The Play by Play Announcer
by Jon Miller

Jon Miller

ASA Board Member, Voice of the San Francisco Giants &
ESPN Sunday Night Baseball

The most important aspect of being a play-by-play commentator is to develop credibility with your audience. You have to always tell the truth so the audience has confidence and trust in you. A lack of credibility means you're of no use to your audience, station or network. Our job is to cover the game fairly and accurately, and to keep the audience informed and entertained. This is especially true when broadcasting at a local level since the audience is primarily made up of people who are interested in the hometown team. To make excuses or to be less than forthcoming about the team's mistakes and weaknesses will cause the broadcaster to lose credibility with the fans and render him ineffective, even when reporting positive things. Locally, the fans tuning in are fans of that team, and the play-by-play man must provide information relevant to that team. Nationally, however, fans of the two teams involved make up a small part of the audience. Therefore, the information provided by the play-by-play man must be broader in scope and more closely related to the game at hand. In local situations, what happened during the last couple of games and looking ahead to the next game is relevant. It may have no place in a national telecast of the same team. Bias should never be a problem in a national game. Locally, objectivity is always a fair issue, thus a word to avoid at any cost is "we." Broadcasters are not part of the team, even though they are with the team everyday. They should, however, provide a good, clear picture of what is going on, and not have to tell the fans when to get excited or when to cheer. When the team is doing well, the broadcasters sound better because they're bringing good news, drama and heroics. But in 1988, when I was covering the Orioles and they lost their first 21 games, the news was bad everyday. Despite that, we did not make excuses or alibis, we reported accurately and criticized when warranted. I'm proud to say that the broadcasts were still good, entertaining and fun, and I feel certain the Baltimore fans appreciated the honesty.