February 14, 2010 12:14:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Technology has changed the way fans get their sports.
From e-mail, to digital images, to high definition television, to the Internet, it''s easier and faster to get any information you need.
The onslaught of gadgets can be imposing for veteran broadcasters who came up without iPods or BlackBerrys, but as much as the devices Dave Baker uses to do his job have changed one thing remains the same: There''s a story to tell.
On Jan. 30, Baker and Joe Dean Jr. teamed as part of the SEC Network and ESPN/ESPN Regional Television''s broadcast of the LSU-Mississippi State men''s basketball game at Humphrey Coliseum. Baker and Dean Jr. are veterans of the Southeastern Conference and have worked together on numerous occasions. Their familiarity with the teams and with each other made their assignment easier, but their goal was, and always is, to use their background to tell the storylines and to keep the viewers interested.
"Rather than some formal presentation, I hope what I am doing comes off very much as though two guys are at a bar talking about a game," Baker said. "I want it be very conversational. Hopefully I am talking about the same things people who are watching at home are talking about."
Baker has been a sports anchor, reporter, and account executive at WKYT-TV in Lexington, Ky., since 1982. He has performed in a variety of other roles, and in 2010 joined ESPN as a play-by-play announcer for the SEC Network, Regional Television''s syndication network.
His background in the SEC dates to the league''s syndicated broadcast package for Jefferson-Pilot, Lincoln Financial, and Raycom Sports in 1993. He has worked as a football sideline reporter and the host of the "SEC Football Today" pregame show, a play-by-play announcer for SEC basketball games on Raycom Sports, and as a courtside reporter for the SEC men''s basketball tournament.
In 2008, Baker was in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta when a tornado hit the building while the tournament was in progress.
Baker''s years in the league gives him a unique experience that few broadcasters have these days. Still, he said it''s important to remain focused and to let the games carry the broadcast and to fill in important statistics or analysis when needed.
"At the end of the day it is about a better viewing experience for everybody at home," Baker said. "Hopefully all of us in the business take advantage of the technology and how we''re presenting the game to people."
Dean Jr., whose father, Joe Sr., worked as an analyst for the SEC Game of the Week from 1969-87, also has strong ties to the SEC. He has been working as a broadcaster for SEC basketball games for more than 15 years. He does that work as an individual contractor. His full-time job is athletic director at Birmingham-Southern.
Dean Jr. said he has a passion for SEC basketball, which he tries to convey on each broadcast. He also tries to tie in an element of history by incorporating his father''s catch-phrase "string music" at some point in each of his broadcasts. Dean Jr.''s father used "string music" whenever a player hits a long-range shot.
In addition to growing up with a father who was a broadcaster, Dean Jr. played basketball at Mississippi State and he coached the sport for 17 years. He said all of those experiences help him when he cobbles together information and has to be quick with analysis at a moment''s notice.
"I think I can break things down and explain them in simple terms," Dean Jr. said. "I can tell them what is going on offensively and defensively what strategy they are employing to win the game to give fans a little insight to what they''re watching. I don''t need to tell them what''s happening. I need to tell them why it''s happening."
Dean Jr. said he tries not to have play-by-play announcers have to adjust to his style. He said he always attempts to stay flexible and to follow the lead of his partner or of the producer who is talking to him through his headset.
The announcers, or "talent" and they are called professionally, typically talk with the producer and other members of the crew before the game to determine their storylines. The discuss what graphics and statistics might be used to best illustrate the keys to the game.
Those elements are at the ready when needed, as is a helpful assist from Baker to help set up Dean Jr. for his analysis. Baker said that teamwork between the announcers is equally critical for the rest of the crew because a cameraman''s great shots will help a replay operator capture a game-changing play and allow the director and producer to coordinate what the talent will have to analyze.
"The game is what the broadcast is all about," Dean Jr. said. "I am a lot better today than when I started 15 years ago. I understand the broadcast better and what the producer wants and how to work easier with the play-by-play announcer because you have to be able to think on your feet. You have to be able to jump in and say what you have to say and jump out. You have to let the game breathe and not talk all of the time. I think I have learned that through practice."
Baker said he, too, is always looking to improve his craft. He said good announcers are like good officials in that they''re not noticed when they do their job. The key for him is following the storyline and working with his partner to stay on track.
"If we''re keeping it entertaining and keeping up with the timeouts, the foul situation, and talking strategy we become complimentary. We''re part of the game. We''re not the story. At the end of the day if people are talking about the game and not the announcers on average we have done a good job."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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