Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Feel Their Pain

I've never worked for an outfit like the YES Network. WGCH and the other stops on my broadcast train have been much more simpler. Then again, I've worked primarily in radio and the very nature of radio is to be simpler in terms of our setup.

I'm watching the Yankees and Phillies play on YES right now, and they are having awful audio problems. The reason I feel a kinship here is due to the fact that I've experienced what they're dealing with.

TV by their very nature shows up hours earlier than radio guys do, since they have to deal with satellites, miles of cable, camera placement and test it all out. Radio shows up, plugs in, sets up, and is ready to go. I can get to a game with little or no time (so long as I can set up). I don't like doing that, but sometimes it can't be helped (you know, full time jobs and stuff). Most of the time, I'm there a minimum of an hour early, but often it's more.

As the guy who does the engineering for our broadcasts, I put all of the equipment in place and test it all out. With any luck, I then have time to visit with the coaches, players and even fans (yes, there's a large amount of schmoozing that goes into my job). Hopefully I even have a minute or two to review notes and get ready to go on the air. When all goes well, the music comes on, fades down and I begin to talk.

What I'm getting at is, even with all the preparation, testing, and time, things happen. These are the moments when, despite everything, the virtual "on air" light goes one and nothing goes on the air. Oh I'm talking, but nothing is transmitting. Or we've lost our cell phone signal. Or somebody has taken our phone line. Or a battery has gone dead. Or a piece of equipment has malfunctioned.

I think you get the idea.

The best laid plans...

Well that's what YES is going through today. It seemed like the minute Bob Lorenz and Ken Singleton described the first pitch, the audio went out. It went to static, then dead. Hideki Matsui homered and we saw the picture, but didn't hear the call. Then they fixed it, and it died again. Now they're calling the game with the sound quality of a hard phone line.

I feel their pain. I've experienced their pain.

On TV, you can get away with that. We all know the picture is the star. We don't have that luxury on radio.

In my case, as the engineer and lead broadcaster, I'm the one who also faces the music later on from the listeners, advertisers, sales people, and (duh duh duh duh - "Dragnet" theme) the bosses.

Want to cite an example? Just say "Ridgefield" to me and I'll know what you mean. They have the worst cell phone service and despite having a phone line that we could use, I couldn't get our equipment to work with it. So I called that game by holding the phone to my mouth. I would hand it off when I wanted an analyst to say something. It was not fun.

Just the nature of our business. And as I've explained, it happens at every level.

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