A Lot of Basketball Announcers Suck

In trying to watch college basketball games and take notes about what is going on during the games so I can write about them, it has become clear that there are some very bad announcing teams out there.  It is not that they do not know basketball.  It is that they do not have the ability to explain what is going on the court in a coherent manner.

Sometimes the play-by-play guy seems too concerned with making his analyst laugh then resetting the game.  Sometimes the analyst is too busy telling a story about the head coach of one of the teams, his new best friend by the way, to explain why the defense/offense the team is running is so effective against the defense/offense the other team is running.

So, besides watching games this weekend, I’ve tried to come up with rules for what I think makes good announcing, particularly for the play-by-play guy.  I concentrated on that position because it is the key.  A good play-by-play guy is the one who sets the information flow of the game and he also has the power to get the announcer to focus on his job instead of babbling about nothing.

The major problems play-by-play guys have are:

  • They think there job is to make us and the analyst laugh. This is not an open mike night at some comedy club.  The play-by-play announcer’s job is just that: to provide play-by-play.  It is to convey information in the most succinct manner possible.  Making the audience laugh is a tertiary concern.
  • They haven’t called enough basketball games to get the rhythm of basketball.  There is a different type of rhythm for basketball, football, and baseball.  Football and particularly baseball has a lot of down time for the announcers to converse about whatever they want to talk about.  Basketball with its near continuous flow does not leave a lot of room for witticisms and stories.  There is too much information to convey on each possession for digressions and announcers who primarily do the other sports don’t immediately get that.
  • Some announcers have not done enough radio play-by-play in any sport.  This is an interesting idea.  I think it would help many announcers when they are you to announce sports on the radio for a few years.  The reason: you have to explain everything and not rely on the visual to do your job.  I think some announcers figure if you are watching the game you know who shot the ball or who committed to foul because you can see it.  That isn’t necessarily true.  The game is played fast and is often a jumble.  That is why we have announcers to tell us these things.

Here are three simple rules to make things better:

  • Coming out of timeouts, reset the game.  Give the score, the lineups currently on the floor and any other information that will affect the play.
  • Let the audience know who shot the ball, who rebounded the ball, who committed the foul, etc.  In short, convey the information of what is going on to the audience.  Do not rely on the visuals to take care of that for you.
  • Set up the analyst to tell us what he sees on the court and why it is working.  Do not set up the analyst to tell us about the dinner he had with the head coach over the summer and why he thinks the guy walks on water.  The play-by-play announcer’s job is to make the analyst sound smarter, not dumber.

If announcers would do these simple things, our basketball watching lives would be better.

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