THP #28: Hot Mic

January 8, 2022 – Framingham, Massachusetts
Framingham State vs. Westfield State
Men’s Basketball

Along with writing I also broadcast games. You’ll get to hear me in the video clips in the game recap below, at least as much as gets through due to the mask.

I never took a single broadcast class in college. I’ve just always loved the rhythm of a good broadcast and learned it all by observing. And in my short time on the mic I think I’ve done a lot. Five different sports, all three divisions, games on ESPN +/3/ocho, and I even did a game on TV. It’s been a blast.

I enjoy the small, local beat. After a decade of covering high school and college sports for papers and websites of all sizes it’s nice to be able to be done with work when the horn sounds instead of just getting started.

And with that I want to peel back the curtain for anyone interested in becoming a broadcaster or just curious as to how it all works and give you four tips and factoids about small-time broadcasting

It’s a dance.

That’s great that you know the history of the last 10 years of a team you’re covering, but if you can’t showcase that information in an entertaining way then it’s best left unsaid. If you’re in a two-person booth, the ability to flow and work well with your partner supersedes everything else.

The play-by-play person should work to make whoever is on color look good and vice versa. It’s a vocal dance, and you want to move with your partner, not against them.

For color analysts: don’t look at the ball

I heard Cris Collinsworth say this in an interview years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. The play-by-play is looking at the ball. The camera is following the ball. The fans at home are watching the ball. As the analyst, you need to be looking anywhere else.

It can be hard and chaotic, and you get better at it over time. If you want to be a good broadcaster it is definitely a worthwhile skill to learn.

It’s harder than it looks

“Oh c’mon, you’re just talking about a game you’re paid to be at. That’s a dream job!”

Yeah, it’s fun. It’s still hard. It took me a while to realize that me broadcasting is almost like being a pro wrestling character. It took me several years to find my broadcasting voice and learn how to talk with out ums and uhs on the air.

Working at the local level also means that I rarely work with the same partner on multiple games. So knowing the mechanics of how to talk on air allows me and my partner to mesh quick and work a good show.

Once you find your voice and have a rhythm, you can do any game. The only difference between a small D2 game and the Super Bowl becomes a factor of scale. The mechanics stay the same.

Focusing can be the other difficult part. If it’s an 80-50 basketball game with lots of fouls, you can’t just check out to chat with friends or go grab a pizza slice from the kitchen. Staying engaged in those types of games can be brutal.

Sometimes ESPN doesn’t mean ESPN

I’ve done a few dozen games on ESPN+/3. The only “ESPN” thing about them has been the graphics and the streaming site you watch it on. Everything else is a mix of a team of freelancers, students, and a small handful of full-time university staff.

ESPN, and other networks are the same on the streaming side, is mostly just a distribution house in this instance. With every league having broadcast deals the network simply can’t staff every one with full-time network broadcasters.

So, in order to make the games make the screen, there’s a massive group of freelancers and students across the country helping to make them happen. And we’ll travel. I only do games in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but one guy I’ve worked with lives in Connecticut and casts a wide net that includes schools in Boston, New Jersey, and New York.

That’s a little bit of inside baseball on local broadcasting. Hope you enjoyed it as much I as love doing it.

And with that, here’s your moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

Framingham sits in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, which is a group of cities and towns between Boston and Worcester. A city in its own right, with a population of just over 72,000, Framingham is the most populous municipality in the region.

Being Jewish means always knowing where the best deli is, and I’ve had Kugel’s circled for a long time. As bare bones as it gets, Kugel’s is all about the food.

I started with the matzo ball soup, and while it looked the part it was sadly lacking for one thing: seasoning in the matzo ball. The chicken noodle soup in the bowl was amazing, there just needed to be a bit more salt in the ball itself.

I also treated myself to two meat knishes. It’s finely ground beef and dough, what’s not to love? The ones I grew up eating for Rosh Hashanah were from a deli that used a cakier dough, and these ones were more in the puff pastry family. Regardless, they were excellent.

The main event was a chicken salad club on rye with the works.

A monster of a sandwich, it satisfied in a big way. And the sides shined. The fries rocked, the cole slaw was great, and half-sour pickles are the best flavor of pickle. An awesome way to cap the meal.

Things to Do

By now you know I’m a sucker for an art museum, and just down the road from the main campus there was one of the sneaky best art museums I’ve been to in New England. The second floor of the art building just off of Framingham Common, the Danforth Museum may be the most hidden hidden gem.

When you get off the elevator it immediately dumps you into the museum, and for $7 there is a whole lot to see. My personal favorite was Foiled Again by J. Jones. For one, the name was a pun, and the colors of the piece made me do a double take.

Usually I’m not a still life fan, but the works on display made me question that. So bright and vibrant and full of life, I much preferred the work here than the “classic” still lifes like Sunflowers.

On permanent display was an exhibit on Meta Vaux Warwick Fuller. One of America’s first prominent Black sculptors, she lived and created in Framingham for the last 60 years of her life. The exhibit included a full recreation of her attic studio as well as showcasing her works.

The thing I love most about museums is that they can always surprise you with something new. Sometimes you stumble upon a full-sized T-Rex and sometimes you come across an art piece made in a way you never knew existed.

Rebec Player by Esther Geller

Geller made this using encaustic, which is the method of heating and mixing dry pigment with wax. The picture doesn’t do it justice. The colors were so rich, and the texture was a mix of grainy pitting and reflective shine.

Geller painted Rebec Player in 1947. It was in her obituary photo when she passed at 93 in 2015, and here it is still moving people today. Four years earlier, Kenny Sailors unleashed the jump shot onto the world of basketball, and a beautiful rainbow still moves people today.

One of the galleries was focused on indigenous art and what “American” art even is. My favorite was this bright, bouncy piece from Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

From the Salish & Kootenai tribes in what is known today as Montana, Smith’s work showcased Native art styles and forced the conversation about what is history and who gets to curate it.

40,000 Years

Being in this gallery got me thinking of my own place in this chaotic America. Being Jewish, I’m always wondering if I’m welcome in certain spaces and how much of myself I can set free. What it means to be “American”.

Growing up in New England there is little to no Native culture. I live on the historic land of the Nipmuc and grew up on the land of the Pentucket. So much is named for tribes and their landmarks but little time is given to their history or current existence. Nipmuc and Pentucket are both the names of local high schools.

Who is American? What is American? I feel like those questions will always have a changing, nebulous answer based on what the asker wants the response to be.

The Campus

Framingham State is one of the nine small state universities in the Massachusetts State Universities system, which is separate from the UMass system.

With the exception of MassArt, which doesn’t have sports, they all share an athletic conference (Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference/MASCAC). More than that they were all founded in the 19th century as teacher’s colleges, then called normal schools.

Framingham State is the second-oldest school in the league, founded in 1839, but certainly looked modern and up-to-date even under a fresh coat of snow.

The McCarthy Center is the beating heart of campus, as most student unions are, and is a sleek, contemporary building that stands out from the crowd of older brick and stone facades.

Dwight Hall, home of the president’s office

With roughly 3,200 undergrads, and 4,500 students overall, Framingham State is mid-sized compared to the rest of the MASCAC.

The Game

The Athletic and Recreation Center is home to the campus store as well as classrooms, multiple gymnasiums, as well as offices and other facilities for the school’s 14 teams. Opened in 2001, the $12 million facility feels like it was just opened this year.

A quirk of the layout means that the gym itself is down a few dozen stairs from the entry way, giving way to a slightly ominous view up from the lobby.

And then there’s the high ceiling. With seating for roughly 1,000 people, the ceiling can make the gym feel like a cavern even if it is well-lit.

And on this day it was Brendon Hamilton and the Westfield State Owls in town. Hamilton entered the game second in all of Division III with 15.7 rebounds a game to go with his 15.4 points a night. At just 6’6, I was excited to see him go to work, and he did not disappoint.

On paper, the 10-2 Owls looked to easily be favored but the early going was anyone’s game.

Ivan Nyantenji and Jahden Erold did everything they could for Framingham in the first half. Nyantenji led the Rams with 17 points and ran the point smoothly.

Erold pitched in with 10 of his own.

The problem was that no one else scored for the Rams in the first half, and the Owls kept the offense diverse and put their mark on the game heading into halftime.

Westfield went into the break up seven and never let the Rams get closer than six in the second half and Hamilton was a big reason why.

It was such a pleasure to see him play. He was three or four plays ahead from those around him when he was on the floor and made it all look effortless. Now, he certainly has good teammates around him, but when he had the ball he was like watching a dancer entrance you on stage.

While Erold finished with 27 points, and Nyantenji had 20, only one other Ram had more than two points. Nine players for Westfield had more than two points.

And even in just 28 minutes, Hamilton stole the show.

Westfield State 69, Framingham State 60. Final.
Player of the game: Brendon Hamilton (WSU) – 18 pts, 13 rbd, 6 blks, 2 stls
Time of Game: 1:31:38

This was a fun one. The MASCAC will always have a special place for me because it was the first league I ever saw live way back in the late 90s. I remember seeing Framingham in the 2004 conference final get taken apart by a monstrous Salem State team. The MASCAC has always been the backbone of my love for D3 basketball even if I’m not around as much as I used to be. And the Danforth was one heckuva hidden gem.

Lastly, my friend Clayton Trutor has a book coming out next month chronicling the rise of professional sports in Atlanta and the intersection of politics, economics, and a whole lot more. I read some drafts early on and it is a rollicking good time. If you’re a fan of sports, history, politics, or any combination I’d love if you check it out here. Thank you.

And in honor of that final score, here’s one for the road…

 

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