No lull in the action around a Spurs broadcast

Spurs player-turned-TV analyst revealed he sometimes gets “night sweats” after a game when “I think I said something I shouldn’t have said.”

Saturday night, however, he seemed cool as a cucumber; his hands lay casually in his lap as he spun his colorful commentary, bounced ideas off seasoned play-by-play man Bill Land and playfully worked the telestrator – you know, the technology that allows him to draw circles and arrows with his index finger.

By contrast, I must have looked like a frazzled mess sitting next to him, listening through a headset, as the players raced around a few feet in front of me.

Thanks to the , it was one of the most memorable nights of my 29 years as a columnist.

I had been invited to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, during the live production of a game broadcast: first in the TV truck with director ; then in the ATamp;T Center with the broadcasters.

It was crazy exciting and more than a little dizzying as I witnessed the many components that go into delivering the pleasing show you get in your living rooms game after game. On this night – which was broadcast on KENS – was the standout, breaking the franchise’s assists record. Like a sharp detective, Elliott unraveled on the spot the mystery of Parker’s determined “huffing and puffing” around Oklahoma City’s .

“I just figured this all out,” Elliott told TV viewers. “Tony Parker is going after Westbrook tonight. … Westbrook is going to be named to the All-Star team as a reserve. And Tony is trying to prove he belongs there as well.”

During a rare break, Elliott joked that Coach “Pop” “lets me say anything I want … as long as I don’t give away too many secrets.”

He became more serious, however, when recalling a confrontation with the mother of a player on another team. She wasn’t at all happy with candid statements about how raw her son, who was a rookie at the time, was on offense.

“She was very upset,” he said. “They were new to the league, and it was tough to take any constructive criticism. But what I said was the truth.”

Earlier that night, I was privy to a different perspective on the production: from inside the broadcast truck. A wall of TV monitors with different views of the action made my head swim. Some 25 employees – in charge of graphics, audio, replays – buzzed around me. Kickirillo, the Scorsese of the group, was orchestrating what should be added to the game open to make it visually interesting – colorful fans with balloon hats, for instance.

“Kick,” as he’s affectionately known, likes to keep things laid back to set a comfy tone. Since it’s a live broadcast, things sometimes go wrong, and everyone has to react on the fly. One such moment happened when Parker scrambled for the ball and his pants slid down.

“Don’t show his butt,” boomed an order over headphones.

Though the initial shot couldn’t be avoided, Kickirillo explained, “I didn’t want the cameraman to linger. Our job is to make sure everybody is presented in the right way.”

Usually, the culprit is a glitch in technology. When all else fails, the director said, “I’ll just open up Sean’s mike and say: ‘Go.’

“He’s so good. He’s been around these guys, knows the ins and outs, when to be funny, when to be serious. Sean is the guy next door; he’s entertaining, but you feel comfortable around him.”

I certainly did. Moreover, when the Spurs play against Philadelphia on Fox Sports Southwest tonight, I’ll look at the game with much more appreciation.

Sure, Spurs fans are “ravenous,” as Kick put it, which may be the primary reason ratings are so high. (I’m told Saturday’s primetime broadcast drew numbers that more than tripled the second-most-watched show.)

Still, there’s no doubt in my mind – especially now – that the talent, on air and behind the scenes, deserves a huge and hearty hand as well.


Jeanne Jakle’s column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in S.A. Life, and she blogs at Jakle’s Jacuzzi on . Email her at .

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