It’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s baseball season. Time for you to get back to work calling games.
Let’s face it though, its’ been a while since you cracked a mic to do a baseball broadcast. All winter you’ve been calling basketball, football, hockey or something else to keep you sharp. The problem, none of those sports replicate the pace and cadence of a game on the diamond. It’s good that you’re keeping yourself in a game calling frame of mind. That’s important. Don’t sweat it, you might be rusty, but there are ways to get ready well before that first call of the year.
One of the best ways to stay prepared and ready to go before the season even starts is to pay attention to what is going on with your team. Stay on top of the moves, trades, signings and storylines. This is essential to your “storytelling” and makes you sound like the expert on your club. Make some calls in the off-season, get to understand the why’s and how’s that went into the transactions. Some of the information won’t be used on air, but it’s great to have that background knowledge. Get to know some of the new players or staff so you have a head start going to Arizona or Florida. You’ll be ahead of the game for sure. Keeping on top of this information will make it easier to get back in the booth.
I mentioned this a few columns ago, but podcasting is also a great way to stay on top of things. You get to talk the game and build a following and brand as an added bonus. It’s also a great way to keep your interviewing skills fresh and a podcast will keep you in a flow of being “on air” and producing content during your off-season. A podcast can be done on your time and continues to keep you top of mind and will attract new listeners to your actual broadcasts as well.
Baseball is so unique in its delivery style, there really isn’t a sport that mimics it exactly. Again, calling hoops, football and other sports will serve you well by staying in the frame of mind. Prep, routine and command are all things that can stay sharp by just being on the air. After some time off you need to get back in the swing of putting your scorebook together. Meaning the notes you like to use, stats, format and color coding of the book.
With that in mind, I suggest to watch a game or two to remind you of the descriptions and pacing of a broadcast. I would encourage this even if you are a radio broadcaster just so you can get immersed in the game again. Just seeing the field and hearing the sounds get you right back into that mindset and gets those creative juices flowing. You probably won’t need more than a couple of innings before you are calling it right alongside the broadcasters of the game, but it’s a good refresher course for the brain and your ears.
I would even think about listening back to a game you broadcast last season. Just like watching a game, listening to one you’ve done will serve as a great refresher of your own pacing and cadence. I like to do this after the season, maybe a few months after the last game just to hear what I did on a certain night. Enough time has elapsed to critique myself, make some notes and to find other ways of describing plays. I want to hear how I handled certain things and calls. This helps me to try and evolve as a broadcaster, to take mental notes about how I’d like to handle certain plays and calls going forward.
We can all learn and get better, but this is a good reminder, not only of what the game sounds like, but what you sound like. You’ll be amazed at what you pick up just listening to a tiny segment of previous work you’ve done. Keeping on top of your work can help you improve and polish your style heading into a new baseball season.
Spring Training isn’t just for players, use it to your advantage as well. Whether you’re a minor league broadcaster or major leaguer, the Cactus League or Grapefruit League can be a great time to get back in rhythm. Usually these broadcasts are less stressful than a regular season game. You can be loose and re-establish the working relationship and chemistry with your partner. Most stations aren’t broadcasting a ton of games in the exhibition season, so relish the ones you get to do!
In Spring games, the regulars very rarely play the full game. Why is this relevant? Well remember what I said about staying on top of and mastering the storylines for your team? Prospects will likely see a lot of time. Your listeners are, depending on the team, probably pretty familiar with the top guys in the farm system. Give them something other than the obvious. It’s good practice for the regular season too when may have to refer to one of these guys if they are having a good game or year.
Rust is inevitable in the first few games back from a long break. Don’t let it get to you. Don’t get frustrated. Just like anything, the more times you do it, the less time it takes you to reacclimate yourself to the booth.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.