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What makes a good announcer?

There are a plethora of bad ones, but only a few who actually enhance a game.

Indiana v Penn State Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

One of the main complaints on our Twitter account this year as the games run is the announcing. Not the frequently incomprehensible officiating, not (always) whatever the latest confusing decision by JP Macura or Paul Scruggs, but the person describing the action. Last night, chief offender Donny Marshall was on the mic. (Sorry Donny, I’m sure you are a decent person.) While Donny provided a handy guide on who to be bad, it’s a little more difficult to determine what makes someone worth listening to.

Enthusiasm

Did you catch the end of the women’s cross country sprint relay? If you did, or if you listen to any sports talk ever, you’ve heard this:

The guy absolutely losing his mind there is Chad Salmela. He brings with him to the Olympic cross country booth a verve for skiing that cannot be overstated. He overwhelms the uninitiated with a wave of pure energy. Vital in describing a sport to people watching it is seeming like you want to be there. Joe Buck calling baseball in monotone is an example of skewing the other direction. Gus Johnson is, of course, a shining example of letting his love for basketball shine through.

Knowledge

It’s one thing to be excited, but that doesn’t make up for not having a clue what you are talking about. Last night Donny Marshall confidently asserted that Xavier was one of those veteran teams that waited for you to make a mistake and then turned you over. Marshall can possibly get away with that in a game against Georgetown when the Hoyas are throwing passes to no one, but that doesn’t change the fact he is just flat out wrong. Xavier doesn’t force turnovers at all. Any fan worth anything knows that and was instantly offput. Falling into this same category are mispronunciations of names or not knowing who is playing. A bit of simple research goes a long way.

Awareness

Here’s where the greats shine. Combining knowledge and enthusiasm with knowing what is going on creates an announcer than can almost weave a narrative of a game as if he’s directing it. Constant mentions of how you would have done it don’t fall into this category. Kevin Kugler did a solid job last night of noticing Xavier’s high-low actions. In last year’s Sweet Sixteen, the announcer (forgive me for not remembering who) had pointed out how Sean O’Mara was sneaking his seal higher and higher. That, of course, led to the game winning basket on the over the top pass.

Announcing is hard. If you don’t think so, head to your local college and take a crack at calling one of their games. Without preparing, it’s a swirl of players doing things you aren’t expecting them to do at times you aren’t expecting. Meanwhile, everyone hangs on you to explain what is happening. Bringing some enthusiasm, knowledge, and awareness to the game can make all the difference.