Former WWE superstar and current Hollywood box office draw Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson famously said “know your role and SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” during his wrestling days. It was a taunt, an insult to his enemies but it’s just as apt for sportscasters seeking that perfect call.
Being a sportscaster is great. We travel around everywhere, watch sports and get paid for it. Sportscasting is also very challenging where you’re required to convey a game story, the action and the atmosphere to people who in many cases can’t see the action. One of the biggest challenges in achieving great play by play is finding the right words, the right phrase to accurately convey everything above and more…but without falling behind in the play. Today’s lesson in sportscasting is silence…and in the words of The Rock, play-by-play broadcasters have to “know your role and shut your mouth”.
Silence from an announcer can be an incredibly powerful tool. Silence can be used to convey shock, excitement, or even just an opportunity to let the game breath. But in its most impactful state, silence can tell the game story for you by allowing the crowd to take over for a moment.
Think about some of the biggest moments in sports and the calls associated with them. Championship winning goals, hail-mary touchdowns, walk off homers. In many cases they’re great calls and in many cases it’s the crowd that tells the story. The roar of a home crowd who’s team has just reached the top of the mountain, or the echo of a silent arena only broken up by the celebration of visitors.
The thought to “shut your mouth” is a tough one to get around. We’re paid to talk, we’re paid to tell a story, but it’s important to know when to use the crowd and how to use natural sound to convey the exact same information. If there is a shocking play, a highlight reel grab or a big moment, think about this one thing. “What can I say that will explain what’s happening more than x-number of people in the stands reacting to it?”
That’s not to say you don’t say what’s happened, but it’s important for all sportscasters to use the crowd. Let the call breathe after a touchdown or a goal, allow the crowd to convey the excitement and energy of the stadium/arena/field. Not only will it take the weight off your shoulders and allow a moment to collect your thoughts, but it will engage a listener or viewer in a way that words can’t.
So the next time you’re presented with one of these moments, know that silence can be golden. Take a moment, pause in your call and allow the situation to develop. There’s nothing worse than a sportscaster who talks over the top of great moments in sports by not knowing when to “shut your mouth”.
And sometimes I think Allison Krauss said it best….”you say it best, when you say nothing at all”.