In the 1950s, two Bangor radio stations carried all the Bangor High School boys basketball games, home and away. WABI featured George Hale as the play-by-play man and George Gonyar did the color commentary and for WLBZ it was John McKernan at play-by-play and Eddie Owen doing color.
They made the long trips to Aroostook County when Bangor played Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Houlton. Those days are long gone, but one thing that remains the same for stations broadcasting local games is not giving the game score often enough during the broadcasts.
Sometimes when I tune in to a game, many minutes will go by before the score is given. I would suggest that play-by-play people adopt the method used by legendary broadcaster Red Barber, who used an egg timer to remind himself to give the score every couple of minutes. Barber used a three-minute egg timer, an hourglass, in the booth. Each time the sand ran down, he would give the score, flip the timer and follow the process throughout the game.
Back in 1993, I was fortunate to work as the color analyst for WABI-TV, doing Class A tourney games as well as Class B, C and D games on the radio. I had no experience and had to learn on the job. I got the job because they wanted to try a color commentator who had basketball experience in playing, coaching and officiating. To them, that was more important than radio/TV experience and thus began a 15-year adventure I enjoyed very much.
My basketball experience enabled me to give listeners the type of defense that was being played, the offenses being used, coaching strategy, and why officials made certain calls. One of the big weakness of some broadcasters today is not knowing what is actually happening on the floor and being unable to convey some important game details to their listeners, which would make them feel more part of the games.
Color analysts have more credibility if they have walked in the shoes of the players, coaches and officials when offering criticism of players, coaches and officials. The analysis should also offer solutions, not just criticisms, in the comments.
Play-by-play announcers don’t need the basketball experience as much as their counterparts do, but it can improve their job.
Listening to tapes of their broadcasts can be a big help to both parties in improving their presentations, but nothing can beat plain old basketball experience for doing the jobs that fans can really enjoy. Those colleges offering broadcast courses would be well advised to bring in some folks with practical experience in games to offer tips to aspiring play-by-play and color analysts.