Friday, August 18, 2006

This is John Madden reporting live from Avon, Indiana

Tonight was the opening night for high school football here in Indiana, and my good friend Bob Potosky of HSSP Radio ( asked me to join him again this year to do color commentary for some of his broadcasts.

Of course, I did my best to make a fool of myself, and had a good time doing so. Rule #1 in broadcasting is to make sure you are in the studio/press box before the broadcast begins. In this case, I was stuck in traffic, then stuck by a train, and then ran threw the ticket gate (luckily no one stopped me to ask for a ticket) and arrived panicked and winded in the press box a couple minutes after Bob had started the broadcast. Needless to say, I was tripping over myself throughout the start of the evening.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bob, who diligently does multiple broadcasts a week as play-by-play man, chief engineer, magazine salesman, and equipment porter, statistician, and goodness knows what else. How he does it, while somehow pulling stats, names, and figures out of the thin air is beyond me. I've had the privilege of listening to Bob do play-by-play since we were kids and he annouced our Nintendo Tecmo Bowl games. He was certainly born for this profession.

I, on the other hand, am an unpaid, volunteer stand-in who does it because I've enjoyed football my whole life and began my enjoyment of doing radio when I started doing shows for the campus station, WMHD, in college. The inexperience shows.

It's probably obvious, but doing live sports coverage is significantly more difficult than doing on-air D.J. work for a music show. There is very little downtime, and since Bob himself is a one man show, there's no one feeding me what to say.

Combine that with the position of color commentator on the radio, and you've got a recipe for foolishness - haha. Next time you watch a TV football broadcast, look at what the color guy does -- a lot of the time, he's commenting on the replay which is being shown to the viewers at home... "look at this block here..." "what you'll see now is..." they might even draw some x's and o's on the screen.

On the radio, of course, there is no instant replay. Nor is there a jumbo-tron or TV crew showing me an instant replay. Nor can I even see a half of what is taking place on any one play, given that I'm largely unfamiliar with the team (since it's usually a different team each week), and the rosters and stats we're given from the school can often change or just be wrong to begin with (as was the case tonight).

And of course, if no one is talking, the listeners get nothing. No cheerleaders to show. No crowd shots. No victory or defeat on the faces of the players. Nope. The listener has nothing except Bob and me.

So after each play, Bob starts typing stats into his excel spreadsheet, or is sending and receiving scoring updates via instant messenger, or is answering his phone for yet more updates and stats. In this midst of all that he might point at his screen and hopefully I figure out that there's an interesting stat line to read, or he might toss me a paper with a sponsor's ad on it and silently signal for me to start reading it (no pre-reading allowed, and the scripts are usually hand-written).

That means my job is to try and fill the space, without the use of any visual references provided by wonders of modern video. Just me, hoping to find something insightful to say about the last play, or how the game is developing, or how it's not raining yet, or how Madden 2007 comes out on Tuesday.

Then try to do that in the 4th quarter of a game that's 35-0 and hasn't had a score since the first play of the second half. You quickly run out of insights or things to say. Haha. In my attempt to stay upbeat on the team that was losing, I think I used the term "bright spot" abot 700 times. That's not exactly the next nation-wide catch phrase of choice, is it?

But anyway, it's fun and I enjoy it. And as with anything else, some days are better than others, and even a single game has it's ups and downs. And most of the time my real insights come at a time when I can't talk because Bob is in the middle of a play-by-play call. At home, of course, you can talk anytime while you're watching the game, but on-air, once Bob starts his play call, I've got to shut my trap. Tonight, for example, Avon lined up with 3 receivers to the near side on 4th and 8. As soon as I saw it, I knew the QB was going to roll left before throwing it because he'd been rolling left all night and that was the best way for him to buy some extra time. Of course, no sooner to I realize that then Bob starts with "The QB goes under center..."

And so the snap, the guy rolls left, and eventually they are stopped short of the first down. But stating it ahead of time would have been a useful call to the listeners at home, but I was too late with it. But so it goes. I'll be better with more practice, but even then, when you listen to the pro guys calling an NFL game on the radio, the color commentator often sounds like a dufus, and now I know why. LOL.

I don't think the game is online yet, but it will be soon and you can listen to a replay at to hear my foolishness. Our game was Hamilton Southeastern at Avon. If you do, you'll probably want to jump ahead to at least the 2nd quarter where, I think, I sounded less like a guy that walked in off the street (which is true, of course), than I did at first. Hats off to Bob who manages so sounds professional despite a guy like me flapping my jaws with gibberish every few minutes.


Dana said...

Whew, I'm exhausted just thinking about it! Sounds stressful! Glad to hear you've got the first one of the season under your belt.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the kind words. THe game will be on the archive tomorrow. Had to redo it at a smaller bit rate....