What separates one radio play-by-play broadcaster from another? How do we determine the best of the best? Obviously, we all have our subjective focuses, but I think one’s ability to describe the action universally sets announcers apart. We’re all supposed to keep listeners informed of time and score. So if that’s king, I’d say description is queen.
While air checking myself after practicing a quarter of an NBA game, I decided to pause and listen to five minutes of one of my favorite radio broadcasters, Kevin Calabro. I immediately heard the difference. His ability to describe fast-paced action is why he’s one of my favorites.
Listen to this clip from Game 2 of the NBA Finals last year:
Play it back several times to listen to the amount of detail he gives. It’s not “Love grabs the rebound.” It’s “Love fights off Iguodala for the rebound…”
It’s not “Love fights off Iguodala for the rebound and releases to Lebron who brings it across midcourt.” It’s Love fights off Iguodala for the rebound and releases to Lebron, who’s in full stride across midcourt with the rock…”
It’s not “…tipped and controlled by Klay Thompson who runs up the floor, over to Iguodala…” It’s tipped and controlled by Klay Thompson, who racehorse dribbles up the floor, over to Iguodala…”
These little descriptions go on and on and Calabro keeps it up all broadcast. Sure you can say “…controlled by Klay Thompson who sprints up the floor…” That does paint a description. It’s not bad. But when you “…racehorse dribble up the floor,” you think “Damn! He must be super sprinting!” It colors the listener’s mental picture more interestingly.
Let’s strive for our own fun, descriptive paintings for our broadcasts.