How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

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Bob Rotruck
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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#16 Post by Bob Rotruck » Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:36 am

I certainly wasn't expecting to receive a notification from some random reply I made 5 years ago...But I like it!

Regarding tense: It's a fine line but I feel future CAN be acceptable in certain situations. Perhaps this is hair-splitting though. Just a little Devil's Advocate examples here.

If it's a matter of "Jones shoots...and Smith WILL make the save" or "O'Neill WILL make a great catch!" then I agree that's inappropriate and should be avoided.


But what about "Smith will shoot 2 free throws." That's future tense...and is something that hasn't happened yet.

In hockey, "Brennan will start the breakout" or "Brennan is going to start the breakout here."

"He dumps it in and WILL get off the ice for a line-change..."
He's on his way over to the bench, and hasn't changed yet. But he's about to. That's future tense and I don't think it's incorrect to do that.

And in baseball you have "will" in future tense of something that hasn't happened fairly frequently. "That will bring up Jeter. He will step in against Martinez."
He hasn't come up yet and hasn't stepped in yet. But he's about to do so.

"Hughes will come with the 2-1 pitch" or more basically "It will (or It'll) be a 2-1" (John Sterling's favorite set up) is technically future tense too.


I do think I get what you're saying. And I think you're looking for a conversation regarding tense. So I just wanted to throw out a few quick examples that occurred to me when you mentioned that.
Admittedly, I haven't really thought about that too much before so it was an interesting exercise.


I am also reminded of the old Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Waite Hoyt in the 1940s and 50s who was known for broadcasting the entire game in the past tense based on a similar argument that you can't know what happened until AFTER it takes place.
He would never say "Here's the pitch." It would always be "There was the pitch."

I tend to think that would drive me nuts to hear every single pitch of every broadcast described in that way but he was extremely popular for 24 years as the Voice of the Reds so I guess it didn't bother his audience too terribly.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey in Allentown, Pennsylvania. AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jon Chelesnik
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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#17 Post by Jon Chelesnik » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:10 am

Hi Bob -- welcome back to this topic thread from yesteryear, haha!

Great comments by you. I always appreciate your contributions.

Some of your examples of future tense are 100% correct and have prompted me to more accurately explain myself. Use present tense when describing action while the ball or puck is in play. Future tense is certainly acceptable during dead ball situations. Ex: "Jones will shoot two free throws." "The Kings will go on the power play."

Bill Czaja
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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#18 Post by Bill Czaja » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:16 am

JesseG-S wrote:To reply to the esteemed Mr. Tomasch, too, you don't want to get too far behind on radio either, since the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd dictate what's occurring in the now. If we just heard the ball crushed, but you're still enmeshed in another thought and haven't described the pitcher throwing it yet, that's a problem. Likewise, the crescendo of a roaring crowd while you barely have the walk-off homer leaving the hitter's bat. You can't let your own inspiring commentary distract you from the game at hand -- you have to be on the play.
I tracked down the aircheck from a fill-in game I did at the end of my time in Beloit, and I caught a couple of times where I was slightly behind the play. Good call, but the crowd is up before the call is complete, so not the best end result. That was the last game of the season, so it was a very fast-paced game. And that's the thing - the pace determines it. If it's a smash to short, that's what it is. If it's a three-hopper or a slow roller, if you have the opportunity to fully describe it without falling behind, go for it. You are the eyes of the listener, and if you can keep up with the pace, a fuller description is generally better.

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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#19 Post by Bill Czaja » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:19 am

Jon Chelesnik wrote:This thread is SO relevant. It's from nearly five years ago so I want to bring it back to the forefront to see what today's STAA Forums audience has to contribute.

It's mostly about tense in which I am interested. I am a firm believer that play-by-play should be broadcast in the present tense. Past tense is acceptable, of course, if you are recapping a play. Future tense is never acceptable. How can you describe something that has yet to happen?
When I was taught broadcast writing style in the newsroom at the NPR affiliate in college, I learned present tense. Pretty much all of the broadcasters and interns I have come across are fully versed in it. What I see is the opposite problem, that recent grads and interns who are raised more on SportsCenter than on The Sporting News have difficulty writing press releases in past tense, which is the proper tense for print.

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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#20 Post by Jon Chelesnik » Tue Feb 28, 2017 8:26 am

recent grads and interns who are raised more on SportsCenter than on The Sporting News have difficulty writing press releases in past tense, which is the proper tense for print.
Interesting point. I don't read enough press releases to know this but I trust it to be true.

A similar place where I hear inconsistency is in sports updates on the radio. Radio is here and now, so even morning updates recapping the previous night's action should be in present tense. Ex:

LeBron James score 25; Cleveland routes Boston 102-84.

instead of ...

LeBron James score 25; Cleveland routed Boston 102-84.

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Re: How much description to you provide on a ball in play?

#21 Post by Bill Czaja » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:28 pm

It felt awkward to me, but my news/sports director at WEMU taught me to write current status as the result of writing in present tense.
"EMU men's basketball has won back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a month after Tuesday's..."

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