RunblogRun media review
The USATF Grand Prix was held at the new Hayward Field, on April 24. The meet was amazingly successful, with World leaders, even with spring Oregon weather.
This review is focused on the TV broadcast, and the review was done by East coast senior writer, Jeff Benjamin.
Takeaways From The NBC Sports USATF Grand Prix At The Oregon Relays.
By Jeff Benjamin
Hayward Field, artist rendition, photo by Eugene Register Guard
It’s a new season for the NBC Track & Field TV Commentating Crew!
Broadcasting live for the first time from the newly structured Hayward Field one would think that, just like the athletes competing, that there would be some kinks to work out.
Adding in the factors of the Covid world, which called for little live spectatorship along with certain “hurdles” faced by the broadcast crew and one could say the challenges were significant.
While the crew of Paul Swangard, Ato Boldon, Sanya Richards-Ross, and newcomer Kara Goucher were commentating live and perceived together (with Lewis Johnson located in his familiar spot on the field interviewing the winners post-race), they were required to be socially distant at separate tables. Adding to the challenge they were also up at the top of the stadium and not in the broadcast booth but out in the open air, where wind and rain had made their presence felt – Yeoman work indeed!!
Would NBC viewers feel a vibe of that lack of physical closeness amongst the crew?
In this writer’s opinion, apparently not!
1) Seeing the breathtaking Hayward Field viewers could not help but watch in awe. Sanya Richards-Ross’s unbridled enthusiasm about the facility (“Wow! can you feel the excitement?!”) proceeded to expand on those feelings tenfold! The message was clearly sent that this was not going to be a boring commentary at a track meet.
2) Paul Swangard‘s multitasking efforts left no stone unturned. From leading the narrative of the whole event to covering the field events and then to inject lead commentary into the play-by-play calling of the running events, Swangard is “Mr. Versatility” in the broadcast booth.
3) Sanya Richards-Ross’s enthusiasm in getting the TV viewers to “feel the rush” is something that is sorely lacking in sports commentating yet is a MUST to bring more passion to the sport we love. Opening the broadcast proclaiming,
“Woo! Can you feel the excitement?!”, only catches both the eye and emotion of the viewer. Add into it her own insights on many of the athletes and you have a solid balancing act, no easy feat!
Swangard also expertly chimed in by supplementing Richards-Ross’s enthusiasm at the start of the women’s 800, saying, “I thought we were going to see you in Lane 10!”
4) On the Field post-race Lewis Johnson expertly questioned the winners and other competitors albeit socially distancing. Johnson also interviewed Oregon Track Coach Robert Johnson, who explained how the project to rebuild Hayward Field from scratch was pushed forward, as well as the placing of over 250 Oregon greats, who are displayed throughout the Stadium.
5) Ato Boldon is the “Passionate Analyzer!” His passion always seems to come out as he can technically call races down to the minutest details of the athletes. As he knows from experience, form and technique are key to the performances and Boldon (NEVER in monotone like that teacher/college professor we all may have had that put us to sleep!) has the gift of making scientific explanation fun!
Boldon’s analytics of Women’s 100 winner Blessing Okagbare’s techniques and form were both priceless and not surprising, coming from the Master himself!
6) One would think that newcomer Kara Goucher might have had butterflies going on a live broadcast worldwide.
If she did, she definitely didn’t show it. The Running Legend was very precise, analytical and she sure did her homework! Almost every athlete she mentioned on the broadcast was followed by the phrase of Goucher either speaking with their Coach or with the athlete themselves prior to the meet. Her knowledge of the Athletes showed how well-prepared she was.
Goucher’s play-by-play was dead in as well. Describing Laura Muir’s front-running dominance in the Women’s 1500, she was able to balance her emotions on the screen, saying that while Muir is capable of holding on to win (which she did), the pack behind her conceivably still stood an outside chance of catching her.
Goucher’s technical descriptions stood out as well. Describing the gait and lift of the athletes, Goucher showed how she was able to use her knowledge of the subject and project it in a way for the viewer to understand it, all the whole successfully avoiding interrupting others as they called the races.
She also wasn’t afraid to mix it up with others either!
When working with Richards-Ross covering the Women’s 800, Swangard needled the duo about who would win in a head-to-head 800 between the two.
Without hesitation, Goucher boldly interjected, “I have a better PB than Sonya!”, giving the show a much-needed hilarity moment.
Will this be the permanent NBC Crew going forward at Hayward Field, culminating with next year’s World Championships?
One would hope so.