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In sports broadcasting, a sports commentator (also known as sports announcer, sportscaster or play-by-play announcer) gives a running commentary of a game or event in real time, usually during a live broadcast, traditionally delivered in the historical present tense. The comments are normally a voiceover, with the sounds of the action and spectators also heard in the background. In the case of television commentary, the commentators are on screen rarely if at all during the event (although they may appear on camera at the start or near the end of the broadcast).
Types of commentators
The main commentator, also called the play-by-play announcer or commentator in North America, or lap-by-lap commentator in the case of motorsports coverage, is the primary speaker on the broadcast. They are valued for their articulateness and for their ability to describe each play or event of an often fast-moving sporting event. Because of their skills, some commentators like Al Michaels in the U.S., David Coleman in the UK and Bruce McAvaney in Australia may have careers in which they call several different sports at one time or another. Other main commentators may, however, only call one sport.
The analyst or color commentator provides expert analysis and background information, such as statistics, strategy on the teams and athletes, and occasionally anecdotes or light humor. They are usually former athletes or coaches in their respective sports, although there are some exceptions.
The term "color" refers to levity and insight provided by analyst. The most common format for a sports broadcast is to have an analyst/color commentator work alongside the main/play-by-play announcer. An example is NBC Sunday Night Football in the United States, which is called by color commentator Cris Collinsworth, a former American football receiver, and play-by-play commentator Al Michaels, a professional announcer. In the United Kingdom, however, there is a much less distinct division between play-by-play and color commentary, although two-man commentary teams usually feature an enthusiast with formal journalistic training but little or no competitive experience leading the commentary, and an expert former (or current) competitor following up with analysis or summary. There are however exceptions to this—all of the United Kingdom's major cricket and snooker commentators are former professionals in their sports, while the legendary Formula One racing commentator Murray Walker had no formal journalistic training and only limited racing experience of his own.
Although the combination of a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator is standard as of 2014[update], in the past it was much more common for a broadcast to have no analysts and just have a single play-by-play announcer to work alone. Vin Scully, longtime announcer for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, is one of few examples of this practice still existing today.
A sideline reporter assists a sports broadcasting crew with sideline coverage of the playing field or court. The sideline reporter typically makes live updates on injuries and breaking news or conducts player interviews while players are on the field or court because the play-by-play broadcaster and color commentator must remain in their broadcast booth. Sideline reporters are often granted inside information about an important update, such as injury, because they have the credentials necessary to do so. In cases of big events, teams consisting of many sideline reporters are placed strategically so that the main commentator has many sources to turn to (for example some sideline reporters could be stationed in the dressing room area while others could be between the respective team benches).
Sports presenter/studio host
In British sports broadcasting, the presenter of a sports broadcast is usually distinct from the commentator, and often based in a remote broadcast television studio away from the sports venue. In North America, the on-air personality based in the studio is called the studio host. During their shows, the presenter/studio host may be joined by additional analysts or pundits, especially when showing highlights of various other matches.
While sports broadcasts took place from 1912, Florent Gibson of the Pittsburgh Star newspaper broadcast the first sports commentary in April 1921, covering the fight between Johnny Ray and Johnny "Hutch" Dundee at the Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh.
In the United States, nearly all professional sports teams, most collegiate teams — as well as a dwindling number of high schools — have their own sports commentators, who are usually recognized[by whom?] as the voice of the team on radio broadcasts and are often identified as part of the team like the players and the coaches. In addition, television networks and cable channels will have their own stable of play-by-play announcers who work with various teams - like Michael Kay from YES's New York Yankees baseball network or Mike Breen for New York Knicks basketball on MSG.
As of 2015[update], women are integrated into sportscasting. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, broadcasters like Anne Doyle pioneered the entry of women into all aspects of sports coverage. A breakthrough came in 1978, when a federal court mandated allowing a female reporter into a Major League Baseball locker room.
In professional wrestling
Though not always the case, in professional wrestling, the color commentator is usually a "heel sympathizer" (or a supporter of the "bad guys") as opposed to the play-by-play announcer, who is more or less the "voice of the fans" as well as supporters of the "good guys" (or babyfaces). Though both are supposed to show neutral stance while announcing, the color commentators (especially when they support heels) are usually more blatant about their stance than the play-by-play announcers. Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan pioneered the "heel sympathizer" for color commentary in wrestling. Jerry "The King" Lawler later made a successful transition into the role, though Lawler has since shown more sympathy for faces (partially due to being over with fans after nearly forty years in wrestling). In some cases, commentators are also active managers for wrestlers, usually following continuity as heels. Former Extreme Championship Wrestling color commentator Cyrus was known for having dual roles as a heel manager and a somewhat neutral commentator. It has also been used to keep injured wrestlers in the public eye while they recuperate. Special guest color commentators serve a twofold purpose, the primary is usually to place them in position to interfere with the match they are calling, but also serves to tell the promotors if this performer can "talk" on his own in the ad lib driven commentary role.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to sports commentators.|
- Announcerless Game, 1980 NFL game purposely broadcast without commentators as an experiment.
- List of sports announcers
- List of Major League Baseball retired numbers#Broadcasters
- Patterson, Ted (2002). The Golden Voices of Baseball. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 12. ISBN 1-58261-498-9.
- Hilaire, Chris St.; Padwa, Lynette (2010-09-07). 27 Powers of Persuasion: Simple Strategies to Seduce Audiences & Win Allies. Penguin. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-0-7352-0451-5. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
- "Constance Baker Motley (1921–2005)". Brown@50 – Fulfilling the Promise. Howard University School of Law.
|Look up sportscaster in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Sportcaster Chronicles – Internet radio show in which John Lewis interviews leading American sports announcers.