The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.
~ Joe Paterno
Penn State football fan or not, Joe Pa’s words should be heeded, most especially by play-by-play announcers. Preparation (aka doing your homework) is the key to making the good call of a game a great call. But it’s also important to use that preparation judiciously and effectively.
When people ask me how long I take to prepare for a game I usually say, “Every day.” Being an NBA announcer, I am always on the lookout for information on my team and my league. That information comes from a plethora of sources: TV, radio, team and league publications, game notes, the internet and conversations with players, coaches and other team personnel (be careful to cross-check and confirm questionable or potentially controversial tid-bits you may come across). That said, the actual preparation time (the time it takes me to prepare my sheet before a game) is usually three to four hours.
Every announcer has his or her own system of preparation. I do my homework on an Excel® spreadsheet that I customize to my own personal taste. Much of it is written in my own personal code, with stats arranged according to my somewhat esoteric preference. Suffice it to say, there is no right or wrong way to arrange your facts as long as they are correct and easily and quickly accessible while you’re on the air.
One of the most common errors of young, well-prepared announcers is the over-use of homework. Many feel the pressure to use their facts as much as possible, often times jamming in the information whether or not it makes sense to do so at the time. The key is to use this information only when it’s appropriate. For example, if a rookie has a breakout game and scores a career high, you should mention not only the fact that he has a career high but feel free to color the broadcast with more information which enhances who he or she is, on the court as well as off the court. In other words, if a player accomplishes something noteworthy, that is the time people will be interested in hearing more about him. The same thing applies to the team. You might not mention that a team is just an averaging shot-blocking squad, until they snuff 12 in a game, then it bears mentioning.
I have facts on my sheet that I may carry around from game to game and use only twice, once or not at all during an entire season. At www.marczumoff.com we say if you use 15 percent of the information on a sheet during a telecast, you’ve used a lot. That’s a .150 batting average in baseball--not a great average in that game, but a great night if you’re a play-by-play announcer.
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