Play-by-play best practices: handling shared names and injuries

Have you ever been doing play-by-play when two, or maybe even three, players on the court share the same last name?

Clarity when players share a name

One of the most frustrating nights of my play-by-play career was when I was doing McPherson High School basketball in Kansas. The opposing team had twin sisters on the floor. That was okay. I could deal with it.

Then their triplet checked in.

Three girls, one court, same time. What do you do?

When it was just the twins, I went first and last name each time one of them got the ball. When the triplet came in, it slowed down my play-by-play too much to go first and last.

At that point I went first names only. However, I was clear each time the third person checked in that all three were now on the floor and I re-set the first and last names of each. That way, at least for the next four- or five-minute segment, my listeners hopefully understood to whom I was referring when I was using only using first names.

Discussing injuries on-air

Also on the topic of play-by-play, I was recently asked about how to handle injuries. It can be especially dicey at the high school level when the player is most likely a minor.

Believe it or not, I’ve twice had broadcasters email me to say they were doing play-by-play in a game where an injured player died. One of them died on the field; the other several days later.

My advice is the same, regardless of the level at which you’re doing play-by-play. Describe what part of the body doctors are working on but don’t try to guess or diagnose the injury. If you stay with description, you’re still informing your audience without stepping into the potentially dangerous area of playing a doctor on the radio.

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