Following the “Blueprint to Broadcasting Success” has been beneficial. The self-critique sessions have been valuable and I’ve been able to self identify many weaknesses to work on. However, sometimes you need someone else’s point of view to spotlight the warts in your call. Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a critique from Mark Boyle of the Indiana Pacers. He had several positive things to say but what caught my attention was a criticism that I had never heard from anyone before. An excerpt from his critique that I’ve shared with his permission can be found below:
The second thing surprised me, as you appeared to be reasonably articulate. I heard way too many words like “gettin’”, “checkin’”, “runnin’”, “gotta”, etc. You’re supposed to be a professional broadcaster, not a construction worker discussing which bars to hit after work. All of those words have the letter g on the end. Use it. There is no such word as “gotta”. It’s “got to”. You get the idea. I wouldn’t have hired you based on that alone. Separate yourself. Use the language as a tool, and be grammatically correct.
My first reaction was that I wasn’t sure I agreed with his advice. After all, doesn’t talking the way the listener talks make it a more relatable and enjoyable experience? I forwarded the advice in that email to several broadcasters I respect and asked their opinion and the nearly unanimous answer was that Mark was correct. Our business is always subjective and there are surely people who don’t mind and maybe even prefer “folksy” talk. But mastering the language is a way to separate yourself from the competition, especially outside of your own geographic area or on a national stage.
Now that I know that the weakness exists, I need to find a way to get rid of it. The problem, of course, is that bad habits are bad habits because they are damn hard to kick. The first step I took was to record myself during a practice session and see how often I was using these words. I listened back and cringed when I heard twelve examples of sloppy language in 19 minutes.
Since then I’ve changed my main focus in my weekly self-critiques to try and eliminate these words. The main method has been to go out of my way during down parts of the games and use the proper language during the storytelling moments of the broadcast. For example, on a big third down conversion before the play, I would mention “The defense desperately trying to get a huge stop,” and really emphasizing the ‘ing’ to build a new habit.
I’d love to say that almost a month later I’ve seen huge improvement, but the truth is that every week when I count up the total of all the sloppy words I use, I still haven’t had a self-critique session that dipped into single digits. It’s going to take months or maybe even years to totally eliminate the problem.
There have been signs of hope! Many times in my practice sessions I’m now noticing immediately after I use a sloppy word and fixing it on the fly. For example “Jones lookin’ — I mean looking to feed the ball to Smith in the post.” That would sound weird in a real broadcast but it definitely shows that my brain is at least beginning to register the mistakes as they are being made which is the first step in eliminating them. I’ve even found myself noticing when I leave ing’s off in texts, emails, and every day conversation.
Nobody picks a sportscasting career because it’s easy. In fact I’ve heard it referred to as a sickness that no human in his or her right mind would pursue. If it is a sickness, I’m infected and it’s incurable. I love the grind and I love putting in the work to get better. The progress I’ve already heard myself make shows me I’m on the right path and I have no doubt that in time I’ll be lookin’ — I mean looking for something new to fix because I’ve knocked this problem out cold.
Comment below with methods that you’ve employed to kick bad habits.