By: Jonathan Goad
Those of you who know me are aware that writing is not all I do. On Friday nights from late August through October, you can find me in a press box broadcasting high school football. Once winter rolls around, I can be found in various gymnasiums sometimes five nights a week calling high school basketball games.
Again, if you know me, you know how passionate I am about doing radio play-by-play any chance I get. Something I didn’t know would happen when I started this four years ago was how it has changed how I watch a game.
We’ve all been in high school and either played for or cheered for various sports teams. Playing for the teams that I was able to was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. It, perhaps unintentionally, gave me insight into the locker room that I use during my broadcasts. I can give perspective of what the locker room might be like during the pregame, halftime, or postgame because I’ve been in those locker rooms. However, I’ve also always been a sports fan, so when I finally got the chance to become a play-by-play broadcaster, I thought that I would simply call it as a fan. That’s not quite the case.
Obviously, following the same team for an entire season, you get to know the coaches and players, and maybe subconsciously, become a fan. In my case, it’s a little different. I’m lucky enough to call games for my Alma Mater. It goes without saying that I’m a little more than a casual fan of the teams I cover. As a broadcaster, it’s important to be as unbiased as possible and I try to be. It’s a little harder for me because of the teams I follow. However, I’m also a big fan of the competition. I get excited about good plays regardless of the team who makes it.
Before when I would watch a game, it was simply to observe and cheer if my team was playing. I was never extremely analytical. I’d watch a play then react either positively or negatively depending on the result. If I was with friends, we could have a conversation while watching the game without any problems. This was the case no matter if I was watching the game in person or on TV. Most of the time, I watched for entertainment purposes.
I still watch for entertainment purposes from time to time, but how I watch has changed. My perspective has changed. I’ve gone from watching simply to root for my team or for entertainment to being analytical about everything. As a broadcaster, I’m almost watching as if I’m predicting what’s going to happen similar to when teams watch film on their opponents.
If I’m watching in person, I’ll notice things I may not have before. For example, if I’m watching a football game and a wide receiver goes in motion across the formation, I’ll think to myself, “he’s either getting the ball on a jet sweep or he’s just a decoy” or something similar. Sometimes things I notice are as little as a hand signal from one player to another. Other times it’s more noticeable like what formation a team might be in. Sure, teams can pick up these things on film and I did too while I was in my playing days. The difference is before I could react physically if I was trying to stop the play. Now, I react verbally. Sometimes it’s necessary for me to relay that information to the listeners so they can experience what I am.
If I’m watching a game on TV, I’ll do the same things, but I’ll also listen to how the broadcasters call the game. I may even pick up different techniques to add to my broadcast. Granted, TV and radio are very different when it comes to calling a game. TV broadcasters don’t have to be quite as descriptive of the play, and a lot of times, they don’t say much while the play is happening. It’s almost as if the broadcasters are only color commentators or analysts. On radio, one person has to describe the play while the other will analyze what happened during the play and why it did or did not work.
In my case, I do both. Most of the time I call games by myself. I wouldn’t say I prefer it that way because it’s nice to have another set of eyes on the game and to be able to discuss it with someone. But I have grown very comfortable doing both the play-by-play and the analyzing.
With this mindset of being a broadcaster, it has made me more aware of the entire field or court. We all know that it’s important for everyone to do their job, but a lot of things go unnoticed when you’re just watching the ball. When I would watch games before, I would just watch the guy with the ball make a play. Now, I can see that the reason a running back was able to gain ten extra yards was because of a big block on the backside of the play that allowed the ball carrier to cut back and pick up those extra yards. Before I would have chalked it up to the running back just being better than everyone else on that play. Now I can give credit to someone away from the main part of the play.
Being in the press box, there are fewer distractions that could take my attention away from the game. I can focus nearly one hundred percent on the game. In the stands or a room with friends, you may be having a conversation or have something else attracting your attention. The play-by-play broadcaster has the responsibility of giving the best possible description so the listeners can “see” what is happening. This is something I take very seriously because it is my duty to let my listeners experience the game without actually being at the game. Because I have that responsibility, the way I watch a game had to change, and it has significantly.