Announcing

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

After a week of preparing for a Tuesday doubleheader of baseball, postponed to re-preparing for a Wednesday doubleheader, postponed again to re-re-preparing (probably not a word) for a Thursday tripleheader, only to have all the preparation in the end mean nothing.

On Friday the baseball games were moved to the University of Scranton because they had a baseball field with an artificial surface, a necessary requirement after a week of downpours. Other commitments did not allow us to go north to bring the EPC baseball semifinals and finals. The crew had to go fetch all the wire they had laid and the scaffolding that they had constructed and I could tear up all the research done during the week.

And, the weekend continued the bad weather pattern so outdoor activities were non-existent. So what’s a person to do?  Well, luckily, my wife was attending a “sprinkle” (I guess that’s a “shower” for a second child) for our niece, so my TV viewing was unencumbered.  I could watch what I wanted without guilt.

Obviously, that meant watching sports. There was plenty to choose from – baseball, golf, NHL hockey, and NBA basketball.  I had no true rooting interest in any, so I decided, thanks to my 6-tuner TIVO, to simply hop around from sport to sport.  This led me to analyzing the announcing challenges of doing various sporting events at the professional level.

Baseball is a game with plenty of non-action. After a week of preparation for games that were never played, I appreciated the necessity of baseball announcers to fill in the long gaps between pitches, pitching changes, visits to the mound, etc.,  with somewhat interesting stuff.  Plus, there is no clock in baseball, so, at times; a game can seem like an eternity.  The challenge here is to have things to talk about.

Golf is full of completely new challenges – who will talk, what’s the distance to the hole, what club is being used, what analysis needs to be made, what human interest story can be recalled during a lull, how to make plenty of inaction interesting – the list is endless. The salvation is that you have plenty of announcers you can rely on during play.  The key here seems to be organizing what the viewer will see and choreographing the crew of people who want to describe the scene to you.

I noticed with NHL hockey, the challenges are so different from the previous two sports. Here the action is constant.  The puck is always moving at a very rapid speed and the ability to memorize every player on the ice is essential.  There is no hesitation in calling passes, defensive plays, penalties, rule violations, etc.  Everything happens instantaneously and the announcer must be completely focused and well-versed on rosters and tactics.  The color analyst gets in and out when he can, hoping to add a piece of interesting information.

My final sport on Saturday was watching the NBA playoff game between the Celtics and the Cavaliers. This turned out to be a rout.  The Cavs won by 30!  The game was over early with the Cavs leading by 15 after one period and 20 at the half.  So what do the announcers talk about?  There’s nothing worse than a game where the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion early on. The announcers talked about anything and everything, including a rather lengthy discussion of the royal wedding that morning. Their knowledge of the British monarchy was sketchy at best, but you need to talk about something. When the game doesn’t warrant much analysis and the scoreboard is your enemy, you better find a way to earn your money and that means keeping the viewer somewhat interested.

So, in a week, where my announcing duties were taken away by Mother Nature, I spent one afternoon and evening analyzing the craft. I learned what I already knew; every sport presents different challenges to the crew and to the announcers.  The one constant is preparation.  I have some unused baseball sheets for you if you are interested in unused preparation.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Believe it or not, there is a move afoot in western Pennsylvania to look into separating boundary (public) and non-boundary (private) schools for state athletic competitions. The New Castle superintendent is polling schools across the state to see if there is interest in changing the current playoff system that pits public and private schools together into a single competition. Early reports indicate that something needs to change and public schools want change. The PIAA says legislatures need to change the system; legislators hint that it is strictly a PIAA decision. Interesting.
  2. I usually watch one auto race a year – the Indy 500. I especially enjoy the race when I have a rooting interest and, once again, Marco Andretti and Sage Karam – both of the Lehigh Valley – will be racing. I’ll be watching.
  3. Another week, another school shooting. Ten people, nine students and a teacher, were killed this week at Santa Fe High School. Houston Texans’ defensive end J. J. Watt said he will pay for the funerals of those killed. He is the same J. J. Watt who has raised more than $37 million for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
  4. As I write this, the Phillies are in first place. In case you missed it, the Phillies are in first place.
  5. Lafayette had their yearly Pardees (a takeoff of the ESPYs) this week, thanking and honoring their senior athletes for four years of classroom and athletic dedication. Their achievements are quite impressive. It has become a really fun night for parents, coaches, and student-athletes. Congrats to all involved. 
Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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