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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Basic Biittner: NCAA Hoops

Monday, April 12, 2010

During the recent NCAA Final Four, we were listening to one of the semi-final games on the radio. The game happened to be between Butler and Michigan State, but that's irrelevant to the topic about which I'm going to rant. It was an exciting, fast-paced game, which IS relevant.

My preferred method of following a "live" ball game would be on the television, but in this case, we were "on the road," so we had to make do with catching the remainder of the game we had been watching on the tube via the radio. After we finally found a station which was carrying the game, then losing and recovering the signal, we kind of missed the exciting finish. Oh, we had the station tuned in, all right, but the guys doing the broadcast (I don't know their names, because they never said them) made one of the cardinal errors a radio play-by-play sportscaster can make - they apparently forgot that their listeners can't see the action, and failed to describe it well enough that I could catch a few minor details - such as who won the game.

Granted, it didn't help matters that I wasn't familiar with the players on either team, so the sportscaster saying a player's name really gave me no clue as to which team had the ball.

Now I admit that I have never done play-by-play on the radio - nor on

television, for that matter. And the play-by-play man in this case, whoever it was, sounded like he might be an ex-player, as so many play-by-play men seem to be these days. In other words, he wasn't a professionally - trained broadcaster.

So for his benefit, as well as any of you who may someday find yourself in the position of having to describe a sporting event to radio listeners who cannot see for themselves what is going on, please keep in mind the fact that your listeners are counting on you to not only explain to them the "whys" of the action you described, but also what actually happened. You need to be their "eyes."

It would seem to me, an admittedly untrained person, that broadcasting a televised sporting event and one on the radio would be totally different creatures. Yet it amazes me how many "pros" don't seem to realize that. It's not quite so bad in a slow-moving sport like baseball, where it's not uncommon for sportscasters to tell anecdotes between pitches - which I LIKE, by the way - but a faster-moving sport like hockey, soccer or basketball is impossible to follow on the radio unless you have a truly good play-by-play man who knows what he's doing. Heck, I even have some trouble following hockey on television, where I can see the action but it sometimes happens "too quick." Thank God for instant replay - especially "slo-mo" instant replay.

I think another reason that sportscasters doing college basketball on the radio need to do a better job of identifying players and their team is the ever-increasing tendency of top college players to only play a season or two at a school before they depart for the high-paying professional ranks. Although I mentioned earlier that I wasn't familiar with the players on either the Michigan State or Butler teams, it's getting to the point where it's hard to identify any player with a particular school because THEY don't identify with the school and its fans, either.

In just one single day last week, for example, there were stories about seven talented basketball players leaving Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville early to go to the NBA. So much for school spirit and alumni reunions.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner