Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Been a Month...Time To Tell the Story

November 26th was Thanksgiving and, as I have done for nine years in a row, I worked. WGCH broadcast the Greenwich/Staples game from Westport and I was at the mic with my crew of Sean Kilkelly (analysis), Nick Fox (stats), Chris Kaelin walking the Staples sideline, and Chris Erway on the Greenwich side. Rob Crowley kept us on the air, running the controls from the studio.

Just a normal day for us.

The Greenwich/Staples game has been played every Thanksgiving since 2005 and, at first, appeared to be a "made for TV" event, as MSG (Madison Square Garden) carried the initial three games, before skipping 2008. Yet they were back with a vengeance in 2009.

MSG (and their high school channel, MSG Varsity) have been a constant presence during the '09 season. There has been a lot of criticism of their efforts (mispronounced names, technical glitches, and so on). I can't fault them; it's tough to swoop in and we've had our share over the years of name and technical issues.

For the most part, I've enjoyed a very nice relationship with the folks from MSG/Cablevision/News 12. In fact, I even worked there - for one day, several years ago as a writer before budget cuts eliminated the need for me. I've chatted with some of their talent and members of the crew. Overall, nice people who have a job to do. They tend to get some things from us (especially from the sideline) and we're happy to help. They return the favor by letting us steal a glance at their replay monitors when nearby.

They often show up ridiculously early to a game site because they have to - there are cables to run and a lot to do. They also kind of take over, and there's a perception that they run the place (they have a large staff, so folks are outnumbered). So yeah, a sort of resentment builds because, as noted, they swoop in, where we're with Greenwich every game.

Don't worry. Writers resent radio and TV. Just how it goes.

A little back story before we get to "the main event": MSG Varsity was also at Stamford. Tight booth, but harmonious. Additionally they were at Trumbull. That night, one of their producers didn't like the audio being played from the booth because they were setting up their "stand up" (the opening of a broadcast). The guy looks at me, glares, and tells me to turn it down. Now - mind you - I'm wearing a headset and a Greenwich football shirt. I told him I don't work there, but I will try. I didn't turn it down enough to his liking, so he barked "ALL THE WAY DOWN" to me.

Now, you can tell me he has a rough job to do, but there's such a thing as professionalism. It's what I push with my team when we go somewhere. I ask that we show up, set up, get our stuff out of the way, and do our job. Also, in years of doing this, I've never seen a TV crew come in and DEMAND that the stadium alter their audio. Ever.

Of course, they institute TV timeouts and other elements but that's part of the price.

Back to Staples.

We have already accepted that, thanks to MSG and WWPT, the Staples on-site radio station, that we would be outside. Whatever - our friend Mike Zito did everything in his power to work with us. It was a nice day, so no big deal. It's hardly the first time that TV or another station has booted us. It's happened many times (Danbury and Staples this year...Westhill another year...McMahon get the idea). We've worked from roof tops, bleachers, classrooms, and so on.

The game broadcast went on, and we had "it." We were about as good as we, or anyone else, can get. The Staples fans near us sung our praises, and I thought we had a great call. As you might know, Greenwich lost 30-28 as Staples kicked a field goal then blocked a Greenwich attempted field goal.

Onto the postgame show! Chris Kaelin has been thinking "outside of the box", taking non-Greenwich fans as a guest, specifically in the games that Greenwich lost. Because of our microphone system, the on-field guys know to stay within my line of site for interviews. Chris thought it would be good to get Staples coach Marce Petroccio - someone who I know anyway, and is a reader of this blog. Good call, I thought. I threw it to Chris, and he did a fine interview before an MSG production assistant walked in and said, "Come on, Coach, let's go. Live TV", and they walked away.

What in the name of Erin Andrews had happened?

Back in our "booth", I flipped. On the air, I called what they did "unprofessional" and "bush league." I knew I needed to get to break before I really lost it. Off the air, I shouted, "Who the hell does MSG think they are?" into the press box. I got no response. I apologized to Sean and Nick for going nuts but they seemed to think I was justified.

Then I got the rest of the story - and both Chris Kaelin and Chris Erway were witness to it.

Part of the MSG Thanksgiving game thing is shtick - a big, monstrous turkey. It's been the source of controversy before (locker room antics and such). One other year, Greenwich donated it to a food pantry. But MSG likes to get shots of players and coaches munching on it. A big ol' gorge fest! Ha ha and all that stuff.

As MSG is setting up their "turkey shot", Chris Kaelin asks Coach Petroccio to come on with us. Marce - always good to us - agrees, and Chris knew to make it quick. That's when an MSG "talent" (quotations are mine) accosted Chris. Frosty language ensued, in which the MSG person says, essentially, that they're live TV.

So who the hell are we?

Before you ask, yes. We have big, laminated ID's, and Chris Kaelin is the best at displaying his.

We finished the broadcast and I was livid. I still can't believe the arrogance. Sure, you're live TV. I'll even offer that you're audience is better than ours. But we're still live...on the radio. And I know a lot of people who turned the MSG sound down to listen to us. For whatever that is worth.

What it's worth, to the people of Greenwich, FCIAC fans, and people in the know, is that we do a good job. That we're like friends to our listeners. And that we know our stuff.

Now, let me make one thing clear. I'm declining to name the talent. I've used the name on this blog before and had my own thoughts about him or her before Thanksgiving. I also am not a big fan of bridge burning, but people have asked what happened on Thanksgiving. So now I'm telling, with as much decorum as I can.

I won't let one (or two) bad apples, or misunderstandings, or whatever, ruin things.

And I will also tell you that it was not Mike Quick - the "dean" of high school journalists around the tri-state area, and a guy who has come on with us whenever we have asked. Something tells me Mike knew we weren't too happy with what transpired.

OK, I've told the story. And so it goes. We'll no doubt see MSG again, and jockey for position, and try to make the best of it. But I've tried to treat them, the writers, and fellow radio announcers with the highest of respect.

That needs to be a two-way street.

1 comment:

Tim Parry said...

Once I get on track today, I'll tell you how ridiculous MSG Varsity was at the Staples-Trinity Catholic girls hoops game earlier this season.