Misdirected Rage

If you're new on Twitter, you tend to realize that fans usually have a love/hate relationship with broadcasters. These men travel all around the country, putting the story together that you, the viewer, are about to see and take in. As much as you would presume the job is easy as pie, it truly isn't. It's a battle on two fronts: making sure you nail the call, and making sure you can fight through the stupid hate that social networking makes ever so prevalent.

For example, in this past series, Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire took the reins on the broadcast for NBC Sports Network for games two through five in the PHI/NJ series. In game one, Mike Emrick had the call, and the Flyers won. The rest of them, the Flyers lost, and fans of the orange and black mounded their hate on Mr. Albert for a myriad of stupid, asinine reasons.

From @TarMoney: "I blame this series loss on one person.. @kennyalbert. You have always sucked."

From @shmeelz: "Flyers 0-4 when @kennyalbert announces the game. F*** off Kenny, go do a Lions/Rams game."

From @321theritz: Any of his most recent tweets. Just go look.

In my personal experience, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Albert last summer and speaking with him at length. He is a tremendous individual with a boatload of information, insight and humility. He may come from quite a privileged bloodline of broadcasters, but you would never know that from his demeanor. It's a shame people haven't had the experience I had with him.

Albert isn't the only victim. Just look up any broadcaster. Mike Emrick, especially. The guy who pretty much every single broadcaster looks up to. He revolutionized the way broadcasters call this game. You ask any NHL talent, and they will tell you they took at least a page from his book. His dedication on bringing this game to life is almost a superhuman force.

Don't believe me? Before the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago, when Emrick fell victim to laryngitis, he delivered a packet of 100 pages of notes and stories on the Blackhawks and Red Wings to broadcaster Dave Strader's hotel. He wanted that game to come to life in a way only he could make it happen.

Albert also echoed the sentiment when I had talked to him last summer, telling kids who had dreams of doing this job, "listen to [Emrick] intently. You will learn how to broadcast well from him." Doc is the standard, whether you like it or not.

I want people to understand a sports broadcast in a different way than the way you would normally think. You have the game in itself as the narrative everyone wants to hear, and that takes the most priority. However, as ESPN's John Buccigross told me once, "you can't build drama unless you identify the characters. Otherwise it's one big hockey conversation."

So, to identify those characters, storytelling comes into picture. If a broadcaster goes off on a little anecdote, let him, and embrace it. It's entertainment.

The other thing I want people to consider is the way broadcasts are structured and presented. People say that the national networks are biased. In my conversations with broadcasters, and through my own perception, these national broadcasts are not overtly biased. They just seem like it when the game isn't going your team's way.

I noticed an inordinate amount of hate when I noticed a certain team was down for the count. That was only the case because if a team is dominating, why wouldn't you showcase them? The story will surely switch the other way. Stay patient, and just listen closely. Why were the Penguins talked about a lot in the first round? They have really important and popular players. Why wouldn't you showcase them? They are the main characters in a theatre of hockey.

I've been broadcasting sports, including hockey, for five years now. Developing these stories on top of broadcasting a game and nailing the big moments is an extremely tough and daunting task. It's not always sunshine and rainbows for the people in the broadcast booth. It's hours of sacrifice only to bring joy to those who need a release from daily life through the sport.

Next time, I want you to think twice about criticizing a broadcaster simply because they're apparently "biased" or "stupid" or something along those lines. If they missed a player because he had a 5 on his sweater and it was actually 25 or 45, let it go. You are privileged enough to have a closer view that the cameras allow. If they misread a play, let it go. You don't have to come up with a thousand words a minute to describe the game.

Just embrace the good stuff, and realize the work and dedication necessary to make a call become legendary, played for years and years to come. I know I will. Will you?

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Be sure to follow Jordan Kuhns on Twitter (@jckuhns) Stay tuned to The Checking Line for the best playoff analysis out there! We'll keep the predictions coming.

3 Comments

George Prax's picture

Here's the thing Jordan, while I'm certain that most broadcasters are professionals, the simple truth is that just at the NHL level, there's, what, at least 60-75 play-by-play guys? There's bound to be some bad apples among them. Hell you've written about one of them (Jack Edwards) before! But I get this is different. Blaming a team's loss on a broadcaster is ridiculous. It's just people venting I guess. Or just people being stupid.

Jordan Kuhns's picture

I concede I have written about Jack Edwards. He's a special case!

Maggie Avila's picture

Great piece.Gotta say in Chicago we are lucky enough to have the great Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk doing our local broadcasts. Eddie O is constantly teaching and has really helped me understand the intricacies of hockey. On a national level gotta agree Doc Emrick is the standard. Hockey is probably the hardest to do play by play for and he is a master- OH MY!