Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I read a lot of complaints about women's basketball announcers -- they talk over the game, they don't know the game, they don't mention the score, fouls, substitutions, they wax loquacious about their past accomplishments.

Some of that can be attributed to the fact that many who call or provide color commentary for the games have not been actually trained to do the job. Granted, training doesn't necessarily mean you'll rock at the job, but it can give you a focus and offer you a criteria for self-critiquing (or, if you're lucky and self-confident enough, maybe a mentor can side-coach you.)

Sometimes, the announcers are trumped by the producers/directors (they don't call the camera angles, the cuts to sideline or "in the stands" conversations, or the listen-ins to miced up coaches).

Of course, this "issue" with announcers is not unique to women's basketball, as Don Ohlmeyer, ESPN's Ombudsman notes.
One of the most frequent complaints in the mailbag relates to announcers who are incessantly sidetracked by observations, opinions and issues that viewers believe stray far afield from the game they're watching.
Some cases in point: "I was disgusted by ESPN's coverage of the NIT semifinal game between Dayton and Ole Miss. Instead of focusing on an exciting close game, they launch into an extended interview with [departing ESPN announcer] Steve Lavin, the new coach at St. John's -- ignoring what's happening on the floor" … "The coverage was disrespectful to the teams, players and fans" … "Is this what your announcers think the fans are turning in to see? Cover the game!"

ESPN's production teams do an excellent job of providing pictures, sound, and graphics that not only cover the action but also deliver a sense of place and the excitement that surrounds the games they cover. And make no mistake, ESPN has a fine stable of first-rate announcers who do excellent work on a regular basis. Most are professional, prepared, intelligent and articulate and have that sensitivity to the moment.

But too often, it seems, self-discipline wanes and what follows is the inevitable lapse into excess that causes so much agita in the mailbag. When a network broadcasts 1,100 basketball games and 300 football games a year, there will be peaks and valleys in performances. But with focus on imagination and self-discipline in the booth -- and a control truck that acts as the last line of defense -- there'll be less need for the common viewer refrains of "You're straying again" or "Let's get back to focusing on talking about the game."