This time next week, the nation will once again be captivated by the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year on the sports calendar.
For TV broadcasters who get to call those early-round games from one of the several neutral sites hosting contests, the lead-up is intense. CBS Sports play-by-play broadcaster Ian Eagle told Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score in Chicago that the big dance is an entirely different beast to prepare for.
“I can normally start on a chart a week or 10 days before a game and at least have the skeleton of it done,” Eagle said when it comes to prepping for an NFL game or a Brooklyn Nets game. “And because we don’t find out until Sunday night, Selection Sunday, usually about 8:30-8:45 we get a call, that’s the first inkling you have of where you’re going, and you just hit the ground running and try to immerse yourself.”
He added that more often than not he’s going to call games featuring teams he knows nothing about. Eagle said he gave up on trying to know everything about everyone.
“It’s impossible to be an expert on all eight teams,” he said. “You’re parachuting in, and where a lot of the stress comes for me is there’s nothing I can do about it.”
By the time he gets to wherever he’s going to be calling games from, the rush is on to soak up as much info about the teams playing as possible. Eagle added that it doesn’t help that teams will show up to practice in no particular order, adding another layer to prepping.
“By the end of it, your head is spinning,” he said. “You start to forget who even is playing one another after a while.”
Ultimately, Eagle recognizes that when his time to call a game comes up, he’s got a range of people tuning in from die-hard fans, to casual fans, to folks who have never watched a college hoops game before. But the goal is to make sure he does a good job for the student-athletes who made it to this stage of the season.
“We’re trying to serve and placate many different audiences when it comes to this tournament,” he said. “As a play-by-play announcer, my goal is to try to touch on all those things… You try to do right by the kids that are playing this tournament, and it’s the highest level of basketball that they’ll ever play in.”
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“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.