Of all of the on-air personalities who put their fingerprints on a sporting event -- studio host, play-by-play, color analyst, sideline reporter -- I've always thought that the sideline reporter has the hardest job out of all of them.
It starts with the inherent degree of difficulty that comes with being constantly on the move. As a sideline reporter, you're never, ever in the same spot for more than a couple minutes at a time. More than any of the other jobs, cooperation with participants (oftentimes, at junctures where the last thing they want to do is chat with a reporter) is crucial to your success. Very little can be scripted or prepared.
So I embed the following videos (a) with the utmost respect for the difficult job that ESPN sideline reporter Doris Burke had to do in the NBA Western Conference Finals, (b) with the utmost respect for Burke's professional and insightful work (I'm a fan of hers) and (c) as a cautionary tale for those who think the sideline reporter job is easy.
It started with this Game 3 pregame bump below a few days ago:
Poor Doris. Here's the thing about that video. As you saw, she stopped midstream twice to start over, so the immediate reaction by the average television viewer is "What an idiot! It's live TV!!" Well, not always. That was a pregame vignette that they were prerecording to run as if it were live (theater of the mind!), and as I can attest having recorded dozens of commercial spots and vignettes for radio and having taken an average of roughly 25 takes each time to get them right, Doris Burke probably took a few tries to get it correct.
And unfortunately, some donkey in the trailer hit the wrong button when it was time to play that spot. It would be like going to see The Hangover 2 this weekend and instead of playing the movie, the person in charge of pressing PLAY played the bloopers.
Basically, Doris got hung out to dry. (By all accounts, she handled it with a lot of class and understood that the person whose sole job at that time was to push one button pushed the wrong button. She's nicer than I am.)
So the series rolled on, and last night the Mavericks finished off the Thunder in five games. Time for the sideline reporter money shot -- the post-series celebration interviews! Now, before we get to Doris Burke's post-game experience last night, keep in mind that through the last couple years we've seen some spectacularly uncomfortable post-game celebration moments.
Who could forget Joey Buss' acceptance speech in 2009 after the Lakers knocked off the Magic?
Best parts of the Buss speech:
1. Joey referring to the Boston Celtics as just "Boston Celtics." No "the." Like it's some dude with first name "Boston" and last name "Celtics."
2. Joey raising the crescendo of his voice to say that "None of this would be possible without the Laker fans here tonight..." and quickly realizing "Oh shit, we're in Orlando."
3. Joey Buss' title is "Lakers, Alternate Governor?" Please tell me that after Arnold was exposed for being addicted to smashing fat housekeepers that any California based worker with the word "governor" in his title immediately applied for a title change with their employer. Please.
Moving along, then there was this interview with Ron Artest last season after the Lakers beat the Celtics where Artest famously thanked his psychiatrist more than his family and teammates combined. (This interview was conducted by none other than Doris Burke!)
Where was the psychiatrist in 2004 when we really needed her?
Truth be told, last night after the Mavs won, Burke would have gladly interviewed a barely sane Artest, since ALL of the Maverick players left her standing by herself in the middle of the floor with no one to talk to! Check it out...
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I almost feel sorry for Doris, like she's the new kid in elementary school who is forced to sit by themselves at lunch for the first couple days because she knows no one. Very sad. Someday maybe Doris will be one of the popular kids, like Suzy Kolber....
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.