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ESPN Planning ‘Futuristic Look’ For MLB Home Run Derby

“Despite the network planning to display advanced renderings and interpretations of sports data into the broadcast, the top priority remains showing the viewer each pitch as it happens, along with giving viewers unrivaled access to the field, players and spectators.”

Derek Futterman

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As the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” ESPN continues to pioneer the future of sports event production through its partnership with various properties, including the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. The decades-old staple of the entertainment and sports industry plans to amplify its coverage of Major League Baseball All-Star Week in a contemporary, progressive manner not yet seen in sports television.

According to the network, it will “provide expansive coverage of the 2021 MLB All-Star festivities from July 11-13 in Denver,” including the first round of the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft, the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game.

The Major League Baseball Draft was exclusively presented on MLB Network beginning in 2009 when Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder and American League all-star starter Mike Trout was taken with the 25th pick in the first round. Since then, the MLB Draft has grown into an event that interests baseball fanatics, and has become an opportune time for other events to be cross-promoted. ESPN and MLB Network simulcast the Draft for the first time in 2020, with the event taking place out of ESPN’s studios in Bristol. For the first time in its history, the Major League Baseball Draft will take place during Major League Baseball All-Star Week, after plans to hold it in conjunction with the College World Series in Omaha fell through due to health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had already been pushing to add simultaneous coverage of the Draft with MLB Network,” said Phil Orlins, who serves as the senior coordinating producer of Major League Baseball, Little League and College Baseball for ESPN. “When the draft happened around early July last year, we were super eager to do it because, at that time, we didn’t have many live sports. We wanted to do it again this year, but it’s just not in the construction of our deal with Major League Baseball. I think we were fairly confident that it would work out, [as] it optimizes the visibility of the event for [both] ESPN and MLB Network to cover it.”

When Major League Baseball made the decision to move 2021 All-Star festivities from Atlanta to Denver in early April, logistical challenges were presented to Orlins and his team, who generally start preparing for these slate of events in the early autumn of the previous year. Unlike Truist Park in Atlanta, Coors Field in Denver does not have a connecting venue with the capability to host the Draft, coercing the network to find alternate ways to transmit the event from the new venue, the Bellco Theatre, to the ballpark, venues that are 1.4 miles away from each other.

The move also impacted the planning of the Home Run Derby, an event that has engendered much interest since its inception in 1985. While the original nine-month timetable was quickly compressed down to three due to the decision by the league to relocate the festivities, Orlins knew that his team would be able to handle the challenge.

“We’ve been doing this for a lot of years,” said Orlins. “[The move] caused a little bit of extra urgency and speed to the work, [but] I don’t think it has any real impact as to how the event will be covered.”

Orlins produced the first Home Run Derby broadcast on television in 1993, in which Seattle Mariners superstar and National Baseball Hall of Fame member Ken Griffey, Jr., crushed a home run off of the B&O Warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Originally a 30-minute taped show, the veteran producer considers the impact he had in the event’s evolution as one of the signature moments of his career.

“I remember back in the day the seats were free for fans,” reminisced Orlins. “Then, it grew to a $5 charity donation per seat, and now it is a jewel event. It’s been amazing seeing that event capture the public’s fancy.”

ESPN is set to exclusively telecast the Home Run Derby on both the primary ESPN channel and ESPN-2, with each broadcast targeted for different segments of the viewing audience. The parent network, ESPN, will be taking a conventional approach, featuring a broadcast team of Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez, Buster Olney and Marley Rivera calling the action and giving viewers an entertaining, traditional viewing experience. Conversely on ESPN-2, Jason Bennetti, Jessica Mendoza and Mike Petriello will explore the contest from an analytics-driven perspective, relying on Statcast technology to examine metrics such as launch angle, distance, exit velocity and barrel percentage to name a few, implementing them into the broadcast. This style of broadcast, which first debuted on ESPN’s coverage of Major League Baseball just prior to the turn of the century, is designed for the astute, perspicacious viewer, and will use graphics and groundbreaking technology to envision these data-powered metrics in an elucidatory, provocative mode.

“The pervasiveness and the capability of what Major League Baseball has been able to do through Statcast is unbelievable,” affirmed Orlins. “We felt [this broadcast] was a chance to more aggressively-serve… diehards who absorb sports and want all the information in every way [it can be presented]… without alienating more casual viewers.”

Since the Home Run Derby began its utilization of an alternative presentation in 2018, the network has watched the proliferation of its viability, and plans to take the broadcast to new heights this year. Even though the Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be exclusively broadcast on Fox as normal, the networks will share equipment to ensure that both their broadcasts eclipse the status quo.

“We have a really aggressive plan to differentiate the visual coverage of the at-bats with significant augmented reality,” said Orlins. “I think it’s going to be a very futuristic look.”

Despite the network planning to display advanced renderings and interpretations of sports data into the broadcast, the top priority remains showing the viewer each pitch as it happens, along with giving viewers unrivaled access to the field, players and spectators. With these concomitant objectives, broadcasting the event to serve all of them was something that presented a challenge to ESPN prior to the advent of the split-screen coverage box.

“We keep a pretty comfortable portrait-style type shot of the batter and pitcher, and we [have an approximately] 4 x 3 coverage box on the right side of the screen,” explained Orlins. “We have a constant shot of the pitch and the swing on one side, and we’re able to track the balls and reactions on the bigger box on the other side. Until we made that move, we were just in an uphill battle at all times; in the worst-case scenario, pitches were being thrown before home runs were landing. There’s a comfort in never losing track of when the pitch is coming.”

Something different from previous years, however, is the highly-saturated marketplace that exists for live sports. The Home Run Derby, usually a showcase, professional sporting event leading up to the Midsummer Classic, has to compete with the N.B.A. Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, along with the buildup towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which are set to begin later this month after a year-long delay. These premium events notwithstanding do not take away from the appeal of the Home Run Derby, as the setting for this year’s event is the high-altitude Coors Field, which, on average, yields the longest home run distances out of any ballpark in the major leagues. Moreover, its showcase participant is the man who is being called the closest thing to Babe Ruth since, well, Babe Ruth himself: the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way phenom, Shohei Ohtani.

“I can’t believe I’m actually saying this,” expressed Orlins, “but the Babe Ruth comparisons actually almost fall short at this point because, while Ruth was an excellent pitcher and the greatest hitter of all-time, he really never did them both at the same time to this degree, and he certainly wasn’t being measured on Statcast either. [Ohtani] is going to be the number one seed, [and] he’s positioned to bat in the spot that will lead our audience to there. I think there is a mystique and intrigue as to what will happen.”

The rest of the field for the Home Run Derby, which includes New York Mets’ slugger and reigning event-champion Pete Alonso, Texas Rangers’ outfielder Joey Gallo and the prolific Washington Nationals’ all-star Juan Soto, is sure to generate peak ratings and cultivate feats worthy of awe and incredulousness among fans and analysts alike.

“We promote the event extremely-aggressively,” said Orlins. “We are very fortunate to have one of the strongest possible promotional stand-out elements of the event, which is holding a home-run hitting contest at a high altitude.”

Following the Home Run Derby, ESPN will feature the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game, which will be broadcast by father-son duo Tim and Jeff Kurkjian. The event will feature notable celebrities including The Miz, Kane Brown, JoJo Siwa and Quavo, along with athletes Larry Walker, Jenny Finch and CC Sabathia.

“It’s an event that probably takes 75 minutes in the ballpark,” Orlins explained, “but gets cut down to about 46 minutes on television. The main thing is [being[ fun and clever [about] things to do with the various participants [at an] aggressive-pace. It’s how you quickly, effectively trim it down, making your commentary make sense when you are trying to eliminate all of the balls not swung at.”

Lastly, on Tuesday night, Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Chris Singleton will be on the call for the Major League Baseball All-Star Gameon ESPN Radio, the 23rd year it has been the national radio home for the midsummer classic. Additionally, Sciambi and Singleton will provide listeners with all the action from the Home Run Derby on the air Monday night.

ESPN’s multimedia coverage of the Major League Baseball All-Star festivities is also available to be streamed on the ESPN App, and will be the first Major League Baseball All-Star Week to occur since July 2019.

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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Andrew Catalon is Prepared to Meet the Moment

“You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Derek Futterman

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Andrew Catalon
Courtesy: John Paul Filo, CBS

The city of Pittsburgh is known for its propensity to build, serving as the point of widespread adoption of steel-making that revolutionized the construction industry for perpetuity. Situated at the conjunction of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, the locale is fixed at the pathway of innovation and splendor where what may seem impossible can expeditiously render itself into reality. Even though Andrew Catalon did not forecast it beforehand, he found himself at the intersection of fantasy and reality at PPG Paints Arena during a game within the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies were closing in on an all-time upset of the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats, and time was waning on the clock.

Catalon has called many upset victories behind the microphone across a variety of sports since starting his work as a play-by-play announcer. Just one year ago, he delivered an enduring call of No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson defeating No. 1 Purdue in the first round of the tournament. Fans can purchase T-shirts with Catalon’s verbiage of “FDU Believe It?!,” commemorating what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport and demonstrating the impact of his words. The key to it all is to remain focused on the action taking place on the court in order to deliver an accurate and apropos soundtrack to the moment.

“I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned with some of the upsets over the years is not to get ahead of yourself,” Catalon said. “It’s a long game, and there will be time at the end to explain the significance of it, but before that, you’ve got to call the game and stay within that moment.”

Throughout his broadcast career, Catalon has broadcast 300 college basketball games and usually does not think about hypotheticals; however, the FDU-Purdue matchup happened to represent a rare exception in that paradigm. After all, a FDU victory would represent just the second time in tournament history that a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in the bracket. The only other time it had happened was in 2018 when No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia, and the moment as delivered by play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz continues to stand the test of time.

“I knew it’d be replayed [and] I wanted to be prepared in that moment, but I also think that being spontaneous and just kind of going with the flow also makes for a good final call,” Catalon said. “Last year I did have that ‘FDU Believe It?!’ kind of in the back of my mind as the game went on, but for Oakland this year, it just kind of came out.”

Once Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves clanked a desperation three-point attempt long off the rim, Catalon exclaimed that Oakland had completed “a March memory of a lifetime.” From there, he let the crowd and marching band tell the story accompanied by a dichotomy of jubilation and despair. Part of what makes that possible is the understanding from color commentator Steve Lappas of how to approach the moment, something that has been built through the countless repetitions he and Catalon have had broadcasting games together. In fact, Catalon estimates he can count the number of college basketball games he has announced without Lappas on his hands.

“I know what he wants to say or when he wants to get in, and he knows when I want to get in and what I want to say, and that just makes it so much better,” Catalon said. “So look, there’s nothing better than having a consistent partner, and I credit CBS for that; they have kept us together.”

Reaching these types of moments requires comprehensive preparation, research and informed observation to understand the teams and accurately report and expound on the surrounding storylines. For a typical March Madness game, Catalon watches the previous matchups for the teams he has coming up on his schedule and reviews his boards from years prior.

“I don’t want to be the guy that just parachutes in having never seen a team before, and I think fans can detect that, so my prep is always to get up to speed so that a viewer of a team doesn’t think that, ‘This guy hasn’t watched us play,’ or, ‘This guy doesn’t know what we’re all about.’ That would be a huge disservice to the viewer and to the fan, and that’s always what I try to accomplish in my prep.”

Catalon has sought to prove that he can come through in the clutch during his time working in sports media, bringing a consistent approach to his craft no matter if it is among the strident crowd at a college basketball arena or the subdued greens of Augusta National. Over the course of the week, he has been on-site to call the 88th edition of The Masters golf tournament from Augusta, Ga., a revered tradition that takes place annually with its coveted green jacket and several other lucrative prizes hanging in the balance. With the inherent spirit of congenial competition subdued yet effervescent, storytelling takes center stage with a keen foresight and cognizance of the moment.

“There’s a lot more teamwork involved,” Catalon said. “You think about a broadcast – we have 7-8 announcers as opposed to two or three for a football or basketball game – and that’s another big part of camaraderie and partnership is spending time with that golf crew so that when I pinch hit for Jim Nantz, it’s seamless. I don’t want them to think that, ‘Okay, we’re in a different broadcast because Jim’s not here.’”

Nantz has been hosting coverage of The Masters since 1989 and has become synonymous with the tournament itself, authoring its slogan, “A tradition unlike any other.” Catalon understands the responsibility he incurs when taking the air from Augusta and is living out a longtime career aspiration of calling golf. Leading up to a pivotal shot or tournament-winning putt, he works to effectively contextualize the situation and let it play out in the environment.

“No one can fill Jim’s shoes and I’m not trying to,” Catalon said, “but I want to make sure that that team knows that I’m doing my homework and that they can count on me to deliver in the big moment.”

From the time he was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University, Catalon knew that he had a penchant for sports media and began gaining repetitions at WAER, the student-run radio station. Calling football, basketball and lacrosse games, he developed professional friendships and gained a broader understanding of the industry itself. Being situated in the broadcast booth, he developed ideas of how to approach a game and an ability to translate the feats of athleticism and achievement into succinct, nuanced phraseology.

“There’s no doubt that all the reps that I got in college at WAER have certainly helped me not only get a job, but also for a lot of the stuff that I do now,” Catalon said. “I still make my boards the same exact way I did in college. I handwrite everything with different colored markers and pens, and I just retain the information better.”

Before Catalon was calling sporting events though, he had not settled on play-by-play announcing as his primary career path. Instead, he applied to work at WVNY, a local news television station in Burlington, Vt. and was later hired over the phone as its sports director. As a result, Catalon moved to the city without ever seeing the station and remembers immediately being part of the regular workflow.

“It was a whole new world of learning how to run a department and kind of how to be mature,” Catalon said. “When you’re that young, you learn a lot of lessons, and it was an unbelievable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job out of college.”

Three years later, WVNY announced that it was closing its news department and was consequently laying off several of its employees. Catalon was among the job cuts, a devastating outcome that prepared him to move back home. Yet he received assistance from his colleagues, specifically WVNY news director Peter Speciale, and helped him land a new job as a weekend anchor on WNYT in Albany, N.Y. two months later. While he was in the capital city of New York, the outlet allowed him to seize other industry opportunities to augment his versatility, including freelance play-by-play announcing for SportsNet New York (SNY) and CBS Sports Network.

“They were incredible to allow me to do all these opportunities,” Catalon said. “Very rarely did I have to say ‘No.’ They were very accommodating with my schedule, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because they allowed me to do all those things while I was still a full-time employee.”

Carr-Hughes Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. gave Catalon the chance to voice over a curling show in their studios, and he eventually expanded his portfolio to include luge and equestrian. In 2007, NBC was looking for new curling announcers, leading Catalon to be recommended and calling a curling exhibition in Rockefeller Center. The next year, he contributed to Olympics coverage for the first time, calling handball games remotely from the network’s New York studios.

When the games were in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010, Catalon traveled to the city to call curling matches. It was there where he met award-winning sports anchor Fred Roggin, who was hosting coverage of the sport for NBC. During a dinner they had over the three weeks they were working together, Roggin shared an observation he had made about Catalon with him that fundamentally altered the trajectory of his career.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, I know you love doing the local news,’ and that’s what he did; he said, ‘but I really think that you’ve got what it takes to be a play-by-play guy, and I think that you should focus on that,’” Catalon remembered Roggin telling him. “Hearing that from him – who had been in the business for so long and who was doing what I wanted to do – I really valued his opinion, and I would say after that Olympics, I really turned my attention to focus on play-by-play.”

Catalon officially joined CBS Sports full time as a play-by-play announcer in 2013, but he had been steadily assimilated into the role with several opportunities years earlier. The first National Football League game he broadcast came in 2011 in an AFC matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals when he was asked to fill in for Bill Macatee. As has turned out to be happenstance for Catalon, the game ended in the final seconds when Bengals kicker Mike Nugent struck a 43-yard field goal for the win.

“When you’re in a close game and there’s strategy talk and you have those opportunities, you’ve got to step up and nail it,” Catalon said. “I think that I showed them in that game that I could handle a close game, NFL big stage. And after that, more and more opportunities came, but every one I treated like it was my last, and I knew that I had to do a good job to prove it to them that I could do this on a full-time basis.”

As the years went on, Catalon continued to garner more opportunities and worked to further refine his commentary to appeal to a national audience. While there are differences in the profile of a football game and golf tournament, he understands that it is his job to accentuate and describe the moments over the course of action. Through it all, he seeks to be relatable, informative and entertaining to his audience in disseminating an accurate account to pair with the video.

“I try to be the guy that you’d want to have a beer with if you’re at a restaurant watching the game,” Catalon said. “You want to come across where you’re not overbearing. You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Catalon had been working with James Lofton on NFL games for several seasons, but CBS Sports revealed various changes across its announcing teams ahead of the 2023 regular season. As the play-by-play announcer on a new broadcast team featuring two analysts – former running back and WFAN afternoon host Tiki Barber; and former quarterback Matt Ryan – and reporter AJ Ross, Catalon spent time familiarizing himself with his new colleagues and building rapport applicable to the broadcast. Weekly dinners and several rounds of golf was part of this assimilation process and led to an enjoyable season with the broadcast team.

“I think because of that, we bonded as a group a lot faster than maybe I have with other partners in the past just because we had no choice but to kind of get up to speed quickly,” Catalon said. “Matt did a tremendous job in his first year, and Tiki is phenomenal as well and AJ is one of the best out there, so I feel lucky that I was with this group, and it was definitely one of the more fun seasons I’ve had on CBS.”

In calling three different sports throughout the year that require different preparation and travel, Catalon frequently has a packed schedule. With this heavy workload, he has a vocal coach to ensure he is doing what is necessary to keep his voice strong. Catalon is proactive to safeguard against losing his voice, something that can occur more readily during March Madness because of the volume of games he is calling in short proximity.

There are occurrences where it takes some time for his voice to bounce back, and he remains prudent, so he is able to perform his job. Aside from his role to the fans, Catalon is working hard for his family and wants to make them proud.

“It’s not easy for any announcer who travels like we do to be away from their family and to miss weddings or kids’ soccer games,” Catalon said. “You have to understand when you get into this business that there’s a lot of things that you’re going to miss, and you have to have an understanding family along the way, and I’m lucky that I have one.”

Although there is no guarantee Catalon will be present for another stunning upset or overtime winner, he looks at his assignments and breadth of work with gratitude and awareness of his career windfalls. If such instances do happen in the forthcoming assignments though, viewers can rest assured that they are hearing a veteran who knows how to punctuate the climax and conclude the story unfolding in real time.

Even though he is not the author of the event itself, he is among its documentarians who writes the manuscript within a library that aims to stand the test of time. The final buzzer represents a deadline of sorts as he crafts the parlance in real time, embedded with the vernacular of the moment. 

“NFL, college basketball and golf – three of my favorite things – and CBS has all three,” Catalon said. “So I’m so lucky in this job, and I can’t tell you that there’s something I haven’t done that I want to do. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

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The ’70-20-10 Rule’ for Advertising Budgets

No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic for 70-20-10 Rule
Credit: PennyCallingPenny.com

The ’70-20-10 rule’ is a widely accepted concept in business. Google, Coca-Cola, and other big brands manage their resources in a specific ratio to stay cutting-edge and grow. The idea is that 70% of a company’s investment should go to the core business, 20% to new developments, and 10% to new and untested ideas. If you are trying to maximize your ad budget and don’t know how to fit in all the opportunities, try this method. Here is a look at an annual advertising budget of $120,000. The clients’ best months of the year are November and December. Here is how the 70-20-10 rule could be applied to maximize returns while minimizing risks.

70%: Proven Strategies – $84K

The foundation of your advertising budget should be built on proven strategies that consistently deliver results. Allocate 70% of your budget to these safe bets. These are proven campaigns that you know will work from history or borrowing tactics from industry-trusted sources. In general, these are ad campaigns on proven platforms, such as radio, TV, Google and Facebook. Advertisers should use these tactics 12 months a year to provide a consistent return. This will establish a solid foundation for your advertising strategy while minimizing risk. Spend $7,000 each month on proven winners.

20%: Competitor Tactics – $24K

To unlock higher returns and explore new opportunities, allocate 20% of your budget to advertising initiatives that you have never tried before, but maybe your competitors are using successfully. These activities could include OTT commercials, TikTok or email marketing. You could handle these chores yourself or ask a trusted media partner, like your TV or radio rep, to assist you with their locally based digital department. It is sometimes easier to rely on trusted partners when exploring new spending in areas you are unfamiliar with. Since the best time of year for this business is November and December, this $24,000 should be spent in these two months to maximize results. Attacking the busiest time of the year with an extra $24,000 in advertising can yield the best outcome. Testing new initiatives when business is slow is like trying to sell parkas in July. Good luck. 

10%: Out-of-the-Box Ideas – $12K

Trying new concepts is critical to long-term success in advertising. Allocating 10% of your budget to experimental tactics that encourage outside-the-box thinking may lead to results you can’t quickly gauge or have a long-term benefit. Support a local cause or sports team. Generate buzz by handing out mini fans at the local summer fair. Put your ads on car dashboard monitors with QUU from your local radio rep. Spend the money wherever it makes sense for the tactic you are buying; fall, summer, or morning and afternoon drive times. Go with the flow and see if it pays back. These tactics can set you apart from your competition and endear you to audiences. Here is the latest on QUU.

Read and React

Try adapting the ’70-20-10 rule’ to your specific business and goals. Regularly evaluate the performance of your advertising efforts, measure ROI, and be open to adjusting your allocations based on sales AND metrics. Every business wants to be an early adopter of money-making new ideas. No one wants to be the business that holds onto the past and gradually declines. The road is littered with brands that didn’t evolve: Blackberry, Blockbuster, MySpace, etc. Mix up your ad spend with the proven, borrowed, and new to achieve sustainable growth in the long run.

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