Saturday, July 14, 2012

Livestreaming Worlds Part IV

In my last installment of puffery I wrote about the necessity for the game announcers to get the correct names of players on the field during play and pronounce those names with accuracy and elan.

You can call an entire ultimate game and do nothing right but get everyone's names and you will have done a good job.

The next part I touched on was research: knowing the teams, their offensive and defensive sets, their tendencies, their personnel, injuries, game plan heading into the finals and the team's history.

All of this is done by watching, learning, and talking to team captains. I think the announcers for NexGen for Worlds accomplished this well although I was somewhat dismayed when Chase and Lou in calling the Open Final implied that the Great Britain team was a bunch of nervous newcomers to the World stage. I get it -- they played like nervous nellies but this team has guys that have some decent tournament experience under their belts. A close loss to Sweden in the 2011 EUC finals is one example, a loss they avenged a day earlier in the semifinals 15-14.

I never heard mention of that game or GB's history at Beach Worlds, Paganello, the World Games and other major international tournaments. GB is easily one of the top eight international programs and has been for awhile (USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, GB and maybe Finland or Colombia make my list).

In the end GB played awfully so in some sense maybe their observation was spot-on but there is no doubt they needed to set that table more and reveal just where this GB team came from and what GB has done internationally.

I digress. Some things that Chase and Lou did quite well in both of the games they covered (Women's final as well, which was again the superior game, much like it was in Prague 2010) was provide just the right amount of insightful commentary and keen sports phrasing.

Two examples come to mind: Lou's phrases like "coffin corner" (facing a crosswind head on from a trapped sideline) "bankroll" referring to Open Team USA collecting GB's opening half drops and turning them into points and "cash it in" when a D player gets a D block and then banks the turnover by getting the goal.

Chase's commentary after halftime of the USA-GB final was keen. He noted (and you could tell he spoke from experience as a veteran elite Worlds player) that GB needed to relax, have fun, realize this is the last time they will play together as this particular unit, and go out there and play loose.

Both phrasing and insightful yet concise commentary is good to have. I am guilty at times of over-commentating. You can do this as the color man -- think Jeff Van Gundy calling the NBA finals -- but you have to be careful. You don't want to over-opinionate without a dose of humor that lets the viewer realize you're talking jive talk for fun. This has been a problem of mine -- talking with conviction about things I wasn't 100% on. It's part of the trap of commentating -- be careful!

Lou and Chase did fine here, although they erred perhaps too much on the conservative side.

A major problem with ultimate and one that we, the loose-knit community of announcers, has yet to solve is the game's fundamental sway of "holding serve." Tennis and golf commentators are quiet. Basketball, football, hockey and baseball announcers can be chatterboxes. Soccer is somewhere in between, as is ultimate. You want to bring excitement to the broadcast (listen to a Tom Styles-called game again) but you don't want to get over excited about that sweet layout block when tend seconds later the D team turns it over and the point becomes a 15-minute marathon rendering that sweet D block useless. You have to know how to balance the nature of a game like ultimate that tilts it's value toward offensive precision and conservatism (and thus a reserved announcing style) with the genuine excitement of something like a three-goal run or the aforementioned D block.

Lastly I will say that timing is important. The interplay between the announcers has to be flawless. Speaking over each other or calling out field action while the other announcer is riffing is a real problem. Everyone runs into this problem I feel. Tom and I for Beach Worlds tried to map out who would talk at what points in the game -- color commentary, play-by-play and points in between. I'm not sure we ever quite mastered it, especially with the difficulty of calling play-by-play without knowing names and mastering player identities.

Again I think Lou and Chase did this well and Bryan and Mario needed work. They stepped on each other a few too many times. It's the nature of the beast, really, hard to find fault, but it can't happen.

After so much praise however I will mention that Lou and Chase were probably slightly too USA-centered in both of their broadcasts (and by this I mean not pointing out USA's faults and foul calls as often as they should have) and certainly a little lacking in providing a strong historical background for the teams and the sport -- how many finals for USA? This was Japan's first Worlds win, yes or no? Etc. Generally speaking their commentary on the overall state of the sport and the place of these teams could have been stronger.

And I will say that Chase's end-of-game analysis of the Women's final was just silly. He actually said that the USA "just missed by inches" in referring to their chances. In reality they made buckets of unforced turnovers, many not even close, and were destroyed after the opening quarter, 13-6 (USA had gone up 7-4). More astute words might have been: USA missed by kilometers.

Overall you have to like what both of these announcing teams did and what NexGen is bringing to the table. It's amazing that we even get to comment on commentators in a positive light.

Next up for the announcers: set the historical place, set the stakes of the game, have a spotter if needed down on the field to radio in names of goal throwers and ESPECIALLY to relay foul calls if possible.

More work is needed for some of the announcing teams on timing and color versus play-by-play and for others how to not make the game sound boring, like golf or tennis.

Looking forward to more.


  1. I'd rather be the guy behind the camera!

    Really interesting read. Definitely agree on the US centric point. Technicals have got WAY better since their first event disasters with wifi LTE although I am not so sure AUS and NZ subscribers to WUGC would agree. I heard they had lots of problems. Who ever was working the score graphics was drinking too many beers or doing too many jobs!

    It was great to see the games I think everyone agrees but I think I really appreciate more than I did already what a great job Tom and Steve do. Listened and watched them at EUC and WCBU and it appeared they just rocked up without any effort at all, which I am sure is not the case. Funny, banter and I learned something every game.

    Off to watch some of what Ulti.TV recorded at WUGC with a few beers.....

  2. A very insightful look at the nexgen coverage, the other point is that the commentary was also littered with American terms for the sport like "universe point" I had never heard that term before and found the commentary to be like an annoying buzzing without insight into the teams. Maybe like premiership football coverage in the uk it would help to have surnames of the players on the shirts along with their numbers and ban caps for the finals!! So can see faces of players etc!!
    There was a lot of problems with the stream in various countries and a lot of refreshing was needed to watch the semi finals!!
    Nextgen have set a standard now on picture quality and replays for sure, and next time I'm sure they will get the rest sorted out, as technology improves I'm sure the commentary will do too, less is sometimes more with commentary!!