Fans across the country enjoy the fruits of broadcasters’ labors every Sunday during football season. Rarely does the average fan take into account the amount of preparation and work the play-by-play man and color commentator must put in. Not to mention all the behind-the-scenes work done by camera and audio crews to ensure these broadcasters can reach their audience without a hitch.
More than the behind-the-scenes aspect, though, is the fact that the voices that come out of our television screens belong to living and breathing human beings. As I headed to NFL on CBS Media Day this past week, I wondered if these broadcasters had preferences. I imagined they did, as not all NFL stadiums are created equal. But I had no idea what the qualifications would be for a good broadcasting booth, other than it being “nice.” Fortunately, CBS politely made their broadcast teams available for questions, and I was able to quench my curiosity.
I asked Spero Dedes, CBS’ youngest PBP announcer, what his favorite booth to announce from was, and he helped fill in the blanks as to why some booths are more fun than others.
“Our favorites are probably Buffalo, because it’s such an open-air booth and you’re right amongst the fans,” said Dedes. “That fanbase is pretty rabid, despite the fact that they haven’t had a lot of good teams recently. We also like booths that are very low, and have a good sightline to the field. Indianapolis comes to mind. Houston is fantastic. But, honestly, no matter what stadium you’re in, that’s the unique part about the NFL, it could be two teams that are sub-500 and people will be tailgating in the parking lot. You can’t help but get sucked into that atmosphere. Anywhere we broadcast from is pretty awesome.”
Sightline and the open air are two factors one may not immediately think of, although I’m sure the experience of an open-air booth varies greatly depending on the time of year. Being amongst the fans surely helps a broadcaster get into the energy and atmosphere, but that seems like it would come with some drawbacks. Ian Eagle provided an explanation of said caveats when I posed the same question to him.
“I like Baltimore a lot. You’re a little lower, you’re very close to the action, the fans are right there, you can reach out and touch them which is a positive and a negative,” said Eagle. “The positive is that you can feel the energy, the negative is… One year, one guy ran out of juice on his phone and asked me to charge his cellphone. They’re that close! And I… I felt obligated. I didn’t want this guilt hanging over my head that this guy was driving home without a charged cell phone. But Baltimore is an exceptional place to broadcast. The newer stadiums are also at an elite level. Minnesota, Atlanta… Here’s a huge key: if they have a bathroom in the booth, that’s a big bonus. Crucial.”
I was surprised to learn that bathrooms in the booth were not the norm. Eagle insisted they were not, and said only some stadiums “cater to the bladder.” Overall, the common theme among the two CBS broadcasters is the ability to feel the raucous energy of the fans, not just see it. Another important takeaway, in case any of you weren’t already positive about this, is that Eagle is a high-class dude. A remarkable act of charity in a fan’s time of deepest need.
The newer the stadium, the nicer the booth is a fair rule of thumb here. But it seems the overarching experience of the older stadiums is more important than personal comfort for these men dedicated to their craft. They’ll be as disappointed as the rest of us as the classic stadiums slowly make way for new industrial complex stadiums over the years. Their bladders, however, will be all the more happy for it.