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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/9/2012 7:20:12 PM

By Domenic Dandrea
Cretin-Derham Hall High School

I am an aspiring sports play-by-play broadcaster. On Nov. 24 I got the chance to sit in on the TV broadcasts of the Class 3A and 5A Minnesota State High School Football Prep Bowl Championship Games. I would like to tell you what it is like to be “behind the scenes” in the booth.

It all started out a few weeks before the games, when Corbin Lacina invited me to join him in the booth; Corbin does the color commentary for Channel 45’s television coverage of the MSHSL Prep Bowl. I am a senior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Saint Paul, where I am a friend and baseball teammate of Nick Lacina. Corbin is Nick’s father and a former NFL offensive lineman. I first learned that Corbin was an announcer while watching last year’s Prep Bowl telecast. Through my friendship with Nick I was able to talk to Mr. Lacina about my hopes to one day become a broadcaster myself. Corbin spoke to the Channel 45 producer about me and he made arrangements to get me a media pass. I would be granted full access to the Metrodome on game day.

The day of the game I met Corbin and walked with him through the door of the press box into the experience of a lifetime. Corbin and I made our way down to the TV production truck, located in the tunnel of the stadium. On our way there we caught up with Dan Terhaar, the former voice of the Minnesota Wild NHL broadcasts. Dan was going to be Corbin’s broadcast partner for the 3A game between Blue Earth and Rochester Lourdes. Meeting a professional broadcaster was just the beginning of what turned out to be a great day.

The three of us entered the production truck and watched the activity during the broadcast of the Class A championship game between Mahnomen and Bethlehem Academy. There was a wall filled with TV monitors that showed different camera angles. There were people wearing headsets who decided which camera angle would be shown to the viewers at home. There were two rows of people at control boards. The producer of the telecast was in charge and it was his job to oversee all the choices being made.

We then made our way down to the field and watched the end of the Class A game. Corbin pointed out the TV anchor desk on the sidelines, where two reporters were getting ready for the postgame show. Corbin and Dan also used this time to discuss the teams for the upcoming game they were going to call. I watched a crew member wearing a Minnesota North Stars “Dino Ciccarelli” hockey jersey who was on the sideline and responsible for communicating to the referees when to stop and resume play around TV timeouts. There were cameras positioned in each end zone, plus cameras above the press box at each 30-yard line, plus cameramen with handheld cameras roaming the sidelines and stands.

Once the first game ended we moved back up to the press box, where Corbin and Dan got out their pregame notes to review before the 3A game. They then went up to the broadcast booth above the press box and took their seats. There was a TV camera set up in the booth to shoot a short pregame show where Corbin and Dan talked about the key players to watch in the 3A matchup between Blue Earth and Rochester Lourdes. Then after a quick timeout they started calling the action for the opening kickoff. My blood was pumping in excitement. I was able to sit behind them throughout the game and watch as they did the broadcast.

There were five other people in the booth; a statistician sitting next to Dan, two crewmen to assist Dan and Corbin with their earpieces and headsets, and two spotters. The spotters helped with the correct pronunciation of player names and also to assist Dan in identifying who made the tackle or catch by pointing at the notes and charts spread in front of him. The statistician had a laptop that he used to provide game stats while Corbin and Dan each had a TV monitor. This enabled them to see the same thing that the home viewers were seeing. Through their headsets they could hear one another along with the directions coming from the truck. During TV time-outs they would relax and catch their breath until they heard through their headphones that they were on the air again.

The view from the booth was remarkable. We were looking down at the 50-yard line and I felt as though I was right in the middle of the action. The crowd was noisy below us and it gave me goose bumps whenever there was a big play and the fans erupted. Blue Earth gained momentum and won the game by a big margin. Dan Terhaar’s day was now complete and he left to make room for the next game’s announcer, Kris Attebury.

I thought the day was fantastic up to this point and it only got better from here. Kris Attebury does radio broadcasts for the Minnesota Twins. Once again there was a short pregame show where Kris and Corbin discussed the keys to watch in the upcoming 5A championship between Totino-Grace and Owatonna. By coincidence I got to see another local broadcast personality up close when Anthony LaPanta came into the booth to say hello to Kris and Corbin. Anthony’s son, AJ LaPanta, was the quarterback for Totino-Grace and Anthony is a volunteer assistant coach for their team. He took his seat in the coaches’ box next to the broadcast booth and helped guide Totino-Grace to the 5A championship. The action was great and the telecast was smooth. During halftime Corbin took me back down to the tunnel area where we enjoyed a nice meal that was set up for the crew.

Kris and Dan are both excellent play-by-play announcers and Corbin does a fantastic job on the color commentary. Corbin also introduced me to Jim Erickson, who is another great local play-by-play broadcaster he has worked with. They all have their own styles and I was able to learn from each of them. They were all well-prepared and had done their homework before the games. I expected a sports telecast to be hectic and chaotic but everything was calm because people were ready and they knew how to work together. I saw that firsthand, with Corbin being equally comfortable working with Dan or Kris.

Everyone I met that day was friendly and the experience in game two lived up to game one. I loved every second of it. It was great to be around professionals in the booth, on the field and in the TV production truck for Channel 45.

I’m very grateful to Mr. Lacina for all he has done to help me. I am more excited than ever to work in sports broadcasting, and I can’t wait to be an official part of the “behind the scenes” work in the booth for games doing play-by-play myself in the future. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to go on air with Corbin someday.


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