The Boston Bruins are up 3-0 on the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals: How do you keep up with the action? Do you plunk yourself down on that lucky stool at the local watering hole or do you choose to stay home, and watch it on TV?
I choose to do neither. While I consider myself a hockey fan, I would much rather listen to the game on the radio than sit in front of the television for hours and watch it. Here's why.
As I have mentioned in previous columns, my family is anti-sports, so purchasing the additional sports package is forbidden. It is not uncommon to see me sitting in the driveway, in my car, listening to the Red Sox and Bruins games before I step inside and get greeted by my puppy.
Have you ever thought of the amount of skill it takes to broadcast a game over the radio?
As a writer, I try to repaint the picture of the game in black-and-white, so the readers can feel like they were at the game, while in most cases they weren't. Radio play-by-play and color analysts face a tougher challenge than that of television broadcasters.
Radio announcers do not have the camera to use as a crutch when trying to fill air space during a lull in the action.
Camera guys oftentimes fill dead space by finding the diehard fanatics with the wacky costume or sign.
Radio announcers do not have the camera guy to lean on during dull moments.
Bruins' radio announcers Dave Goucher and Bob Beers often have back-stories on the players in their broadcasting arsenal to fill "dead-air."
I have a deep amount of respect for radio broadcasters and I remember when I heard Goucher utter the phrase "The bruins are skating from left to right on your radio dial in the black sweaters with the gold trim."
I paused for a second and the picture appeared in my head.
Radio announcers go through a tedious preparation process to make sure they have their statistics, history and player pronunciations correct. When I was in college, I was the play-by-play announcer for my school's baseball and soccer teams. We often simulcasted the games, both audio only and with video, so obtaining that balance between the two was challenging.
I remember sitting in my apartment last winter during semester break and receiving a phone call from my boss in the athletic department. He called all the women's basketball games but he was down with the flu and needed me to fill in on short notice.
I had never donned the headset for a basketball game in my short three-year amateur broadcasting career, and felt up for the challenge.
For the first five minutes of the half, I broadcasted the game to myself due to technical difficulties.
When the stream went live again, I found myself using the video as a crutch, until my producer came to me and said '"this game is also on the radio, and there is a lot of dead air." That is when I realized the challenge radio broadcasters' face.
From that moment on, I made sure to do more preparation than the 20-minute pre-game cram-session. Goucher was ridiculed by the national broadcast team for not joining them on a golfing expedition, his excuse was that he had work to do, and his efforts paid off.
If you watch the national television broadcasts of the series, it's obvious that the NBC network possesses little knowledge of the two teams involved. It takes a special talent to describe a hockey game as the action presents itself, all while plugging sponsors and providing in-depth analysis. In professional hockey, a team makes a line-change every minute-and-a-half to two-minutes, so radio announcers truly have to be on their toes at all times.
Television announcers often have teleprompters flashing in front of them with story lines, while most radio guys still rely on their two peepers, a good memory and sometimes a type-written two-sided note card (known as a spot-sheet) to provide an accurate description of the action.
Radio announcers have a duty not to break the sound-barrier on a mediocre play or go nuts on every goal scored. Their job is to describe the direction of the puck, who is controlling it, and give the score constantly to those just tuning in. I was always taught to tell the score at least three times every 10 minutes because with radio listeners it's tune-in-and-out.
There is no scoreboard that flashes on the screen, unless you have that fancy Sirius XM. Radio guys and print journalists are in the same boat with different life-preservers. Print guys describe the action of the past, while radio broadcasters do both the present and past. Think about it, if you are a true fan of the team you root for, you likely know what the players look like, why do you need a TV?
Radio guys use descriptive adjectives like a sportswriter does. So, as you settle into your Lay-Z-Boy for game four tomorrow, turn on your radio and close your eyes. Let your mind do the work and enjoy the game.
The radio is one of the few nostalgic ways left to enjoy sports besides the newspaper you are reading right now. Enjoy the game.