April 10, 2020

Behind Enemy Lines

posted on: Thursday March 5, 2020

A Student-Broadcaster’s Experience On The Road To ‘Nova

by Thomas Zinzarella ’21

Sports Staff

At 5:00 p.m. on a Friday in February, most college kids would be hanging out with their roommates or getting some cardio in before dinner. That was not the case, however, for Matt St. Jean ’20 and I on Feb. 28, as we walked into the Providence Amtrak Train Station.

Thomas Zinzarella ’21/ THE COWL

The train we hopped on was headed to Philadelphia, a train ride that takes approximately five and a half hours. Both of us were preparing to broadcast the highly anticipated matchup between the Providence College Friars and the  no. 12 Villanova University Wildcats at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Many of my peers see me broadcasting games at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center or at Schneider Arena. Many also know it is my passion and future aspiration to pursue broadcasting. But, what many do not know is what goes on behind the scenes when producing a broadcast. I get that question once in a while, and my trip to Philadelphia is a perfect chance to show how I prepare for broadcasting a game on the radio.

For this past game against Villanova, well before we arrived at the train station, we created cheat sheets for the game called “spotting boards” or “spotting charts,” a common practice in the art of broadcasting. Many professionals either make them online or by hand. They can include whatever you want to put on them that you think will be helpful during the broadcast. This includes the basics like names, hometown, heights, and weights of players. It could also include Big East standings, a team foul tracker, and other miscellaneous stats that can help tell a story about a team’s season or a team’s past few games.

After playing around with these charts for a few hours during the week, doing our research and crunching numbers, it is time to learn about the other team. Big East games are a lot easier because if you are a college basketball fan like myself, you are always engrossing yourself in a team’s reading material, or have watched them on television at least once that year. The more you familiarize yourself with the team, the better you can inform the listener so they can learn something from the broadcast.

Following our arrival in Philadelphia around 11:30 p.m., we both headed towards our hotel, which was less than a quarter mile from the Wells Fargo Center. As we passed by in our Uber, the big red letters that bore the arena’s name illuminated the night sky. We continued on to pass by the empty lots slowly, knowing full well that tomorrow they would be packed with Villanova fans.

After a good night’s sleep, we walked over to the arena about two and a half hours before tip-off to collect our media credentials. From there, we explored the arena, looking to find our media seats. Soon, there was a palpable buzz that filled the arena, due in part to the large stakes involved for both parties. At the start of the day on Saturday, Villanova had won five straight games and was trying to climb for a higher seed come Selection Sunday. The Friars on the other hand, were trying to make sure they would get their name heard on Selection Sunday. They began the day in many analysts’ “Last 4 In” the NCAA tournament. The Friars had collected seven quadrant one wins good enough for one of the highest marks in the country, but a win against Villanova would more than likely keep a spot waiting for them in the NCAA tournament.

Thomas Zinzarella ’21/ THE COWL

We both found our media spots and arranged all of the broadcast equipment that we lugged into the arena. Next, we headed down to the media room to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back out to floor level to catch shootaround. The biggest storyline in the pre-game warmups was whether Villanova starting point guard Colin Gillespie would play or not. The night before, head coach Jay Wright had said he was “questionable” to play because of a deep thigh bruise. 

Perhaps the coolest part about getting to an arena extra early is all of the access you get. You are in the building before every fan and before even some of the workers. Therefore, I was able to see that Gillespie was indeed warming up. He would go on to log 37 minutes in the game. 

Before we got nestled in for the game, we videoed our pre-game show, which goes onto our social media page and showcases some of the key facts and figures to watch in the game to our fans and followers.

As the fans started to file into their seats, we headed to ours. Our broadcast position for that day’s game was right behind the hoop, about four rows up. On some plays you could maybe catch a glimpse of us on television. Sometimes, I will receive the occasional text from aunts, uncles, or grandparents who are watching the Friars on TV who have spotted us. 

With the pre-game clock winding down we hopped back on air before the starting lineups and the national anthem. “Welcome back inside the Wells Fargo Center as the Providence College Friars search to win their fifth straight game against a ranked opponent…” All is well once again. Just basketball and two passionate Friar basketball fans doing what they love.

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