Oh back to school, back to school.
For the past 2 months, I’ve spent all my free time breathing Gillette Drafted. My personal goals have changed; of coarse it would be nice to snatch that 25th spot and see how deep of a run I can make in this thing. There’s several contestants in the top 24 who are already nestled in sports media, and have paid dues to get where they are. So I have to stay positive about this experience and be realistic. What this competition has done for me is immeasurable. It’s reinforced for me that this is the dream life. Rather, it’s maybe 1 of 4 dreams, there’s no need to limit yourself to just one. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or money yet to learn how to play golf properly and join the PGA. Drafted has motivated and inspired me to get better, to start building a portfolio of work and hone my craft.
My relationship with sports goes beyond the box score and the on field performances. I get just as excited about the coverage and analysis as I do the event itself. I consume sports media at sickening levels. So from a fans perspective of both sports and broadcasting, these are some thoughts and ideas about the journey so far.
What I’m looking for in a sportscaster:
It’s important to establish this first because a lot of what I’ll say derives from my own personal checklist. It’s completely subjective, as all things we choose to consume are. To give you an example of who my role models are; the opinions that I actively seek out and search for on demand: the PTI crew and almost everyone on Around The Horn, Cam Stewart and Sansone when it was live@thescore, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose, SVP and Russillo, Johnny Mac, Doris Burke, Chad Millman, shout outs to homegrown Adnan Virk (I just don’t want to listen to that much baseball talk), Jeff Van Gundy, Mary Joe Fernandez, Zach Lowe, Ernie Johnson and retired legend Bill Walton, THROW IT DOWN BIG MAN, THROW IT DOWN!
These guys all do some if not all of the following: they introduces stories and angles, forecast and extend the conversation, ask the right questions, and make me feel dumb for not seeing a story/game/play a certain way.
Stand Out Performers:
Joseph o2: I can listen to this guy deliver the headlines all damn day. It’s easier than oxygen consumption (lame, I know, I couldn’t stop myself). Music taste is a little sketchy with the Classified - “Oh….Canada” post, but music taste is the same thing as this, subjective. He’s so comfortable on camera. His vocal inflections are on point (just the way he says ‘NBA’ is cool). He’s got some great ideas and looks like a lock for the top 6 with his early performance.
***SIDE NOTE: Before moving on, I’ve watched a lot of competitions on television: singing (guilty pleasure, not ashamed), cooking, fashion, sports stuff like Drafted. I think peaking early could be a misstep. Next thing you know, there’s a teenager from Halifax coming from behind to steal the show.
5timeteddy: He’s on a “I could definitely go throw some beer and JD down with this guy” vibe. Guy’s guy; man’s man. He comes off approachable and seasoned. Jenner is the veteran in this competition with a wealth of experience and it’s translating, big time. I listen to enough talk radio to know 5time is good to go.
Courtney “Coco” Hutchings: I hate to go gender on this, but honestly, with limited female contestants left, Coco sure is doing a helluva job for all the ladies out there. The content she’s generated thus far is firing on all cylinders. She glows on screen and looks like she’s having fun doing the challenges. To me, she’s the all Canadian girl next door who knows just as much, if not more about sports than everyone on the block.
Harrison Bourdon: If this dude were in the Tdot, he’d probably be living on queen west. For those not from the best city in Canada, to me, that means he’s sharply dressed, inked up, intellectual and cultured all while not seeming pretentious. This is a first impression only. So far, really dope. The Bartoli angle he took in challenge 3 was original; the Will Farrell reference earlier was well placed.
***TREND ALERT: To me, BC is KILLING it. Dominating. If Drafted were a team sport, British Columbia is pulverizing every other region including my very own, my beloved, the dot.
Andrew Blanchette: I don’t just asterisk and side note someone unless they’re having an impact on something. Young, full of potential. Feels like I’m talking to a buddy. I perceive his opinions as his own and not influenced by outside sources. If he doesn’t work on a national stage by the end of the year, it’s not much further away.
Anthony Bruno: This guy is carrying Toronto and GTA on his back right now. He’s funny. He took the feedback from challenge 1, made adjustments and dropped the schtick. Bruno dialled it back a bit, and is easing us in to his sense of humour which eventually he can unleash full out. The "Let me read off this paper….if you don’t believe me, go check the stats yourself" line coupled with him aggressively throwing a cue card out of frame was the highlight of the night; the best play in all social challenge round 2 submissions.
Try not to think of this as I’m inflating peoples egos by talking about great individual performers. This is more “who the hell am I to say anything negative about anyone?” The people I haven’t commented on simply have yet to make me a believer. I have no authority in this arena. I can only talk about who I am a fan of so far; who is doing the leg work and delivering information that I could ultimately find on my own if I wanted to. This is my top 6. These people have already made me a fan and that’s the most important thing. Nothing is in stone yet. Things will change and the above six could screw it up and drop the ball. Others may charge up the leaderboard. We haven’t even scratched the surface so far.
Completing and Executing Challenges:
I recently saw someone talk basketball in challenge 3; none of it made any sense schematically from an offensive perspective. But they believed it. He said it with confidence, and that’s vital. We all have our favourite sports and it will come across, no doubt. You can see the serotonin brewing. It’s palpable. For me, it’s a matter of being serviceable in as many things as possible.
I tune in to American programming for the most part when it comes to sports, and obviously hockey is near the bottom of the totem pole down south. When they do put in their two cents on a puck related story that’s barely mainstream, my favourite broadcasters although not passionate, can join the conversation and are always coherent and informed if nothing else.
There’s a lot of general themes happening in sports, both team and individual. You don’t have to love a sport to understand the concept of things like: being a contender, rebuilding your franchise, cap space, unreasonable expectations. These type of things occur everywhere. So for example, when asked in social challenge #1, “Who was the winner of the 2013 NHL entry draft?”, I ask myself, “Who was the winner of the 1984 NBA draft?”. Wouldn’t we all agree it’s the Chicago Bulls having Michael Jordan fall in their lap at 3rd the same way Seth Jones fell to 4th with the Predators? Portland didn’t take MJ because they already had Clyde Drexler; it wasn’t a position they need to address. I think that is so stupid. You take Jordan, and then shop him around to fill your so called needs. That to me is the end all be all for the position, “take the best talent on the board” and then make some more decisions.
Even myself though, I know that if I generate an angle, or see a storyline develop a certain way, all on my own, zero influence from other people’s opinions, there’s absolutely no chance that I was the only person in the world who saw it that way. These challenges have proved that none of us are that original when it comes to opinions. There’s only so many possible opinions out there.
In terms of these challenges so far. the most interesting part of doing them is deciding how literal you want to follow the instructions and how specific you interpret the language. The last one for example asked us, “What NBA player will have the greatest ‘impact’ on his new team?”. It forced us to either take the Webster’s definition, or gamble and try to play with that word; see how we can bend or manipulate it. Regardless, it has nothing to do with me selecting Dwight Howard. It has everything to do with why. The explanation to the answer is what we tune in for, not the answer itself.
I had a college professor, he teaches Desktop Publishing, his mantra for life is F.T.F.I - Follow the f**ing instructions. When I knew I was going to go all out for Drafted Season 5, I marathon’d thru the previous seasons faster than the first season of Lost. There’s a lot of great notes and feedback throughout that we can apply to how we attack these challenges. One of the easier ones to pick up was not exceeding the suggested time limit for your videos. Remember when Matty D won a challenge, was given the option of either taking the extra 2 minutes or passing it off for the 5 minute Biznasty interview? He went over his 7 minutes by just a few seconds and was called out on it. You don’t go over the allotted time. If you want more lessons, go hunt. They’re all there, and it’s free.
***SIDE NOTE: You better be really friggin good if your 1-2 minute video is sliced with an editing cut every 5 seconds. Very few are doing this with success. Most are annoying and I can’t even watch the entire video. I think if you are going to do the cut thang, there’s a cleaner way to do it. Be slick, it probably would only take a few minutes more to create smoother transitions. It’s glaringly awkward otherwise and can appear somewhat mickey mouse.
I’m going to get geeky for a second and talk numbers since we’re officially in sports metrics era. For something like when Drafted asked us, “What’s the best story from Wimbledon?”, we’re actually at a time where we have the stats available to give a definitive, inarguable answer from the numbers side. It’s true the best story isn’t always the biggest one. Most of the time it is though. It’s big for a reason. More people found some universal way to connect to it.
We can analyze twitter mentions, google searches. trending topics, etc etc. If I were told, “The biggest story from Wimby is Andy Murray winning the championship, it was trending on twitter for 5 days. Where as Nadal getting bounced lasted only 6 hours”, how am I supposed to retaliate there? I would bet the house that the Andy Murray angle comes out on top every time by any metric. So looking at it like that, if I’m being asked to comment on the biggest or best story, I’m joining in on what the most people are talking about/interested in. If I was asked, “Andy Murray aside, what’s the best story from Wimbledon?”, it’s different. The conversation with the most people participating is the one professionals need to chime in on. If you get hardcore and start listing name after name of bench warmers, 3rd stringers and role guys, rattling off run of the mill stats, it gets a little niche.
It’s been fascinating watching the learning curve of everyone participating, 25th spot hopefuls included. Almost everyone is getting better with each new challenge. Getting more comfortable, correcting mistakes and showing growth. That’s what it’s about man. This really is like being back in school. Everyone in the competition is your classmate, and the Gillette Drafted crew and Sportsnet360 suits are our profs dishing out assignments. Every class comes complete with skippers, the people who aren’t even doing the challenges or meeting the deadlines. It was also interesting watching the people lagging behind try to catch up on all three challenges. I have a lot of respect for those people. You don’t just give up on your dream because you just never know.
Something else I have a ton of respect for are the people who are able to take notes or constructive criticism and spin it in to a positive (Marc Richler). The people who can’t make the adjustments seem entitled. The hosts and judges of this show are giving you a free education. They’re the professionals. They’re the ones who have the job we want. It’s probably a good idea to listen to them.
Some random rapid fire thoughts:
Bianca Tiexeira, aka SnarkCity, aka Snarkface, aka the devil in the (insert colour) dress. She’s been great for the show. I applaud that she opened her last video saying that she wasn’t there to comment on the top 24’s sports IQ, she was there to review delivery, fashion, and entertainment value. Snarkaluffagus is living, breathing proof that there isn’t just one door that could lead to your dream job. If you work hard and enjoy what you do, with talent being the caveat, the results you seek should manifest. Her story gave me more fuel and a little inspiration to write this blog post.
My personal growth: I’m my own worst critique as I’m sure a lot of people out there are for themselves. It’s important to me that I’m able to identify my weaknesses and work on my game. The interview I shot as a side project was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in years. I couldn’t get past the thought, “Why is anybody watching this?”. and “Is the content engaging?”. To be honest, it put me on tilt; broadcasting tilt if there is such a thing. Then I had to look at the positive side and understand that it was the first time I’d produced an interview and that it was just another learning experience and future portfolio work. It was grade A effort, but C+, B- execution at best in my opinion. I can only get better though since my desire to sharpen up is maniacal.
Things I’m working/focusing on: My volume control, ability to generate content, pace in which I speak.
Again, thanks to Gillette Drafted crew for the opportunity, the motivation, and the inspiration. S/O to the top 24 too for raising the bar.
Dale Manucdoc aka The Goose