Guest Post: Who's On First? - By Ricky Cibrano

Who’s on First? - By Ricky Cibrano -  @RickyCibrano

A few weeks ago, I was flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon and came across a college basketball game on ESPN2. It was a game between North Carolina and an opponent I’ve since forgotten (it’s not important), which was being called by a fairly prominent broadcaster who shall remain nameless. I’m not the most avid college basketball fan, meaning I really had no clue who most of the guys running around the court were. But hey, that’s why we have play-by-play guys, right? To tell us what’s going on? Only problem was, this particular broadcaster seemed to be just as clueless as I about who was on the court. A typical possession went something likes this: 5 seconds of color commentary, followed by 20 seconds of silence, followed by (after a made basket) “so-and-so has 6.” These weren’t critical late game possessions, mind you, where a broadcaster might choose to “let the moment breath,” but rather a stretch of play in the middle of the 1st half. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe the play-by-play guy got better as the game went along—I don’t know, because I didn’t stick around to find out. After about 10 minutes of being in the dark and remaining clueless as to what, or more specifically who, I was watching, I got frustrated and changed the channel.

The point of this little anecdote is that it reminded me of the importance of something that I struggled with when I was first trying my hand at broadcasting—memorizing names. Learning the names and numbers of players seems so simple—I mean, how many countless names pop into your head for no reason at all on a given day? In reality, it’s not as easy as it seems—but it is absolutely essential to producing a quality on air product, especially on the radio. I can remember 4 years ago doing my earliest football demos for WFUV while I was at Fordham, and spending all this time putting together boards for the occasion—they were done up in different colors, highlighted, shaded, underlined—you name it, I did it. Only problem was, when the game started, they were utterly useless because other than the two starting QB’s, I had no idea who was on the field (ironically, Fordham’s QB that game was current Arizona Cardinal John Skelton, a source of pride for a football program that has less alumnus in the NFL than the now defunct Hofstra Pride). That bit of history aside, I wasn’t happy with the work I did that day, and it took me a little bit of time (and a few more demos) to realize what the problem was and how I could correct it.

The bad news is, unless you’re one of the privileged few who can watch a couple minutes of warm-ups and immediately know everyone on the court or field (if you are one of those people, I hate you), there is no quick fix, you simply have to take the time to memorize the names and numbers, as dull as that sounds. However, while at Fordham, I did figure out a couple of tricks to speed up the process and maximize my time. For example, I’d keep the opposing teams roster on my phone and periodically drill myself on it during the day—in class (you can guess what type of student I was), at the gym, while watching TV—I’d quiz myself, until I could run through the list of names and numbers without a hitch. Of course, the best way to learn the names is to watch game tape of the team you’re studying up on, but when you’re not always afforded that luxury, sometimes you have to get creative, which is what I tried to do.

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Twitter: @RickyCibrano