Diary of a commentator

I'm out of soft quarantine! I'm now allowed to use official Olympic transport (i.e., buses) and eat at the normal restaurants within the IBC complex, for example. So that's nice. Actually, I got on the 8:48 bus this morning and got a WhatsApp message at 8:49 saying that I didn't need to come in today after all. But that's fine - I'll hang around for a while and then head back to the hotel this afternoon. The only other commentator on the bus with me was Aaron Murphy, my erstwhile hockey rival here in Europe, but we had a nice chat about past Olympics and how he wound up living in Dublin; it's amazing the extent to which serendipity is the decisive factor in many commentators' careers.

Anyway, I've finally finished researching all of the softball players and am about to move onto baseball. I've worked very inefficiently over the past few days given my lack of sleep and hotel isolation, but hopefully that will change once the final round of the (British) Open (Championship) is done tonight. I also completely lost track of time yesterday - I thought Game 5 of the NBA Finals was yesterday morning my time, and actually planned my sleep schedule around being able to work with the basketball on in the background, but of course it's on right now, with me in the IBC.

I've also touched base with Kostas, our main commentary coordinator here in Tokyo, to share my golf demo reel with him - pointing out that if they wind up short a golf commentator for any reason I'd be both happy and qualified to step in at very short notice. (Especially on my one scheduled day off, which is Friday 6 August.) I told Kostas that basketball and tennis are the other two sports along with golf that I've said I'd be happiest to call on short notice; without prompting, he responded to say that the most important sport for him outside of baseball/softball is ice hockey. That was absolute music to my ears - I wasn't going to start bothering him about the Winter Olympics until after the Summer Olympics are done, but hopefully that's an indication that I'm very much in his plans for Beijing!
 
This is starting to get a little *too* awesome. The four of us softball commentators met just before lunch to talk through a bunch of stuff, and it was confirmed that I will indeed be speaking the first words of any (OBS) commentator at the Olympics. I had lunch with my softball partner, Leah Secondo, and I think we're going to get along great. After lunch I met a guy named Rob Walker who MCs pretty much every snooker tournament in the world and does snooker commentary for the BBC - I'm a huge snooker fan, and when I told him I'd done some snooker commentary demo reels, he said that he's been in talks about a possible tournament in Las Vegas and that my meeting him could be very timely indeed. (I mean, I hoped I'd get some networking done, but I've more or less exceeded my expectations in that regard only four days in!) And now I'm back in my hotel room having just copied across a bunch of facts about Jose Bautista to his player page in my Dominican Republic team notes. Only hiccup was getting confused en route to the 7-11 and walking in the wrong direction for a couple of blocks before realizing my mistake, which is the sort of thing that scares me to death given some of the rumors we're hearing about people being sent home from Japan for what sound like relatively minor offenses.
 
Actually, there was another hiccup today: I have a TransferWise credit card that works across multiple currencies with no transaction fees. It's absolutely brilliant and has worked for me across all sorts of international situations...until today, when I went to buy something with it and realized that a) it's a MasterCard card, and b) Visa is such a big Olympic sponsor that it is the only credit card accepted within the IBC. Big Money strikes again!
 
Less than 12 hours now before the opening pitch of Japan vs. Australia...and to be perfectly honest, I'm kinda terrified. Am I going to remember to say the Japanese players' surnames first, particularly given that I did the opposite in Jakarta three years ago? (We're supposed to always say e.g. "Osaka Naomi" rather than "Naomi Osaka", as per the standard Japanese usage.) Will I forget the rules of softball, live on the air? Are the softball-specific rules I've never learned? Will I miss my entry and/or exit cues? Will I simply be unable to shut up and stop babbling like an idiot? And so on. I've done all of this stuff before, and I reckon as soon as I get behind the mic I'll be fine, but I'm rather manically in over-preparation mode at the moment, almost certainly to the detriment of my sleep schedule and my sanity.

Also, I got an alert this afternoon that there's going to be a special Opening Pitch ceremony between two 15-year-old softball-playing girls (pitcher and catcher) from the Fukushima Prefecture who were badly affected in different ways by the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear disaster 10 years ago. How do I blend that somber note into what is supposed to be a joyous occasion? I really hope I do this justice...maybe I should just assume that nobody even knows the Olympics are actually starting tomorrow.

Anyway, the die has been cast. Let the Games begin.
 

tmracht

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Less than 12 hours now before the opening pitch of Japan vs. Australia...and to be perfectly honest, I'm kinda terrified. Am I going to remember to say the Japanese players' surnames first, particularly given that I did the opposite in Jakarta three years ago? (We're supposed to always say e.g. "Osaka Naomi" rather than "Naomi Osaka", as per the standard Japanese usage.) Will I forget the rules of softball, live on the air? Are the softball-specific rules I've never learned? Will I miss my entry and/or exit cues? Will I simply be unable to shut up and stop babbling like an idiot? And so on. I've done all of this stuff before, and I reckon as soon as I get behind the mic I'll be fine, but I'm rather manically in over-preparation mode at the moment, almost certainly to the detriment of my sleep schedule and my sanity.

Also, I got an alert this afternoon that there's going to be a special Opening Pitch ceremony between two 15-year-old softball-playing girls (pitcher and catcher) from the Fukushima Prefecture who were badly affected in different ways by the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear disaster 10 years ago. How do I blend that somber note into what is supposed to be a joyous occasion? I really hope I do this justice...maybe I should just assume that nobody even knows the Olympics are actually starting tomorrow.

Anyway, the die has been cast. Let the Games begin.
You're super talented, you'll do amazing.
 

StupendousMan

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Jul 20, 2005
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Less than 12 hours now before the opening pitch of Japan vs. Australia...and to be perfectly honest, I'm kinda terrified. Am I going to remember to say the Japanese players' surnames first, particularly given that I did the opposite in Jakarta three years ago? (We're supposed to always say e.g. "Osaka Naomi" rather than "Naomi Osaka", as per the standard Japanese usage.) Will I forget the rules of softball, live on the air? Are the softball-specific rules I've never learned? Will I miss my entry and/or exit cues? Will I simply be unable to shut up and stop babbling like an idiot? And so on. I've done all of this stuff before, and I reckon as soon as I get behind the mic I'll be fine, but I'm rather manically in over-preparation mode at the moment, almost certainly to the detriment of my sleep schedule and my sanity.
Perhaps it might help to slip in a few "Osaka-san". If you practice using the -san suffix when you speak to the people you meet in the hotel and on the street, perhaps it will start to roll off the tongue in a few days.

Alternatively, create a "penalty jar" and place it on your desk before you start a game. Get a pile of one-yen pieces, too. Ask your commentating partner to tell you each time that you screw up the name. Put one of the coins in the jar for each penalty. At the end of the night, give the contents of the jar to your partner. Ask her to create her own jar, and do the same. A fun little contest might help you both.
 
So...I guess Beth Mowins is calling all three games for NBC today. So my proper American debut will have to wait. :) (I can't imagine she'll be calling all of them, so mabye Mexico vs. Japan tomorrow?)

Anyway, I woke up at 4 a.m. - ahead of my 5:30 a.m. alarm! - after just under four hours of sleep. Calmed my nerves by listening to a Tim Keller sermon on Work and Rest which really helped put everything into perspective for me. Caught the 6:18 bus to the IBC with my three softball colleagues - even the B team was there with us, as they were technically on standby, just as I am right now for the guys calling Italy vs. USA. The waiting really was the hardest part; as expected, once I was behind the mic and in position, everything did flow pretty naturally. I think Leah and I have a few rough edges to sand down regarding our partnership and figuring out when she's ready to come in and when I should be quiet - all perfectly natural - but I've had a chance to listen to the highlights of my commentary, and I'm pretty pleased with how I sound. Japan hit three two-run HRs in what wound up being an 8-1 win in less than five full innnings (the third HR triggered a walk-off via the Mercy Rule), and in the moment I thought I'd gotten a bit too loud and excited about them, but on the playback it didn't feel like too much at all. It was actually a much closer game than the scoreline and game length makes it sound; Australia scored in the top of the 1st but left the bases full and again left the bags full in the 5th, and Australia committed crucial errors ahead of both of Japan's first two homers. In essence, Japan took all of their chances and Australia took none of theirs.

So, yeah - I'm off and running, and now that I know what to expect and how my cues work and what I can expect to hear from my coordinator on the line (etc.), it really should be all downhill from here!
 
It's OK - I get that a lot.

Canada was thoroughly dominant in the final game of the day, winning very comfortably 4-0 over Mexico. Sara Groenewegen was throwing a no-hitter through four innings (having faced the minimum, her only walk being erased by a caught stealing) when she was pulled from the game, and two other Canadians finished up the game allowing a pair of hits. Meanwhile, Canada left 11 runners on base in six innings but still had more than enough offense to win.

Leah and I meshed much better in the afternoon, having a had a chance to talk things through and for me to hear what she was worried about. I'm embarrassed to have at least once referred to "baseball" instead of softball, and to have kept referring to the pitching "mound" instead of circle (etc.), but I really think my voice is well suited for both disciplines of the sport. Incidentally, I failed to mention my favorite moment of the day, which came during the morning game: Leah and I had deliberately talked about not mentioning the Mercy Rule until we absolutely had to, lest people be inclined to tune out of the game. The rule is that if you lead by 7 runs after 5 or 6 innings, that's game over...anyway, with the score 6-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, the leadoff hitter drew a walk, and that brought Yu Yamamoto - or Yamamoto Yu, as I have to call her - to the plate. After the first pitch of Yamamoto's at-bat, I mentioned that she could represent the winning run. After the second pitch of the at-bat, I explained how the "Run Rule" (to give it its proper title) works in softball. After the third pitch of the at-bat, I referenced that Yamamoto had homerun power. And on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, she did indeed hit the clinching HR, and I said "And that...is that!" I almost couldn't have set it up more perfectly.

Meanwhile, I have my schedule through Day 4 of the Olympics, and I've been surprised to realize that after my one game with Leah tomorrow (MEX vs. JPN at 11 p.m. ET - surely NBC might use me for that one?), I then have five solo commentary games (AUS vs. CAN, AUS vs. USA, CAN vs. JPN, JPN vs. USA and CAN vs. ITA - all potentially rather good games except the last one) and only return to partnering Leah for the two medal games on Tuesday. But it's fine - I'll have a lot less to worry about in some ways when I don't have to worry about anyone else but me. Anyway, in my hotel room I've now got the Japan vs. Canada women's football match on with the delightful Japanese commentary; I think I'm going to enjoy listening to Japanese voices a lot here in my room during the Olympics. (That came after I found an equally delightful-looking show featuring baseball anime on NHK.)
 
Your walkoff call and the Japanese goal in the football match were the highlights of the day for me.
Did you actually hear my walkoff call somewhere? (If so, I'm curious where you managed to find it.)

The Japanese goal in the football was pretty cool, especially hearing the Japanese commentators call it! (A great second half all around, really.)
 
Eurosport Player.
Cool - good to know that it's there! I've actually been given a username and password for OBS's special video portal which in theory allows me to watch and listen to any OBS commentary from any sport across the whole of Tokyo 2020; I say "in theory" because there's a lot of buffering involved on my end from the site at the moment, but I have managed to listen to snippets of my commentary that way even from here in my hotel room.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Am I going to remember to say the Japanese players' surnames first, particularly given that I did the opposite in Jakarta three years ago? (We're supposed to always say e.g. "Osaka Naomi" rather than "Naomi Osaka", as per the standard Japanese usage.)
Oh that's pretty interesting! Given that you're calling the games in English, for an international audience, I'm surprised to learn this is the case. A few high profile politicians over the last few years (ex PM Abe, current minister & Covid Czar Kono) have emphasized the point that they wish to be called ABE Shinzo, KONO Taro, etc by Western media, but it doesn't seem to have caught on really.

Perhaps it might help to slip in a few "Osaka-san". If you practice using the -san suffix when you speak to the people you meet in the hotel and on the street, perhaps it will start to roll off the tongue in a few days.
If you're meeting someone in the hotel or on the street, this is good advice. If you're discussing an athlete in the context of their sport, or during a match, I don't think it is. You'll sound like the idiot from the Angels broadcast team going, "BIG FLY OHTANI-SAN!" I don't know the protocols of Olympic announcing, but I can tell you whenever anyone is given a suffix after their surname in a sporting context, it's never a -san.

Most of the time during play, the players are just called by their last name. Here's a call of an Ohtani HR a couple years ago; at the 0:15 mark you can hear the announcer say "Ohtani ni shiai renpatsu" (Ohtani has homered 2 games in a row), without using any kind of a suffix. If an announcer is recapping something they may add the suffix -senshu (player). If they're interviewing/addressing a player, they will definitely add the -senshu suffix. "Player Ohtani" sounds weird in English but Ohtani-senshu is the appropriate way to address or describe him in those cases. The head coach or manager is -kantoku (Utsugi-kantoku), other coaches are just -kohchi (coach).

But anyway I think you're fine with just saying the player's last name.

Also, never put a -san after your own name while you're here, and don't introduce yourself with one.
 
But anyway I think you're fine with just saying the player's last name.
Actually, I'm perfectly fine using surname then given name. I generally don't like to use just a person's surname in commentary unless either a) I'm calling a sport like hockey in which the action is too fast to allow for first and last names, or b) I'm saying a person's name multiple times in quick succession, and then the use of a first name would be completely redundant. (Tennis is certainly a sport where the latter is true.) I feel it can get a bit stiff to just call people by their surnames - I mean, when in normal conversation do you just say someone's surname? - so I try to avoid that. And so if I'm commentating on a Japanese sportsperson, and the direction I've been given is to say the surname first, that's what I'll do.

(It's funny - I went to Kostas, the man ultimately in charge of my performance, yesterday evening just to confirm the point about the Japanese name order. He has a very good but deadpan sense of humor, and he simply said, "Tomorrow you say 'Naomi Osaka'? The next day, you are on the plane home," and walked away. That settles that, then!)
 
Meanwhile, after the great USA vs. Canada softball game this morning, I had very low expectations for Mexico vs. Japan - and how wrong I was. We had two unfortunae moments in commentary: first, Leah was talking to me between innings at one point and apparently hit the talk button instead of the talkback button. I had no idea, but apparently she was going out live over the world feed...and Discovery (i.e., Eurosport, the European rights holders) actually phoned up OBS to complain about it. I'm very used to muting and unmuting myself ALL the time in commentary, but I get the sense that Leah is used to being faded in and out by her sound engineers when working in the States, because from the start she's seemed a bit cavalier about this for my tastes. Anyway, no big deal, but still. Second, on the very last play of the game - Japan's walk-off fielder's choice (of which more in a moment) - I misidentified that the ball had gone to the third baseman instead of the shortstop, and repeated that until I saw the very last replay during the postgame highlights montage. So unfortunately, that call of mine won't be ideal to look back on.

That said...what a game! Mexico's Brittany Cervantes missed a homer literally by inches in the top of the 2nd, but Mexico failed to score and then Japan's Fujita Yamato hit a homer off of Mexico's (and formerly Team USA's) Danielle O'Toole in the bottom of the 2nd, and I thought that would be that. But O'Toole pitched brilliantly, and Anissa Urtez hit a game-tying HR of her own in the top of the 5th. Japan countered with an Agatsuma Haruka RBI double in the bottom of the 5th, but Mexico got runners on 1st and 3rd in the 7th with nobody out against Ueno Yukiko before Urtez hit a sinking liner to center - which Japan's captain Yamada Eri dropped, tying the score. Ueno was yanked for Goto Miu, who pitched out of trouble before O'Toole pitched a perfect bottom of the 7th, and in the top of the 8th (with a runner starting on 2nd), Nicole Rangel hit a swinging bunt up the third base line, beat out the throw, then turned for 2nd to try and get herself in a rundown...and snuck into 2nd under the tag to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. But Goto got a popup and two strikeouts, and Japan played station-to-station softball in the bottom of the 8th to score the winning run on Atsumi Mana's grounder to short (not third) with one out. That was much better than any game I called in Jakarta three years ago, and it was a real thrill to be a part of it; I would love to have seen Mexico pull off the upset, but I'm fond of the Japanese team as well, and generally I'm very neutral as a commentator anyway, so it's all good.

So now I have a day-and-a-half off. There's a bit of rowing and archery tomorrow morning, but everything else shuts down for the opening ceremony before the maelstrom is unleashed on Saturday. I've got five solo commentaries coming up, most of them being very good matchups - AUS vs. CAN, AUS vs. USA, CAN vs. JPN, JPN vs. USA and CAN vs. ITA - before the medal games on Tuesday. In truth, while it's been good to have Leah alongside me, solo commentary is easier in many ways, and I'll enjoy that challenge as well.
 
So, here's a fact that I'd never thought about but just discovered which may interest you: I've just downloaded the OBS transmission schedule for tomorrow. There's very little sport on, of course - some rowing in the morning, some brief archery highlights, and that's it apart from the Opening Ceremony in the evening. However, the file in question is still pretty big, and that's because there are 11 "Beauty Cameras" positioned at various spots around the city which deliver a live stream 24 hours a day that broadcasters can tap into. So, e.g., NBC may use a high shot of the Rainbow Bridge or the the Imperial Palace or Odaiba & Tokyo Tower (etc.) beneath graphics or on its own to transition between other programming, and all of that comes from OBS: obviously, *someone* has to be responsible for shooting all of those atmospheric images, and I guess it's us!
 

atisha

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Jul 18, 2007
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Your commentary went on the Romanian version of Eurosport (the actual cable channel) - because obviously there are no Romanian broadcasters able to provide a serviceable commentary on softball.

The Italian team is quite good on defense, but they do not seem to have any reasonable power hitter for actually scoring some runs. But their games will be tight and surely some variance might fall in their favor.
 
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Your commentary went on the Romanian version of Eurosport (the actual cable channel) - because obviously there are no Romanian broadcasters able to provide a serviceable commentary on softball.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. (Presumably there must be quite a few other sports on Eurosport - not just during the Olympics - which use English-language commentary for this reason?)
 
Hilariously, last night I was called the surefire lock for the OBS MVP this Olympics (if such a prize existed) by five or six of my fellow commentaotrs. I was researching the USA baseball team and noticed an NHK (Japanese TV) link on the edge of official Tokyo 2020 I was using to a video from the previous day's Brazil vs. Germany soccer match. Intrigued, I clicked on it and opened up a new English-language portal to all of the videos on demand from all of the sports here at the Olympics. So I sought out one of my softball games, clicked on the link and started watching it: the stream was solid - in contrast to the OBS player app/website we've been given to access, which is super slow and crashes all the time and isn't really usable by any of us commentators at our hotel - but there was no commentary, just ambient sound. But then I saw a goofy-looking icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen which appeared to encompass a pair of headphones, and when I clicked on it I was given two options: "Ambience" and "English". Clicking on the latter brought up my commentary...and when I shared this on our OBS Commentary WhatsApp feed, the volume and effusiveness of the thanks I received was quite incredible. I nearly responded by mentioning how weird we all are to be so excited just to have the chance to listen to our own voices, but I let that one slide for the moment.

Anyway, I was back in my room on Day 1 proper of the Olympics before 2 p.m., which feels strange but I'm not complaining. Just the one game for me today, and it was a weird one: Australia scored a run in the first against Canada on a bases-loaded walk but left the bases full, then Canada responed by scoring three in the bottom of the first on a two-run double and a throwing error (which I thought was a catching error). Australia stranded the bases loaded again in the top of the second, and then Canada scored three more in the bottom of the second on a two-run double and a throwing error. Those two innings took more than an hour to complete, longer than the rest of the game - Canada eventually won 7-1, and if they can defeat Japan in their next game tomorrow, they would be in the box seat to reach the gold medal game.

I was commentating on my own today, and although that's how I've worked for 90% or more of my commentary career, it felt very odd after working with Leah the last few days. In some ways, I looked forward to being on my own, simply because I control everything as a solo commentator and don't need to worry about backing off and leaving lines and facts for my partner, or worrying about names that I'm pronouncing one way and my partner may be pronouncing another way. But really, there's a lot to keep track of when you're trying to keep score and commentate - and that's even more true when you're not at the stadium and able to ask for help from a production assistant if there's a weird substitution (there were quite a few of them today), or for that matter, just to see everything with your own eyes. I mean, I have a pretty sharp mind and was able to cope today - just, albeit with a few minor errors of the sort that always exist in any broadcast - but it's not easy.

Incidentally, you know what I really need right now? A sofa. Between the IBC and my hotel room, there's no place to relax!
 

edoug

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Jul 15, 2005
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I've cut the cord but have Peacock. Watching replays are fine. Any chance of you listing what events you're calling?
 
I've cut the cord but have Peacock. Watching replays are fine. Any chance of you listing what events you're calling?
Sure, although I don't think any of my commentary is going out via NBC channels or streams - you'd have to find it elsewhere. For example, if you have a VPN and can connect to Japan, I think you can probably find it on NHK's English-language website (assuming it's not geo-blocked):

https://en.sports.nhk.or.jp/olympic/highlights/list/

(You just need to click on the headphones icon and select "English" instead of "Ambience" to hear my commentary.)

My schedule for the rest of the softball - all times ET:
  • Saturday, 9 p.m.: Australia @ USA
  • Sunday, 1:30 a.m.: Canada @ Japan
  • Sunday, 9 p.m.: Japan @ USA
  • Monday, 1:30 a.m.: Canada @ Italy
  • Monday (night), Midnight: Bronze medal game
  • Tuesday, 7 a.m.: Gold Medal game
 

OCST

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Fantastic! Great stuff. How cool for you. You're living the dream.

I coach my daughter's U12 softball team. To learn more we started watching college softball snd I'm getting to the point where I prefer elite softball to baseball. The game is so much faster - all of the experiments with speeding up baseball to make it more interesting, well just watch some softball dude.

The trap for the unwary, I've learned, is the highly technical rules about what the pitcher can and can't do. Since its' an underahnd motion

We've been away so we haven't watched any yet, but I'm looking forward to the replays. We did catch a little snippet of USA-Canada and Monica Abbott pitching. For the uninitiated, she's the most successful pitcher in NCAA history. She's 6'3. Her motion - when she winds up she bends over double and her hands scrape the ground and then she rears up and delivers - pitchers hide the ball behind their hip so it's harder to pick up. Shes so tall, its like Randy Johnson-the ball is at the batter b efore they can blink. It's stunning how good she is. On my phone so hard for me to link video but trust me it's something to see. She can blow anyone away with fastballs but shes also got devastating breaking stuff, its almost unfair.

its super exciting that you're calling softball, in addition to basking in your reflected glory I hope you can turn people on to what a great sport this is.
 
To learn more we started watching college softball snd I'm getting to the point where I prefer elite softball to baseball. The game is so much faster - all of the experiments with speeding up baseball to make it more interesting, well just watch some softball dude.
Interesting perspective. Softball has certainly grown on me, but I do still prefer baseball - if anything, softball is too fast. Not in terms of how quickly games progress, which is brilliant, but in terms of how small the field is and how much easier it is for great pitching to dominate. I mean the USA conceded one run when they won gold in Athens in 2004, and they've conceded no runs through three games this year, and I would prefer to see more runs and hits and baserunners in the games I'm calling. (You could probably compare the number of runs in high-level softball vs. baseball to the number of goals in high-level soccer vs. hockey)

Those minor reservations aside, I love the players' attitude and just how clearly crazy they are for their sport, and I am of course passionate about the games in my commentary; I hope I'm doing it justice on my end!
 

OCST

Sunny von Bulow
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how much easier it is for great pitching to dominate. I mean the USA conceded one run when they won gold in Athens in 2004, and they've conceded no runs through three games this year, and I would prefer to see more runs and hits and baserunners in the games I'm calling.
That's interesting. I haven't seen any games yet but I can see how that could be boring. Most of what you can watch is college softball, where there are dominant pitching performances but the games have plenty of offensive and defensive fireworks.
 
That's interesting. I haven't seen any games yet but I can see how that could be boring. Most of what you can watch is college softball, where there are dominant pitching performances but the games have plenty of offensive and defensive fireworks.
I do get the sense that the very best pitchers are always better than the very best hitters in this sport. In a way, softball reminds me of curling, which is also a fantastic sport but is slightly more interesting to watch when the skill level drops just a little bit and you wind up with more stones in the house instead of perfect peel after perfect peel from ends 1 to 10 and very few points being scored.
 
Two more reasons that I don't quite think softball is as good as baseball, in the context of my call of USA vs. Australia this morning (**spoilers ahoy**):

1) I don't like the substitution rules. In particular, I was totally thrown out by what happened at the start of the game with Australia: they listed Ellen Roberts as their starting pitcher on the lineup card. First USA batter was Haylie McCleney, and she nailed a liner to the RF wall for a leadoff triple. I'm talking about Roberts and her NCAA career at Memphis, and then with Janie Reed up, I notice that actually it's Tarni Stepto in the pitching circle. I assumed that she must have been swapped in off camera and carried on for the rest of the game as though that triple had come off of Roberts...but no, after the game I realize that Stepto (who had been listed as the Designated Player for the game) had actually pitched to McCleney at the outset. In baseball, you have to face at least one batter if you're listed as the starting pitcher, right? Why shouldn't that be the case in softball?

(I also don't like the swapping in and out of players and the designated/temporary runners, which break up the flow of the game and make it very tough on a commentator. I understand why those rules might exist, particularly given that you're dealing with smaller squads of players in softball than in baseball, but baseball is better this way.)

2) The action just happens a bit too quickly. Runners at 2nd and 3rd, bottom of the 8th, one out, USA trailing 1-0...and Amanda Chidester nails a ball through the shortstop for a base hit. Normally in baseball you'd have just enough time to set everything up; here, it took just over four seconds from contact until the second runner scored to win the game. And that's symptomatic for how quickly most of the rest of the action happens. It's great to watch, much tougher to describe.

FWIW, I have a friend who tells me that Beth Mowins rather whiffed on the call of the final play. I haven't seen it myself and so can't judge it, but here's my call of the end of the game, if you'd like to compare and contrast:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17oDKTbGe8GDGNcJE903g2geRy1pym-BV/view?usp=sharing


(Please don't share that widely, of course!)
 

caminante11

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Your call was great. I think better than what I saw on NBC. I tried to find a magic link to your broadcast but came up empty. I don’t think you did Italy vs Japan in softball. I did find a link to the OBS broadcast of that one
 

Van Everyman

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Ok so first, it’s totally awesome that you’re calling this. You sounded great BTW.

I’ve been watching a ton of softball the past few years with my daughters and coaching some as well – and have begun to find it more interesting as a sport than baseball for a handful of reasons. In no particular order:

The pace is quicker. Where baseball has been slowed down to the pace of molasses with the stepping in and out of the box, and on and off the mound, softball moves at a brisk clip. There’s little time to be ever bored and yet the pace still has traces of that languid feeling I love about baseball.

The action is more compact. Whereas baseball players take huge strides at the plate and multiple steps in the field, in softball—in large part because the field is smaller—you can’t do any of that. If you do the pitch is past you or the runner is safe. As a result, the game is played with relentless efficiency, and the hips in particular play a more critical role in both the swing and the throw.

The play is more strategic and less boom or bust. As baseball gets increasingly defined by by home runs and strikeouts at all levels of play, in softball theres a far greater emphasis on putting the ball in play. This is similar to men’s tennis in the 90s with Pete Sampras blowing everyone away with aces and 110 MPH forehands. As impressive as it was, I found it totally bland as a product. The same is true of the modern baseball game.

Small ball suits the softball game better. I find bunting kind of tedious in baseball, but that may be because so few teams do it well. In softball, bunting and the slap and slash done well can be absolutely thrilling. In general, there seems to be more strategy in the softball game at present.

There is an inherent joy to the game. This is something I’ve noticed with my girls (now 11 and 14). Almost every softball team I’ve watched that’s any good really *enjoy* being on the field together. This isn’t to say that boys baseball doesn’t have it – you could feel it in the All Star Game last week. But all of the teams seem to have it in softball and some of that may simply come down to how athletic girls interact compared to boys who may be more generally competitive amongst each other.

I don’t yet understand the substitution rules well enough – most of the travel games my daughters have played bat the whole lineup. But watching the College World Series opened my eyes to how dynamic and strategic managing an in game lineup can be in a way that “if you come out of the game you’re done” isn’t to me. But again, I don’t know them well enough to say it authoritatively.

Lastly, I absolutely love what women have done with this sport. For a game that almost assuredly was developed by guys for the gentler sex—oh, the ball will be bigger and you’ll pitch it underhand, won’t that be splendid—it has become one of the most intense and competitive sports I’ve ever seen at all levels – from 8 and 9 y/o’s to the Olympics. That comes down to women who have fought through a bunch of bullshit (see what the Oklahoma coach said during this last CWS about the final game not even being on in prime time – or women players not even having fucking showers) to make this sport completely badass.

Don’t get me wrong: baseball is an awesome sport. I will always have a sentimental place in my heart for it and bleed for the Red Sox until I die. And I get why it might be easier to announce.

But softball is better.
 
Don’t get me wrong: baseball is an awesome sport. I will always have a sentimental place in my heart for it and bleed for the Red Sox until I die. And I get why it might be easier to announce.

But softball is better.
Thanks for your kind words about my commentary. Regarding your comments above, I guess I'd push back and ask how many of them relate to the game of softball vs. the game of baseball and how many relate to the people playing the games and the approach they take to playing them. The pace is quicker in softball because the players are willing to play it more quickly; there's no reason baseball couldn't be played the same way, other than inertia of those playing and governing the sport. Same regarding the joy and intensity of the players - that's not inherent to softball itself. (There are people who play joyously - to give one somewhat far-out example, check out the Savannah Bananas.)

As far as the compact action, the strategy and the small ball stuff, the problem I have in Olympic softball is that it's almost all about small ball in games between the top players, because the pitchers are just too good. You think pitching dominates hitting and there are too many strikeouts in MLB? Check out Goto Miu striking out six batters in a row in the 7th and 8th innings versus Canada today, or Monica Abbott recording 14 Ks in her 8 IP against Australia, and so on and so on. I'm sure it's different in slightly lower-level softball; in fact, I know it is from personal experience, because three years ago in Jakarta the final-round games not involving Japan finished 6-3 and 5-4 (8 innings), and I called other games finishing 3-2, 4-2, 5-3, 3-2, 3-1 and 2-1 along the way. If every game was like that, it really would be brilliant...but in Japan this week there have been 11 games played so far, and in only one of them did both teams score multiple runs. It's not like you can change the rules of the game just for Olympic-level softball, but if they moved the pitching circle back a few feet here in Fukushima and Yokohama, I wonder what difference that would make?

All that being said, the Olympic softball tournament is still more exciting that the Olympic baseball tournament in one hugely important way: the best players in the world are involved. So that rocks. But that being said, Korea and Japan both paused their domestic seasons and have all of their very best non-MLB players involved, so either a) they progress to the final and we have an East Asian battle royale for gold, or b) another team - maybe the USA - causes an upset and has their own great story to tell. So I'm going to have great fun calling both tournaments, one way or the other.
 
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As for my second game today, it was just as good as the first - and better, in some ways, given how much was on the line for both teams. If Japan defeated Canada, that would render meaningless the Japan vs. USA showdown tomorrow, but a Canada win would put them in the box seat and leave the USA-Japan loser sweating over Canada's game vs. Italy. Once again both teams went scoreless into the 7th, albeit not without some controversy: when Canadian coach Mark Smith tried to sub in Danielle Lawrie as his third pitcher in the 6th inning, the umpires initially refused to let him, and after some discussion Smith called his players off the field in protest! Smith had done with Lawrie what the Aussies had done with Ellen Roberts in the USA game: listing her as the starter, and yanking her from the game without facing a batter in favor of his designated pitcher. I don't know whose wires got crossed, but I said in my commentary through the pause that I thought Smith was in the right, and in end Lawrie was allowed to enter the game after all. A really weird moment.

Into the bottom of the 7th, and Japan got a runner on third with one out before Smith chose to intentionally walk the bases full. Here's what happened next:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rNOlQibt_FXGT1zPrYnCwn0GhWGjbFJM/view?usp=sharing


One of my best-ever moments in commentary, I think...right up to the point that I said "baseball" instead of "softball" at the very end. (Yuck.) But I'm delighted with the way I set up and worked through Naito's at bat, including spotting the pitch clock violation for ball one, discussing the subsequent "You gotta throw it!" from the catcher before the 3-1 pitch, and then the whole sequence of 3-2 pitches. (I'm embarrassed to think the "schoolgirl fantasy" line may have come to me subconsciously in the moment from The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me", but I love it - that wasn't rehearsed or pre-prepared in the slightest.) And then, in the bottom of the 8th...

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GfhZPATpYg-ox5OTv5YWDiYM3-q-N6qD/view?usp=sharing


A better - albeit easier - call than my finish to USA-AUS, I think. Although I twice say "Eri Yamada" instead of "Yamada Eri" like I'm supposed to (and throw in a "Hitomi Kawabata" as well instead of "Kawabata Hiromi"). Moral of the story: don't allow emotion to sweep you off your feet and forget the fundamentals of what you're doing. But still, I'm pretty jazzed right now.
 
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As it happens, the stakes of my two final round-robin softball games tomorrow could barely be lower. Japan vs. the USA, which ought to have been the highlight of the group stage, now only matters to determine home-field advantage in the gold medal game. Canada vs. Italy, second up in Yokohoma tomorrow, doesn't matter at all: Canada is locked into third (and the bronze medal game), and Italy will finish sixth. The late game - Australia vs. Mexico - will determine Canada's opponent for bronze, but of course Leah is down to call that one. The truly stupid thing is that the result of every game so far has gone according to the form book and the world ranknigs, so it's not like this was an unforeseen occurrence; this was always a highly likely scenario, and it was incredibly avoidable if the round robin had been scheduled differently. So I'm not exactly overjoyed.
 

The Needler

lurker
Dec 7, 2016
1,803
For a game that almost assuredly was developed by guys for the gentler sex—oh, the ball will be bigger and you’ll pitch it underhand, won’t that be splendid
It was not. It was invented initially as a kind of baseball that could be played indoors, and was first played by men. Fastpitch has been played by men and women since it was developed. I don’t know where you live, but in parts of the country (including New England) men’s fast pitch softball (especially from the 60s through the 80s) was a large male participatory sport. Where I grew up, there were multiple men’s fastpitch divisions and teams, while only one women’s league. Men’s fastpitch is still played worldwide competitively, especially popular in Australia and New Zealand, and there are Club teams all over Europe, as well as international competitions run by the European Softball Federation.

See, for example, the following for more info:
https://mswc.wbsc.org/en/2022
 
Great game, watched most of it this morning (local nihongo broadcast). Keep posting the videos, you're crushing it like Kelsey Stewart. Very cool.
Thanks!

I must admit...I was rather flagging during Canada vs. Italy this afternoon. After the high of the USA walkoff, to call a second game with even less on the line and with Canada cruising to a six-inning 8-1 win, I wasn't at my best. Just little things - not connecting 100% of my words and thoughts together the way I want to - but enough for me to know I was struggling, at least in relative terms. I still had some nice moments, but I'm really excited to be done with super-early wake-up calls - which I'm always awake for by the time they go off anyway, because I can't sleep more than five hours in a row on my super-hard hotel bed, and I dare not fall back to sleep with less than two hours before my alarm lest I sleep right through it. But my earliest first game scheduled on day between now and the end of the Olympics is noon (instead of 9 or 10 a.m.), so that should definitely help.
 
I called the bronze medal softball game earlier this afternoon, which was great and close and only the second game all tournament in which both teams scored multiple runs. (Canada led 2-0, Mexico tied it 2-2, but Canada won it 3-2 in the end.) But that hasn't been the highlight of my day so far: I've just finished chatting with Tony Johnstone for more than an hour. Tony just arrived in Tokyo and will be calling both golf events out at Kasumigaseki - if you don't know him, he's a Zimbabwean former Tour pro who now covers the European Tour for Sky with a lovely soft voice and a great sense of humor. I started by telling him that I interviewed him as a student at the 1995 Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews, where Zimbabwe lost the final to Scotland, and he immediately remembered the match; Coltart aced the 8th amidst a streak of birdies, and I remembered Johnstone saying that he'd felt like he'd been kicked in the nuts after the match, to which he started wobbling funny and said "I still feel it when I walk!" We talked about golf on TV and Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed (who he swears is a surprisingly lovely guy) and Jordan Spieth (had the worst case of the yips you've ever seen in college, apparently) and Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo. He was about to be escorted to his hotel - he's still in his three-day quarantine period - but insisted upon first finishing a story to me about the day Faldo became "Sir Nick Faldo" which I can't repeat in a public forum but which had me pissing myself laughing. When I'd seen Tony's name on the list of OBS commentators I had hoped our paths might cross at some point; that they did, and that he was every bit as delightful as I'd hoped he might be, was absolutely awesome.
 
I didn't get back to my hotel until 12:20 a.m. tonight - thanks to a long gold medal game, a very long wait for the medal ceremony and a super-long ceremony itself - and I'm calling my first baseball game less than 11 hours from now, so I'll keep this brief for the moment. (I'm also on standby from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow after my game is done, in case anyone keels over in a commentary booth or support is otherwise needed on the comms front, so it could be another long day for me.) The gold medal game was great, full of wild moments which could have swung the game in either direction; I posted this in the general Olympics thread, but I'll post it again here to give the most obvious example:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LuxArUd1s7pC3PMw6VX0YPeU86-OTz9b/view?usp=sharing

I'll try and record some more videos when I'm at the IBC tomorrow - e.g., Janie Reed's and Michelle Moultrie's catches at the outfield wall - while hopefully doing nothing more than twiddling my thumbs on standby. I didn't have a perfect game by any means, and my call of the gold-medal winning moment wasn't terrible but wasn't great, although in fairness re: the latter, a very short pop-up to the catcher isn't exactly the stuff dream calls are made of. But I think I did nail most of the other key moments, and the above call in particular was one that could have gone haywire very easily, not least because the ricochet and catch wasn't immediately apparent in real time. (I was only sure the ball had been caught when I saw the lead runner, Moultrie, retreat in vain toward second base.) I also think I did really rather well in describing the medal ceremony, which is not an easy skill to get right simply because you have to talk for so flipping long and ideally should be able to say something about every player. But I'm glad that part of it, at least, is all over...and I'm really not looking forward to the baseball medal ceremony with 24 players x 3 teams instead of 15 x 3 tonight!
 
Great call. When you get a chance please post your baseball schedule as you did with the softball.
Sure - again, all of these times are ET:

Tues 27 July, 11 p.m.: Dominican Republic @ Japan
Thurs 29 July, 6 a.m.: Israel @ Korea
Thurs 29 July, 11 p.m.: Mexico @ Dominican Republic
Fri 30 July, 11 p.m.: Japan @ Mexico
Sat 31 July, 11 p.m.: Game 7 - B3 vs. A3 (loser eliminated)
Sun 1 Aug, 11 p.m.: Game 9 - Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner
Tues 3 Aug, 6 a.m.: Game 11 - Game 8 loser vs. Game 9 loser (loser eliminated)
Tues 3 Aug, 11 p.m.: Game 12 - Game 11 winner vs. Game 10 loser (loser to Bronze Medal game)
Wed 4 Aug, 6 a.m.: Game 13 - Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner (winner to Gold Medal game)
Thurs 5 Aug, 6 a.m.: Game 14 - Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 loser (loser to Bronze, winner to Gold)
Fri 6 Aug, 11 p.m.: Bronze Medal Game
Sat 7 Aug, 6 a.m.: Gold Medal Game
 
Meanwhile, I've had friends and family tell me they saw me on the BBC - first time that's ever happened, to have been seen randomly by people back home. So that's obviously awesome. The whole gold medal game aired in its entirety on the BBC's interactive Red Button coverage, but extended highlights also aired about 5:15 p.m. yesterday - this includes almost all of my big calls during the game:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12dmg8wi3Nc422r9pqpXoOVTd-J9slvFo/view?usp=sharing

(The only exception is the crazy Michelle Moultrie catch off Ichiguchi against the wall at the end of the 2nd inning - Leah was making a point as the pitch was delivered and couldn't exit her thought until the ball was 3/4 of the way to the wall, so although I adapted well and made a good call under the circumstances, I understand why that wasn't really usable.)

Meanwhile, BBC's prime-time highlights show also featured this - parts of this guy's introduction to softball for (British) dummies strike me as genuinely funny:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bBx75INQdpWt6-EZzhZ3AhUIzOkNiFJZ/view?usp=sharing

To see "Commentator: Darren Kilfara" as a graphic at the start of these highlights packages is so gratifying, I can hardly tell you. :) (And funnily enough, this shorter highlight reel features the extended version of my call on Janie Reed's HR-saving catch, whereas the other set of highlights doesn't - I was very pleased with the "claw back" double.)

FWIW, my call of the final out is actually growing on me. I like its staccato brevity, and how I emphasized "Gold again", which was the point of saying it that way - not just winning gold, but defending their title. Oh, and I'm really pleased that some of what I said during the medal ceremony was actually used in the first reel - I looked up the medal table during the ceremony and noticed that Japan's 10th gold medal put Japan ahead of the USA in the standings (as per the non-US calculation whereby the number of golds is the first determination, not the overall number of medals), so I went with it, and it plays out in that clip pretty beautifully.
 
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Baseball is back at the Olympics in style. Great game between Japan and the Dominican Republic - I have Japan pegged as the gold-medal favorites, but after six innings of a scoreless pitching duel which was very Olympic softball-esque, they fell behind 2-0 in the 7th and trailed 3-1 going to the bottom of the 9th. But the Dominican closer, Jairo Ascencio (ex-ATL, CLE, CHC and BAL), had a nightmare, not helped by Jose Bautista's attempt to flip a safety squeeze bunt home for an out that was never there as the tying run scored, and Sakamoto Hayato's deep bases-loaded fly with one out, the game tied and the outfield way in was enough to give Japan the walk-off 4-3 win.

That being said, it wasn't the best game to commentate on for several reasons:

1) I'm operating on four hours' sleep from last night, which is never great.
2) The guy at the other end of the line who was supposed to cue me in at the start of the broadcast never did so - and after I cued myself and started on time (all perfectly fine), he started speaking into my earphones as I was literally reading the second or third sentence of my pre-written intro, throwing me off kilter and making me stumble through a few words. He added negative WAR today to my broadcast, I'm afraid.
3) I'm having to guess WAY too much about what is happening on the basepaths while the camera follows a ball hit to the outfield. In one case it was literally 30 seconds after a play was done before I was certain whether a runner had scored or not. I made a few intelligent guesses which all proved to be correct, but at this rate, at some point I'll either a) make a bad guess and be made to look foolish, or b) make no guess and sound equally foolish. I sent an email to several of my bosses asking if they could maybe have a word with the Japanese directors to split to a baserunning camera of some sort very briefly in situations like this, but I have serious doubts about whether that's gonna happen. (In retrospect, softball may be easier to commentate on off-tube if only because the field of play is smaller, and the baserunners never get quite so far out of shot as they do in baseball.)
 
They have a baserunning camera, they just should make it available to see for commentators.
If you mean they should make it available for me to see separately from the main feed, that's impossible - I'm stuck watching exactly what you the viewer sees at home. (It's far too technically difficult to set me up with a second monitor for this purpose.) If you simply mean that they should cut to that camera more often when the ball is in play, then yes, that's exactly what I'm asking for!