London Log-In - August 5, 2012
UCLA athletes, coaches, alumni and staff share their experiences at the 2012 Olympics. UCLA Associate AD Mike Sondheimer explains his job duties as a statistician for NBC in the latest London Log-In.
Aug. 5, 2012
When the gold medal men's match ends next Sunday afternoon in London, I will have done statistics for approximately 40 matches over 16 days in Earl's Court. I thought it was appropriate to explain a little of what I do and why NBC would want me to work expenses-paid for three weeks at the Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee hires a broadcast crew to do the actual telecasts you see online or at home for all Olympic Events. NBC as the major rights-holder gets to have two or three of its own cameras in the major venues to put its own spin on the international show. If you watch the BBC here, their interviews in the "Mixed Zone' are with athletes or coaches from Great Britain. In the U.S., you get the U.S. athletes and coaches that are brought into this "Mixed Zone" area - it is how NBC gets Michael Phelps immediately after a race. Statistics are based on what the IOC puts out at each revenue, which is why NBC hires its own statisticians to fill in the missing gaps.
At volleyball, I have a notebook, a stats form and a number sheet to assist the play-by-play announcer Paul Sunderland (I sit to his left) and the color analyst Kevin Barnett. The computer program for stats is totally different than what is done at an American college match, for example. The computer itself is also different than what we have for college matches, where we have everything we need on one screen. The Olympic stat computer has three channels for general team information and one for each country's individual statistics. In the notebook, I keep team comparisons in blocks, service aces and service errors (not on the computer) and also a stat the announcers like called 'Digs to Kills'; that is when a team saves the ball on its side of the net and has the chance to score on its opponent. I am also responsible for 'runs' in the match where one team scores four or more points in a row or is on like a 5-1 or 6-2 scoring run that changes the match.
I also help talk to the TV truck to alert them for teams calling time-outs (they get two per set) and international technical time-outs that come at 8 and 16 of each set so that NBC can get in the necessary commercials for sponsors.
I have been doing volleyball statistics for television since the 1970's, which is how I got involved with NBC Sports. Just like in regular work, I try to be as much of a perfectionist as possible, but sometimes little mistakes are made in a sport that thrives on numbers. Because volleyball is more subjective than basketball, where stats are straightforward), you may see slight differences from the graphics on TV and what the announcer is saying. Also, when you are high up in the arena, the you don't get the benefit of knowing immediately if the referee has changed a call or if the scoreboard operator has put in the wrong information. You have to rely on your experience and knowledge to be right just about all of the time with television involved.
With the advances of sites like You Tube, Twitter and Facebook, mistakes are magnified that much more in the public eye. You may provide hundreds of stats during a three to five set broadcast, but if one mistake is made, it can be played up a lot bigger than it is worth in the course of the match or the broadcast. You can read into what I am saying if you are following the USA teams at the Olympics.
Well, I have another match upcoming as we are doing three or four broadcasts a day for NBC, NBC Sports Network and NBCMSN, so back up to my third floor stat location to begin work.
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