The normal game-day posts--Preview and Jersey Contest--are below and the Gameday Open Thread will be coming up later, but first we have a special treat...the second of our "So You Want To Be...?" series detailing what it's like to fill some of the vital roles surrounding the team.
Today Blazer Broadcasting Play-by-Play announcer Mike Barrett was gracious enough to let us into his world a little bit, sharing what it's like to be in his shoes.
Blazersedge: For those who might be interested, how does one get to be an NBA play-by-play announcer? What was your degree and where are some of the places you worked prior to joining the team?
I moved to Portland in 1992, and started calling high school basketball games on KUIK in Hillsboro. Shortly after that, I got the job as the Sports Director at KXL in Portland. I wasn't qualified for that job, but I came cheap, so that's probably why I got the job. My first assignment was covering the 1992 NBA Finals, between the Blazers and Bulls, and got to go to Chicago for games 1,2, and 6.
While at KXL, I worked as the sideline reporter for the Oregon Ducks for 8 seasons (I know, a Beaver working for the Ducks). It was a great experience, and even called an occasional Duck basketball game, and did one football game in 1996 when Jerry Allen became ill right before kickoff. I went to work with the Blazers in 1999 as their radio studio host, and also did the TV pre-game show, hosted the TV specials, and was the editor of Rip City Magazine. When the WNBA came to town, I was the radio/TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Portland Fire. That lasted three years. When the Fire disbanded, they moved me into the TV play-by-play job with the Blazers.
Blazersedge: Do you remember where you were when you first got the news that you were going to be the Portland Trailblazers' new TV guy? What was your reaction? Overjoyed? Just another job?
Blazersedge: Who were your inspirations/role models as far as developing your broadcast style?
Blazersedge: When most of us dream about doing what you do, we stand in front of the bathroom mirror or sit in the car with the radio down and practice making amazing calls. ("It's GOOOOD! Blazers win!...no, no, no... It's gooood! BLAZERS WIN!" etc.) How does a professional do it? Or are you past the point of practicing volume, pitch, emphasis, and the like? Do you anticipate/rehearse eventual big-moment calls or do you just make them as they happen?
As for now, I don't really think ahead of time about what I'm going to say, or how I'm going to react to things during games. Again, TV is a bit different than radio. In radio you can have a little more scripted stuff, and bust out your trademark sayings for big plays. I just don't really like that in TV. Late in a game, after a huge play, I'll normally just try and sit there quiet and let the pictures tell the story. Steve Jones always taught me that. That's also what I always loved so much about Vin Scully. He is the master of knowing when to say something and when to shut up. If you listen to the Kirk Gibson home run in 1988, Scully has the huge call, and then just lays out as Gibson rounds the bases. The pictures took it the rest of the way. Other guys would have probably been thinking how they could put their stamp on that moment. Scully had the discipline to step aside, as the moment was enough. It's one of my favorite calls of all time, and I watch it all the time. His sense of timing is remarkable, and that's really what it's all about.
Blazersedge: There are as many different ways of calling a game as there are play-by-play announcers. What's most important to you as you approach your job? How do you see your role and what things do you emphasize in order to fill it well?
Blazersedge: You seem to have found a rhythm and voice in your blog mikebarrettsblog.blogspot.com and it appears well-received. How are you finding that experience?
Blazersedge: I'm not sure how to ask this question, so I'm going to make an assertion and let you respond. Part of your role, especially now with the blog, involves being a public spokesperson for the team. And part of the general critique of that role is that the spin on any given issue is going to be positive. Some people find fault with that, but I don't see it as a bad thing. If your work leans towards the positive, well...somebody needs to remind us that the positive is out there. Other sources may be too negative for my tastes but sometimes we need to be cautioned too. So how much of your job is simply being supportive of the team during (hopefully passing now) difficult times, putting the best possible construct on events? Or are we being unfair to you even suggesting that?
Blazersedge: You broke in with Steve Jones, who was a well-respected analyst but also sometimes (seemingly) hard on his play-by-play guys. How did you find that experience?
On the air, I think some fans thought he was always talking down to his partners, and to me. It came off as arrogance some of the time. Toward the end of our second season, I kind of figured out that the best way to deal with that was to slap him right back. He liked that. I think we had a pretty good relationship, and I think he'd say the same thing. Steve was huge on taking the emotion out of the game, from our standpoint. It irritated some fans that he never seemed to care whether or not the Blazers won. He actually did, he just didn't think it was appropriate to let that get into his broadcasting of a game. That's where we differed a bit. He also hated it when I was ever critical of a referee. He just didn't think it ever made much sense, and was a waste of energy. He's probably right.
Blazersedge: OK...the question everybody wants to know. What is it like working and traveling with Mike Rice? Half the time you guys seem to have a close rapport like friends and the other half it's like you're looking at him and saying, "This guy is NUTS!" Is what we see what we get or is there more to the deep mystery of Mike Rice that we should know about?
The thing that many don't know about Rice is what a great coach he was. When we're traveling in the east, fans remember him, and other coaches approach him. At times, Nate McMillan will ask his opinion on things. Rice's son, Mike Jr., is the lead assistant coach at Pitt, and is known as one of the best recruiters in college basketball. A lot of people also probably don't know that Rice, Senior, was a great analyst on ESPN before he came to the Blazers.
He is emotional, irrational at times, and is always incredibly well prepared. He eats and sleeps basketball, and he's a huge Blazer fan. That's why he's so good. I hope I get to call him my partner for a long time. He was great on radio, but he's better on TV. TV is more about the analyst anyway. That's why he wanted to move to TV when Snapper left. More time to talk. Radio analysts have to wedge their commentary in between plays. On TV, people can see what's going on. My job is to set him up from play to play and let him go.
Blazersedge: Since you travel with the squad you probably have better access to the players than any other media person. Who have been some of the most memorable players professionally and personally over the years and why?
Blazersedge: You and Mike Rice have made a point to emphasize the sterling character of the current group of Blazers, especially the young guys. What do you see that leads you to that conclusion?
On long flights I usually take a walk up and back on the 757, and always notice what the players are up to. Guys are usually reading, or watching game tape. We laughed recently about what a bunch of choir boys we have on this team. There are great characters and get personalities, and they seem to mesh very well.
Blazersedge: What are your impressions of Nate McMillan?
Blazersedge: If you could give the fans one message about the current state of the Blazers, what would it be?
Blazersedge: What's the toughest part of your job? The best part?
Blazersedge: We saved the fan's favorite question for last: Any funny/shocking/interesting stories about life/travel/work with the team? What's the oddest thing that's happened to you on the job?
The next year in D.C. I was walking around the capitol, and literally ran into Oregon senator Ron Wyden. We talked Blazers basketball for a few minutes, but I don't think he followed it much.
In our L.A. hotel we're always running into celebs. I shopped for magazines one time in the gift shop with Holly Hunter, had breakfast next to Robert Duvall, and rode a treadmill next to Larry King. We also had former California governor Grey Davis sit down with us at a table in Beverly Hills. It was right after he'd been recalled. I went to use the bathroom and ran into Cameron Diaz. At a Laker game once I actually used a urinal next to Rob Lowe (kept my eyes straight ahead). I met Seal, John Popper, from Blues Traveler, and Mark Walberg. At halftime of a game against the Lakers, a man leaned over a table and struck up a conversation. It was Jack Nicholson, and he just wanted to talk about the state of the Blazers. The guys in the TV truck actually taped that one.
That's probably not the kind of experiences you meant, but those were certainly memorable moments. In Boston this year, I was using the workout room with Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. Okay, that's enough name dropping. I never say much to these people, because I'm not into that, but it's always kind of cool.
That's it folks! Two things strike me most about what Mike said:
- The part where he talked about not overshadowing the game was dead on. My very first impression of Mike Barrett four years ago was, "Here's a guy who's in the business of letting other people shine through." Whether that was Steve Jones, Mike Rice, or the team itself that's continued throughout the years. I really respect him for that.
- I understand using the urinal next to Rob Lowe, but running into Cameron Diaz? Only in California...
Remember to check out Mike's blog at http://mikebarrettsblog.blogspot.com/.
P.S. If you missed the first "So You Want To Be..." interview with Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick you can read it here.