On media: First all-female NFL broadcasting team uses storytelling to avoid jargon
Andrea Kremer has a grasp of best practices when it comes to the art of a conversation.
“We all know there’s a language and code of football — Cover 1, RPOs, jet sweep,” she said. “But as Al Michaels said to me, 99% of the people probably don’t know what it all means.
“I’ve always fancied myself as an Xs and Os geek. But during my career, where I’ve done reporting and storytelling, a lot of it is really just conversation.
“Do we really need to keep people apprised of every play? Why not be conversational and tell them stories?”
The story that Kremer and Hannah Storm are sticking with after their first all-female audio stream on last Thursday’s Rams-Minnesota game for Amazon Prime viewers and listeners doesn’t need much interpretation.
By deviating from ex-player jargon or a traditionally disciplined down-and-distance drone, they agreed to be themselves — journalists providing insights, research and personal experience. Years from now, this may be viewed as the overlap in the 21st century Venn diagram of sports TV coverage, where the confluence of social media distortion leads to more herding of those who desire casual multilayered chats instead of the usual proselytizing prattle.
Kremer, the recent winner of Pro Football Hall of Fame Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, also mentioned another recent conversation she had with Jason Weichelt, the senior live production executive at Amazon Studios.
“Once he said, ‘This isn’t a gimmick,’ we said, ‘OK, we’ll listen,’” Kremer said. “It’s more of the perception against the reality of how people watch now as it is against misogynistic attitudes.”
From a new Amazon production pod in Stamford, Conn. — unfortunately not in at a booth in the Coliseum — Kremer and Storm joined lead producer Betsy Riley, content producer Lauren Gaffney and spotter Ben Bouma, a lone male colleague, to call what became an historic Rams-Vikings game, watching by video and occasionally having to yield to on-screen appearances and quips from Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
The Storm-Kremer audio overrides the Buck-Aikman call by going up in the “audio languages” menu on Amazon Prime and clicking on “Storm-Kremer” instead of English (UK), English (US) or Espanol. (Yes, to some people, it’s like a foreign language. To others, any relief from Buck is worth the effort.)
Kremer was most up to the task of explaining what was going on. She also dropped in a line about why she could never take her son to an NFL game during the 13 years she lived in L.A. because, well, there wasn’t a team.
Storm, whose career has been mostly in a studio setting, drew a clever parallel to teams that use the franchise tag on players, saying it “means they’re dating but not marrying.”
Kremer said as she prepped for the assignment, she talked to NFL game producer Fred Gaudelli, whom she worked for on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as well as at ESPN in the 1980s.
“Fred said he pitched this idea” — female broadcasters on an NFL game — four years ago,” said Kremer, who will do Thursday night games with Storm for 11 of the next 12 weeks, as long as Fox covers them. “Maybe it was just all about the timing and finding someone to really endorse it.”
Drop in a quarter
The NBA may not admit its regular-season games don’t become important until the fourth quarter. But allowing Turner Broadcasting to manipulate its NBA League Pass out-of-market streaming options for users who may only want to tune in for the final 12 minutes and have $1.99 to spend, that might be the unintentional message.
There are more tweaks to come.
“There are limitations in the technology right now but we’re working as quickly as possible so that at some point in the near future fans can choose to buy any part of a game,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said about the service, which runs $200 for the season, or $120 for a specific team.
ESPN has its “Sunday Night Baseball” crew of Matt Vasgersian, Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza for the NL wild card game ( 5 p.m. Tuesday). Mendoza reportedly will renew her contract for 2019, which would be her third full season.
TBS, which has the American League playoff package, put Brian Anderson, Ron Darling and Dennis Eckersley at the Oakland-New York AL wild card (5 p.m. Wednesday). Anderson and Darling go with the winner to the AL Division Series starting in Boston on Friday, while Don Orsillo and Eckersley are on the Cleveland-Houston ALDS, also starting Friday.
The MLB Network will cherry pick two division series games once the schedules are set, with Bob Costas and Jim Kaat on the call.
They said it
• Steve Stoute of UnitedMasters, about a documentary called “Student Athlete” that he pitched to SpringHill Entertainment’s LeBron James and Maverick Carter examining the complex rules of amateur athletics, airing at 10 p.m. Tuesday on HBO: “This debunks the myth that student athletes are being fairly compensated by receiving scholarships and a valuable education. … The time is now to end this false narrative and reveal the truth of this exploitation.”
• Larry Merchant, the 87-year-old Santa Monica-based former newspaper man who invested 35 years as an HBO commentator, instant essayist and often caustic post-fight interviewer, after the announcement that the premium cable channel will exit the boxing business: “Once upon a time we were a promising kid. Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A long-time champion. And then a has-been who finally retired. So long, champ.”
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