Raley Field

Top 5 Essentials for a Play-by-Play Broadcaster


1. PREPARE….Nothing beats preparation. You don’t want to inundate your listeners with meaningless numbers. But, learning as much as you can about the each player on each team is paramount to a free-flowing, informative and entertaining broadcast. I have found it’s better to have a fun story about the player from personal experience rather than regurgitated information from a program. Know your teams, know their tendencies and when in doubt, stop with the clever quips and “Call the Game.”

2. GET YOUR REST….This may sound odd, but getting a good night’s sleep is some of the best preparation you can do for broadcasting a game and doing it well. Sure, mediocre broadcasters can arrive, call a game and puff their chest out thinking they are “the man.” But, was their broadcast compelling ? Was it interesting ? Did it enhance the listening experience ? If you don’t get your rest you will not be sharp and your broadcast will drag and it will suffer. Let me share a little secret, I love basketball and baseball road-trips. Why ? Well, I work a morning show when I am home. I get up at 5am, work until mid-morning and then start preparing for the game which starts at 5pm and will last until at least 10pm. That makes for a long long day. When I am on the road I get to sleep in. I get a full night’s rest. I feel refreshed, totally prepared and totally in sync with the games and broadcasts. Don’t under-estimate rest as a broadcaster.

3. PROTECT YOUR VOICE….I learned this the hard way as a young play-by-play man. If you are going to scream, which I don’t endorse by the way, make sure you are using your diaphragm when doing so. Make sure you are properly using your voice when calling a game. Most football, basketball and baseball games last for three-plus hours. During exciting moments we all have a tendency to stretch those vocal chords an octave or two. What you need to do is make sure you are properly breathing during your broadcast. Make sure your words have the breath support to sustain three hours in the booth. During my formative years I would really abuse my voice with poor  breath support and too many guttural calls. One day my voice just stopped working and it wouldn’t come back. I had to go to a speech pathologist who determined I was using very little breath support in my delivery. I had to re-learn my breath support while broadcasting, and now, even during exciting moments in a game I can dig deep, keep the intensity of the moment and relay it to the listeners without killing my voice. Protect your money-maker. And, in this case, the money-maker is your voice.

4. LEAVE THE CLICHE’S TO BERMAN….With all due respect to Chris Berman, stop it with the trite clichés’ and played-out sports terminology. In my humble opinion it is amateurish and makes a broadcast sound like a carnival act. I may not be in the majority on this, but the over-use of nick-names and trite phrases during a sports broadcast is the “nails down a chalk-board” moment for me. There are some legendary broadcasters who did develop a niche during play-by-play and did bring out some truly classic phrases, but they didn’t over-use them and they practically patented the terms and their respective fan bases considered it part of the drama. If the novice busts out a cliché or playful phrase during a game and it doesn’t work, your broadcast will lose credibility. It will grate on the listener. The cliché doesn’t let the listener know anything about what is actually happening on the field, it is simply something to that takes up space during your broadcast. It’s meaningless drivel. Be “cutesy” if you want. But, think about this, have you ever heard the truly “great” broadcasters bring you anything but the game ? Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Jon Miller, Bill King. Stick to the game, describe the action, impart the energy and passion of the game and you will be fine.

5. EAT HEALTHY ON GAME DAY….Believe it or not this is vital. Remember, you are broadcasting a game and you can not call time-out to go to the bathroom. Chuckle if you must but paying attention to your food intake on game day is just as important for you as it is for the players. At least the players can go to the locker room. You, as the broadcaster, are beholden to the game’s pace. If you go out and have a spicy lunch or dinner on game day, you have no one to blame but yourself when you are frantically searching for a Rolaids, Tums or Immodium AD minutes before the tip-off. This lesson was learned the hard way after years of thinking I could tempt the sports and food Gods on game day. Respect the stomach, eat healthy, don’t eat too much and you should be fine.

After 17 years of football, basketball and baseball play-by-play these tried-and-true tips are essential in having an informative, entertaining broadcast that will have the listener coming back for more.

Leave a Reply