity, how to handle being on top and how to handle the in-betweens. 

During college games, I try to picture in my head, who I believe is listening or viewing this broadcast. In most cases to me, its immediate family members, other relatives and close friends. I’m sure there are fans and alums as well out in the audience but they love this school as well as the players, so why change?

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Why do I think like this? Because after calling many pro games (MLB, G-League) I have to understand that these are not professional athletes and those close to these players are tuning in to hear/view something good about the one they care about. Listen, I’m not saying sugar coat mistakes. Your audience will know. I’m saying realize who is playing and treat the players and their families with respect. 

With that in mind, there are times I take more chances in college games. I may try some new descriptions or new ways of calling a play. I do this to see if it works or not. The opportunity is there for you to experiment a little, but don’t let it affect the actual announcing of the game. Don’t change that, it will only get you in trouble. 

Professional games, like in the NBA and the G-League to me require a little more concentration on the game and less on the periphery. Sometimes there are stories of guys getting a look at the NBA level in the developmental league or a player hanging on to a dream and playing for the love of the game. More often than not these are players trying to stick out to catch interest from other NBA teams. The calls are more about command of the game and broadcast than they are of the fluff that may be surrounding a game.

The fact that players are being paid by either their G-League affiliate or NBA team, means to me that this is their job. Criticism, if handled the right way, is somewhat more acceptable in these cases. Players are held much more accountable by way of decreased playing time or being cut. Those are the facts. 

Now it can’t be all business all the time. I think it’s about a 70/30 split in the upper ranks. I try to fancy up my basics, if that makes sense. After many reps in these sports, you try to take your “basics” to a higher level each time you crack the mic to broadcast a game. It’s all about getting better no matter the sport or level you’re calling. 

When it comes to gathering notes and stats for a broadcast, I find that it’s usually easier to get information from the college teams. To me the most underrated folks around the country are the SID’s (Sports Information Directors) for colleges and universities. Most that I’ve come to know, spend enormous amounts of time on “Game Notes” providing great insight into their teams. They are dialed in with the program and are well versed to answer any questions or concerns a broadcaster may have. They have even been known to arrange interviews with opposing coaches by reaching out to the other team’s SID to set them up. This allows the play-by-play announcer and color analyst a chance to learn some of the nuances of the team they don’t normally cover. This helps to present a more balanced call of the game. 

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When it comes to calling either college games, pro games or a combination of both always be prepared. That is the one thing that never changes no matter what sport or level you are calling. It’s hard to present a good broadcast when there are gaps in your knowledge of the teams or rules. Most of all, enjoy the games and try and present your best product every time you go on the air. 

BSM Writers

3 Tips For Working With A Difficult Co-Host

Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality.

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Robert Sutton wrote one of the more important business books I’ve ever read: “The No Asshole Rule”.

Yes. That’s the title, and while I’m probably pushing the bounds of good taste here, Sutton
successfully lobbied the Wall Street Journal to use that very term so I’m hoping that will serve
as satisfactory precedent for my editors here at Barrett Sports Media.

Sutton went so far as to define the term as “a person who leaves another person feeling
oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled”. He then set about proving these individuals
were toxic to an organization, sapping productivity and driving out competent co-workers. His
underlying message was two-fold:

1) You should avoid working for orifices;

2) Any company employing an orifice should seek to expel him or her from the
organization.

It’s a really good book, but it’s of limited use if you don’t control who you’re working with.

What do you do when you’re partnered with an orifice?

Now, I happen to have given this matter quite a bit of thought over the five years I was part of a three-man show that included one of the funniest, most offbeat, and occasionally frustrating
people I’ve ever encountered. He was a crucial component to the success of our afternoon
drive show and every so often would do something that would understandably enrage
someone he was working with. I’m not going to specify who this was because I do like Jim Moore and don’t want to hurt his feelings, but he was the ultimate wild card who made tons of people laugh and more than a few snarls.

He liked to reveal the inner workings of the show whether it was a planning meeting or
something that occurred off-air. He referred to this as “pulling back the curtain.”

After I stumbled over my words, he looked at me and said, “You’re absolutely brutal.” It was
hilarious, and we played it for years as a drop.

Amid a segment in which we were discussing something about Richard Sherman, he
declared that I was sounding like a typical talk radio host trying to make something out of
nothing. I laughed at that, too.

A few weeks later, as we discussed the weekend series in which Seattle became overrun with
Blue Jays fans coming down from Canada, he criticized something I’d written for lacking
objectivity and declared the whole segment dumb. I was furious, and while I did my
best to hide my anger during the rest of the segment, we shouted profanities at each other
during the break and I didn’t speak to him outside of our time on the air for the rest of the
week.

Meetings ensued. Apologies were made by both of us. My point here is not to re-litigate what
happened or try to justify the anger I felt at the time. I was overly sensitive to a pretty harmless critique. I was also fed up with someone who consistently did things that made me feel belittled and de-energized. He was acting more like a heckler than a co-host, and this posed a specific challenge for me because I was leading the show.

I was not alone in that regard. He’d anger other co-workers, too, and many of the players and
even teams that we talked about whether it was Richard Sherman threatening to have his press
credential pulled, Michael Bennett, saying he should be “fired and suspended” among many
other profane observations after a particular column. Hell, Gary Payton stood up ready to fight
him before a playoff game in 1996 after an interview that started with a question about Payton
getting IV fluids after the previous game in the series.

It strikes me there are two explanations for all of this: 1) Everyone is way too sensitive to what
are totally understandable and even innocuous barbs from an irreverent personality. 2) This
personality has a way of annoying and antagonizing those he’s around, and while this makes
him incredibly entertaining, it can make a sustained working relationship difficult. To put it in
in Sutton’s terms, this particular person had a habit of leaving others feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled.

With that in mind and based on personal experience, here’s my guide if you find yourself
working with an orifice:

I. Accept them for what they are
I stopped wishing my co-host was anything other than what he was. This was entirely personal
and had nothing to do with my co-host or the people who supervised him. I accepted that he was a remarkably funny and unique character, who was crucial to the show’s success, and every so often he was going to act up in a way that angered the people around him. I just accepted this as the cost of doing business and when he did act up, I’d remind myself that I shouldn’t expect anything different.

II. Set ground rules
Establish very clear boundaries that should not be crossed. In this particular case, it was to
state that the time to declare a segment or idea stupid or unworthy of discussion was before
the show as opposed to during the show. I didn’t care if he understood why this was the
case, he just needed to know it was.

III. Don’t take the shenanigans so seriously
We always say a show requires cooperation and trust, and no one tells you what to do when a
lack of cooperation erodes that trust. One answer is to demand better cooperation, but I found this was futile and led to more frustration. I came to view the lack of cooperation as part of the
show, something that could be commented on and even laughed at. There was a rogue
operator in our midst.

Did these changes make the show better? That’s a question for the supervisors and the
listeners. I know that it made the show more sustainable because it made me less angry. I
stopped seeing my co-host as a malicious saboteur and started viewing him like a pro wrestler
who occasionally stopped following the script. Sometimes, his punches would feel like live
rounds. He was working stiff, his insults sharper. Sometimes he’d no-sell, commenting on the
general pointlessness of the discussion rather than actively participating in it.

Demanding he follow the script was never as effective as deciding that his whole act could be
part of the show was.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise Episode 85: Vin Scully Really Was That Good

Demetri Ravanos

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BSM Writers

LIV Golf Bungling Of Charles Barkley Deal Questions Competency

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously.

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Charles Barkley

It’s already been more than a week since Charles Barkley announced he is staying with Turner Sports and I’m still left in shock and bewilderment. Barkley’s decision to stay at a show that has won multiple Emmy Awards, gave him a whole new set of fans and friends, and even has its own documentary doesn’t surprise me. LIV’s disorganization and inability to make these conversations an actual negotiation is what truly shocks me.

In an interview with GolfWeek, Barkley told the publication “no, they haven’t offered me anything.” He declared that working at Turner was his priority and “I’m not gonna keep Turner in limbo. So that’s my priority.” Let’s rewind the first sentence he uttered, though. And I quote, “they haven’t offered me anything.” You had sports fans and personalities across the world nervous, scared, and panicked that we would lose Barkley’s hilarious antics during NBA coverage forever not even to give him an offer? Are you kidding me? (Just want to note that this is one of my favorite Barkley sayings.) What is wrong with LIV and who is running their media strategy?

Barkley told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand that he sat down for dinner with LIV Tour leader Greg Norman two weeks ago and came away believing that the tour would find itself with a television deal in the U.S. If this is the case, how does LIV not come to dinner with a ballpark estimate of how much they want to pay and an idea of what they want Barkley to do for their brand? You have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to secure a deal with sports media’s most outspoken personality and you don’t even come to dinner with an offer?

LIV could’ve used Barkley to finalize a deal with a TV network. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on his sports media podcast this week that LIV’s TV deal, if it ever happens, will most likely be a time buy. If Barkley was added on, I guarantee some sort of rights fee would’ve been included. There is no sports network –scratch that– no TV network on this planet who would miss out on the opportunity to bring Barkley on board as a contributor even if it means airing subpar golf with segments that could go viral, get aggregated by the biggest websites in the universe and fill air time. It’s Charles Barkley!

Because of Barkley’s relationships with sponsors who are closely aligned with Turner, and Turner not wanting to lose the former NBA All-Star, I don’t even think it is out of the question that Turner could’ve been a potential rightsholder if Barkley signed on. Warner Bros. Discovery’s operations involving the PGA Tour are mostly outside of the United States market except Golf Digest. Between TNT, TBS, and HLN – all networks that have aired exhibition golf matches in the past – Turner has plenty of room to air the telecasts. Coincidentally, Turner already has a relationship with Saudi Arabian golf. CNN International aired a monthly series about golf that was sponsored both digitally and on-air by Golf Saudi, an organization that promotes Saudi Arabian golf courses. For those who are against the notion that LIV should even exist, the idea of associating yourself with Golf Saudi might be even worse since LIV plays in different countries for each tournament.

Barkley could’ve been a face that is used in more interview appearances across sports networks and cable news to address the controversy and clear the air even more than he already had done so previously. Having a recognizable face promote the brand could’ve eventually taken some of the pressure off and focused the attention on actual golf action happening. They could’ve even used Barkley for viral pieces that go up online, podcasts, and an alternative broadcast where he brings on his friends as guests – a “Manningcast” copycat. A charitable component helping poor communities which Barkley has a passion for could’ve been implemented as well. The opportunities were endless but LIV couldn’t even manage to bring an offer to the table. A dinner with no offer is such a useless gesture. It’s like being 7’7” with zero NBA talent – too tall for nothing.

Now, more than ever, I just can’t take LIV Golf seriously. It feels like an exhibition that is rightfully challenging an organization that has been glorified in its perch for too long yet doesn’t have the right tactics of taking the PGA away from its throne.

Ironically, the PGA Tour will be offering its athletes more prize money than LIV next year. The tour will always be aligned with the majors – who haven’t toed a line yet but could at some point if each separate organization decides it is too far against their code of ethics to allow in LIV athletes. And interestingly, despite LIV living on YouTube, the PGA Tour is working on a docuseries alongside the majors for Netflix that could help draw a younger, more unique audience to the sport than LIV does despite its attempts to add live music to their tournaments, stream all of their events and add sleek, more modern graphics than what PGA telecasts offer. Most of all, the PGA Tour has all of the major media companies in the bag for themselves for years to come.

The tour has also made mistakes in aligning itself with Fox News. In the past couple of weeks, Greg Norman has granted the network two exclusive interviews and has allowed their golfers to sit down for interviews on Tucker Carlson Tonight. We can’t neglect the fact that Fox News is one of the highest-rated networks on television and that Tucker Carlson Tonight sometimes beats the broadcast networks in primetime ratings which means LIV is getting a huge amount of exposure through these sit-downs. But it is never smart for any sport to politically align itself on one side or the other. Just ask the NBA. If you’re going to sit with Fox, sit with the other news and sports networks who I’m sure have undoubtedly asked you to speak with them as well so that your nonpolitical organization looks fair and balanced. Hell, sit down with us at BSM! I’ll talk to you. Don’t be afraid to take some heat if you want the discussions about the politicization of your league to go away at some point. It just makes more business sense to stay as neutral as possible and the Fox-ification of LIV is bound to turn some more people off who don’t agree with Fox’s way of thinking. (Random sidenote: Something tells me not to be surprised if LIV Golf ends up on Fox News Media properties like Fox Business Network and Fox Nation. Both networks have aired sports programming of some type in the past and present.)

LIV may live for a long time because they have the funds to do so. It is questionable and maybe doubtful if it will ever live with a purpose.

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