Dec. 7, 2009
Blog #17: Great seat, but Ted Alexander knows his job - be the eyes for Monarch fans that can't make it to the Ted.
By Brendan O'Hallarn
When Ted Alexander was a boy, he'd race home from school and take dinner up to his room. He'd sit and listen to Marv Albert call games on the radio for the New York Knicks.
"Back then, there was no ESPN and games every night, no Internet. I'd just sit there and listen to Marv Albert, and follow along with my scoresheet and pencil."
Thirty-five years later, Alexander is thrilled to be able to do what his broadcasting idol Albert still does with panache. For the past three seasons, he's been the voice of the ODU Monarchs basketball team. This season, he's added football play-by-play to his already busy job, which also includes being a sports anchor/reporter for News Channel 3. But the life-long sports nut, who relocated to Hampton Roads from Connecticut in 1996, wouldn't have it any other way.
I joined Ted and first-year color commentator Kenny Gattison for Saturday's game against the Delaware Blue Hens, which the Monarchs won handily, 65-44. With a headset on at my courtside seat, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement as I listened to the play-by-play. When Keyon Carter stole a ball and dribbled half the length of the court for a noisy, two-handed dunk, it took all my self-control to keep from standing and pumping my fist.
"It's easy to get excited, but I always tell myself that my job isn't to cheer, it's to describe what I see to people who can't watch the game, just like Marv Albert did for me," Alexander said.
His years as a broadcaster have given Alexander a comfortable, folksy style. He mixes impressive basketball knowledge with unique turns of phrase, occasionally calling the basketball the "spheroid," and saying that the teams were headed, "toward the world's largest naval base," or "toward downtown Norfolk."
Alexander also can't resist a good one-liner. When Carter -- who had an excellent game with 13 points and five steals - came up with a loose ball surrounded by Delaware players, Alexander joked: "Amongst a bunch of Blue Hens, there's a rooster ... Keyon Carter."
A Monarch forward was called for a foul under the basket. Gattison said the foul was called because he slipped his hips under the shooting player. Alexander was ready. "Hips don't lie ... Where's Shakira when you need her?"
There's more to calling a basketball game than simply showing up and making jokes, however.
Alexander arrives two hours before tipoff, and sets up the electronics required to broadcast live from the Constant Center. On this day, there was a problem with the phone connection. So Alexander spent nearly 30 minutes of his pregame time on a cellphone, troubleshooting with Ritchie Summerville, the producer/director of the broadcast. At halftime, the video screen which provides Alexander and Gattison up-to-the-second statistics suddenly went blank.
"You just have to deal with whatever comes up, not lose your cool," Alexander said with a tiny shrug.
Throughout the game, Alexander asks questions to Gattison, who has a lifetime in basketball, but is less experienced as a broadcaster. "I told him at the start of the season that I was going to throw him alleyoops. He has so much basketball knowledge," Alexander said.
Alexander also does pre- and post-game interviews with Coach Blaine Taylor, along with hosting Taylor's weekly coach's show. I give Taylor credit. No matter how the game goes, no matter how frustrated he might be, he makes his way over to Alexander's table and talks about his team. "He gets the drill," Alexander said.
Alexander is the team's broadcaster, so he's not going to ask Taylor or his players unfair questions. But it's not like Alexander is the team publicist, either.
"You have to call them as you see them, and not be afraid to point out when something goes wrong. Otherwise, you don't have credibility when you do compliment them," he said. "I like to say I'm there to call the action as I see it, and the tie goes to the home team."
I had a great time courtside, and a large part of the reason is the view. Alexander has a spectacular look at what happens on the court. I think I'd have to referee to see the action any better than I did on Saturday. And it was nice to get an up-close view of ODU's return to the defensive intensity which had staked the team to its 4-0 start.
Taylor, who also has a pretty good view, liked what he saw as well.
"It was a fine performance on our kids' part," coach said. He was happy the team was able to respond to its recent adversity, three losses to tough, out-of-conference opponents in a row.
"I do a little soul-searching when I don't win at tiddly-winks. We've kinda thought about what makes us tick, and I really compliment our kids for sort of tuning in to that."
Gerald Lee led the Monarchs with 16 points, including three long jumpshots.
"Gerald's one of our better perimeter shooters," Taylor said. "The last couple of games he's had some perimeter looks and he's been reluctant, he's unselfish to a fault. So I asked him in practice to start shooting from out a little bit more. We just can't feed him layups all game. It's just impossible to think that we're that effective."
Two other notes from Saturday...
Jerry Bowman said he could have used a basketball "Rosetta Stone."
Bowman, a local attorney, and his wife Judy, who works with ODU Provost Carol Simpson, spent Saturday with the team as guests of the Monarchs.
They had bid on the honor at a team event in the spring. So the Browns went to the shoot around, had the pregame meal with the team, and watched Taylor and the coaching staff breakdown tape of Delaware. That's where the Rosetta Stone could have come in handy.
"The language Coach Taylor was speaking was the language of basketball," he said. "The terminology is so complex, it was hard to understand what he was saying, even though they were speaking English."
The couple had a great day. Judy's the big basketball fan in the family. She was confident before the game that the Monarchs would prevail, despite the recent losing skid. "They've got the strength, the height and the athleticism. They'll bounce back tonight," she said.
Out of curiosity, and at the risk of further annoying my wife, I went to the VCU-William and Mary game in Williamsburg on Saturday afternoon. William and Mary jolted the visiting Rams 75-74 when second-team all-conference preseason guard David Schneider hit a free throw with three seconds left.
What was the best part of the game? My sparsely attended section of Kaplan Arena was dotted with basketball fans wearing ODU garb, checking out the competition, just like me.
One of the friends I've made following the team this year was sitting right in front of me, and we traded observations about always-strong VCU and the resurgent William and Mary Tribe.
Brendan's Blog 46