29 October 2016

NBA opener in photos

Well, our opening NBA League Pass VR broadcast, produced by NextVR, is in the books, and we've definitely turned our focus to Tuesday's Pacers-Lakers game as our shows move to Tuesday nights for most of the season.

But I did find time to grab a few pictures / screenshots from Thursday's opener, one our entire crew and the basketball fans of Sacramento will not soon forget:




25 October 2016

Hello, NBA! Coming your way in 2016-17


I am proud to announce that I will call play-by-play on the first full season of live virtual-reality sports this winter when the NBA and NextVR partner to produce at least 25 regular-season games in VR via NBA League Pass!

Official announcement from NBA
Official announcement from NextVR
How to get access to NextVR

On my end, this has been a few months in the works, and as we've gone through discussions and test games and everything, I've been so excited but unable to talk about it beyond my immediate family. So I can't wait to start the season Thursday with the Sacramento Kings-San Antonio Spurs game, the regular-season opener at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento! Tip is at 7:30 Pacific Time on Thursday, 10:30 Eastern Time, and fans can watch for free with the right VR headset. (Don't worry: If that sounds a little narrow, the availability is only going to get more widespread as the season goes on!)

For the NextVR team, this has been more than a year in the making, and seeing their reaction to the expansion and fine-tuning of the product has been awesome. It's a great group to work with, one I first met when working their first fully produced soccer game in the International Champions Cup in August, and I'm excited for the season.

USA Today article

Personally, this is certainly a bit of a departure from pro soccer and college sports. I've called plenty of basketball, but it's been entirely in the college ranks, so I look forward to learning some of the intricacies of the NBA, its storylines, and its players throughout this season.

One of my partners on the broadcasts this year will be Julianne Viani, who I've worked with a lot as a college basketball analyst in the New York area, and I know she's going to help make our shows analytical, fun, and successful! Fellow soccer vet Mark Rogondino will also be among those contributing, as various schedules allow, and he brings an awesome perspective and energy that are hard to match.

Upload VR article

The test broadcasts have been exhilarating and illuminating. I've learned some things about how to prepare and how to approach these broadcasts (slightly differently than a normal game), and I've learned a lot about how the NBA operates. As broadcasters and as a production group, we've definitely gotten a better idea of what works and what doesn't, and we've come up with ideas we think can be implemented as the season goes on. We may not have every bell and whistle on Opening Night, but you'll be impressed and enjoy the show!

The VR camera angles work really well for basketball, with the most often used cameras stationed underneath the basket. That means dunks and anything at the rim come right at you, and it also provides a more true look of how teams approach the game in terms of Xs and Os, since you get the same vertical vantage point as the players. Our scorer's-table camera, pictured here, brings some sideline access to coaches and players that you don't see on a normal broadcast. It's absolutey fascinating to watch a game this way.

I don't know how many of you have the ability to watch VR broadcasts just yet, but as somebody who was skeptical before trying the technology out, I can highly recommend that you give it a chance! Basketball is definitely the ideal sport to provide a starting point for sports in virtual reality, and I'm incredibly excited for all the new experiences this winter will bring.

So find a Samsung phone or Playstation and a VR headset and check out our Game of the Week all NBA season!

Again, here's how to get access to NextVR.

01 October 2016

All the highlights and reaction from crazy MLS game

In the second of a three-games-in-four-days stretch, I got an awesome game to call Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.

With only three games remaining before the playoffs, the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union played a back-and-forth game with a playoff-like atmosphere. Although it was marred by a scary head injury to a promising young Philadelphia player, Josh Yaro, the rest of the game was edge-of-your seat stuff.

Unfortunately, in my case, it was also Jon-on-the-verge-of-losing-his-voice stuff. All the big plays and the goals, coupled with the energy of the crowd, had me doing a lot of yelling. Hopefully it sounded good, but I was definitely a little hoarse by the postgame show. Hoping for a quick turnaround for Sunday's ESPNU broadcast in West Virginia.

At any rate, here are the highlights from an intense night:




And here's how Shep and I broke it down on the MSG postgame show:


25 September 2016

Arkansas en fuego - postgame from SEC Network

Arkansas has been one of the stories of the year in NCAA women's soccer, beating two top-5 teams and traditional powers (Duke, Florida) and reaching 11-1 overall, 4-0 in SEC play with Sunday's 2-1 win over Ole Miss.

Having called Arkansas games in Fayetteville each of the last two years, and having scouted them extensively while trying to figure out their wide variety of formations, I've been watching this team closely, and it was fun to see them in person on Sunday.

Here's how Cat Whitehill and I discussed takeaways following Sunday's game:


18 September 2016

Postgame recap from Kentucky-Alabama

I watch a ton of video early in the college soccer season to prepare for games throughot the fall, and this weekend was the first time I got to put into action in 2016.

After calling Princeton's 2-1 win over Boston University on the men's side Friday night, I flew to Lexington, Kentucky for my first game of the year on the SEC Network on Sunday. I started calling SEC games two years ago when the network launched, and so I've really enjoyed keeping track of the league and its players in preparation for games.

On Sunday, Kentucky and Alabama finished in a 1-1 tie, but there were so many scoring chances throughout the game that we were really glued to the action. My partner was Jill Loyden, who I worked with on Philadelphia Union games last year, and it was great to welcome her to SEC coverage and see how impressed she was by Kentucky's facilities.

Here's how we recapped the game afterward:

21 August 2016

Video: D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls call on ESPN

On Sunday, I finally got to call a game with ESPN's lead soccer analyst, Taylor Twellman. He's given me a lot of support and encouragement in my career, but somehow, every time I've gotten an ESPN assignment, Taylor has managed to be somewhere else!

After a crazy night of travel from his last game in New York, he made it down to D.C., where I had flown Saturday morning, and we were able to call Sunday's D.C. United-NewYork Red Bulls game together.

Here's how we broke it down afterward:



Here's how it looked / sounded as it happened:

20 August 2016

Flashback to THAT Alex Dixon goal call: WOOHOO!

Five years ago today, my most famous (infamous??) play-by-play call. Deadspin theatrically headlined it "goal causes announcer to orgasm on air."

Well, no, but it's certainly one of the most fun moments I've had the pleasure to call. The original YouTube clip is a great quick hit, but to really appreciate why I lost it and just how completely I lost it, take 5 minutes and watch/listen to the whole thing:



This was a local radio broadcast, I had been covering Dixon since he was a high school junior, and even though it was only August, it felt like the Dynamo HAD to win the game (at the time, they had not won a road game all year, and they only had three home games left).

Ultimately, the additional two points in the standings meant Houston got home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, helping the Dynamo reach that year's MLS Cup final in a playoff run that was a great end to my full-time tenure with the club.

This call is a bit of a lightning rod: People either absolutely love it or can barely hide their disgust. As somebody who can't stand homer announcers, I understand some of those issues. If I could do it again, would I add the 'hoo' to my original plan of a loud 'woo' to punctuate the call? Probably not. Even as a club employee, I don't find it kosher to openly cheer on the air.

But the joy of a last-minute winner, when I had basically given up on Houston winning the game, is what I, and anybody with Dynamo sympathies, was feeling at that moment. With approximately 99% of my listeners in Houston, I'll always be proud that my reaction brought so much energy, emotion, passion … and fun!

Happy five years to Dix and everybody from that Dynamo team; this always brings a slightly embarrassed smile to my face.

13 August 2016

Working on a new (virtual) reality

Courtesy NextVR
I really didn't know what to expect, but last Wednesday night was seriously different.

Less than 72 hours after first hearing about the broadcast, less than 48 after being confirmed to work on it, I showed up at MetLife Stadium to provide play-by-play for NextVR's virtual reality broadcast of the International Champions Cup game between two giants of world soccer, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

I didn't have a lot of expectations, but the few I did have were nowhere close to reality. Read on to hear about the experience.

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25 July 2016

Highlights from KC-Seattle game on ESPN

I had a busy weekend in Kansas City, taking in three soccer games (USWNT, USL, MLS) and preparing for Sunday's ESPN broadcast, then having my flight cancelled and stayin an extra night.

The biggest part of the weekend, of course, was Sunday's broadcast, in which Sporting Kansas City crushed the Seattle Sounders 3-0, outshooting them 19-1 in the process. Got to call some pretty good goals in the process, too! Check out the highlights:

26 June 2016

Soccer Sunday on ESPN highlights

Had the chance to call Portland-Houston on ESPN2 on Sunday night, and in front of the always great Providence Park crowd, we had a wide-open game, a dramatic comeback, and a decisive disputed call. Check it out: