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Year 2 of the Birth of the Kudda Game of the Week

Year 2 of the Birth of the Kudda Game of the Week

This is Part 2 of How we started this amazing journey. Here is the link to Part 1.

Joe Rice, President of Kudda:
With the end of the season, we pondered what the future had in store for us. What had started with covering the McDonogh games had evolved into doing some of the biggest HS lacrosse games and our viewership was reaching into the thousands for each game. We were not sure if it was a one time opportunity because of my connection with the McDonogh program that was now over or if this was the beginning of something special. We discussed what we might do in the Fall and how we could use football to help Booker continue to develop his broadcasting talent.

We decided to cover some of the bigger HS football games in Maryland that Fall. Note; although football here in MD is exciting, it is not the quality and intensity of Texas or Florida. About this same time we connected with the local HS sports site, VarsitySportsNetwork, and started to actually get paid for our broadcasts. I believe we did 5-6 football games for VSN that Fall for about $200/game. The nice thing about covering football games is that I can stop videotaping in between plays so that our viewing audience can watch an entire football game on the Kudda site in about 30 minutes. Check out Booker’s call in the waning moments of the Gilman Calvert Hall football game which pitted the areas two best teams. Fast forward to the last 2 minutes to some of the most exciting broadcasting I have heard Booker do.

Gilman CHC 4th Q from Kudda on Vimeo.

Up to this point, we had strictly covered the MIAA schools but tried to cover a local public school HS rivalry. If our viewers wonder why we don’t cover more of the public school teams…here’s why. Upon entering the football stadium, we were questioned by the security and later by the athletic director. “Who were we?” “Did you get permission from the county to do this?” “Who are you again?” “You can’t do this!” Fortunately Booker is a bit of a smooth talker and was able to convince the AD that we were there to help promote the athletes. We loved doing the game and knew that we were helping those players gain some exposure. However, dealing with protocol and policies, following complicated guidelines…it was easier covering the prep schools. It was also during the Fall of 2010 that we tried negotiating w/ VSN to partner in our coverage of the lacrosse games that coming spring. We felt that they wanted a little too much of the revenue since we were doing all of the work so we parted ways with VSN and decided to branch out on our own.

 

Booker Corrigan, Broadcaster:
Football.  How hard can it be ..?  I mean I grew up watching and playing hockey, so the idea of less than 10 seconds of action followed by 25 seconds of analysis … and it was pretty smooth. Picking the games was a challenge, as was convincing schools to allow the “the name of your site is what??” guys to come in and film their game was another battle. We got lucky that Calvert Hall was a great place to film, and they had a top ten team, and a coach who was forward thinking enough to let us get in there and film all we wanted.  Calvert Hall is a great location, and the families helped us feel supported, and welcome.  I mention this because we were still true “GreenHorns” as they say on “Deadliest Catch” – which was the hot show back then.  We had little to no Street Cred, but Joe and I would smile often and our broadcasts were never about pointing out the errors ( it is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat, dust, and blood ..)

As the voice of the broadcasts, I made the decision very early that I would always have the kids and coaches backs.  I was fully aware of how hard these athletes had worked to attain the level of success.   I was not in any way interested in having even one of them watch a broadcast and think “ I wish they never called our game” .  We had 1 instant classic type game, at Calvert Hall, and it came down to the wire, and we were there.  It felt really good for me to have the chance to be on the call of a real thriller.  I am not sure I did it justice, but it really got me hooked on how much more intense the games are when it comes down to the last play. We had called some blowouts up until then, I was practicing the skill of play by play, but I also used these lopsided games as a chance to hone my rap lyrics and movie lines… I even awarded the Dr. Funkenstein play of the game… from my old Parliament days …“Micro-biologically speakin, when I start churnin, burnin, and turnin, it’ll make yo atoms move so fast, expandin yo molecules, causing a friction fire, burnin you on your nuetron, causing you to scream “Hit me in the Proton…. BABY !!”   As many of you may now be gathering, I have developed an ability to recall lyrics and movie lines with tremendous ease.

 

Joe:
During that winter season, we started to cover some of the local HS basketball league. Now HS basketball in Baltimore is pretty solid with some our colleges top players coming from B’more. (Carmelo Anthony, anyone?) However, those top schools were public schools and jumping through those hoops (pun intended) to get permission was beyond our patience. So we focused on the schools that we would be covering in the spring, the MIAA schools that played basketball in the B Conference. We actually didn’t mind as we also realized that we would be building a solid base with the same clientele that would be watching us in lacrosse. It was also during these games that Booker and I would develop some movie quotes to use as well as irrelevant analogies. His ability at almost instant recall was amazing!

 

Booker:
Football ended, and Joe and I felt like we had started something.  Exactly what, we still had no idea. Basketball was right around the corner, and I knew that I had established contact with ESPN, so I needed to call games.  I would sit right next to parents, right in the crowd, next to the kids section…. Not hidding up in a booth, not behind a window.  I was in the bleachers.  Joe would film, and I would hold the mic with one hand, and the rosters with the other.  One of the first things I noticed was that every coach was happy to see me, and would help me with name pronunciations, tell me who their ball handlers were, who was nicked up, which player might be coming on strong.  We did a bunch of hoops games, and I continued to learn how important it is to block out the distractions by literally sitting next to parents and students, right in the middle of the bleachers. Yea, I got some looks, but I figured that if I wanted to do college lacrosse and college basketball on ESPN, this was nothing.

That winter we had so much fun, and the feedback was so positive that Joe and I convinced one another to see if we could get folks to pay us to cover HS lacrosse games.  These are actually the people who deserve all the credit (along with the coaches and players )  for it happening. If the great folks at Van Dorn Pools and Spas as well as the owner of The PowerShaft had not come on board, the Game of the Week would have never happened.

 

Joe:
It was also during the winter season that Booker started to gather sponsors for the spring lacrosse season. We were going into uncharted waters wondering if companies would be willing to pay us to broadcast the games. It was sometime in late January that Booker called me to announce that Tom Rotanze from ThePowershaft had agreed to be one of our title sponsors. Shortly thereafter Booker was also able to gather Van Dorn Pools and Spas as well as the Baltimore Crabs and Kelly and Associates. We were off and running.

We were having conversations with Ty Xanders to see if he could be part of our broadcast team even though he had no experience broadcasting. We felt that he could add some background on who the players were and where they were going to college. Ty agreed to join us and we were set for our first game of the season; pre-season #1 Haverford vs defending MIAA champion St Pauls.

We wanted to do a pre-game introduction with “Keys to the Game” for both teams. It was our first real attempt at doing this and it was also Ty’s first attempt at broadcasting. I believe we had to do several takes as Ty experienced “Rookie jitters” and realized just how difficult speaking in clear sentences on camera can be. Broadcasting ain’t easy! Here is that pre-game introduction after the 4th-5th take.

Haverford @ St Pauls 1st Quarter from Kudda on Vimeo.

We finished the pre-game just as the opening faceoff was set to begin. During the game, I could tell Ty getting more and more comfortable commenting on various players and playing off of Booker’s calls. The game itself was an exciting game and is still one of the most viewed games ever on Kudda. Haverford narrowly defeated St Pauls on their way to a perfect season that ended with them being the #1 nationally ranked team.

 

Booker:
Joe and I also convinced local lax enthusiast Ty Xanders to join me on the broadcasts, and that was fantastic.  Ty sat with me for a couple hoops games to get a feel for it, but his true baptism came at St Paul’s when they hosted Haverford School for his first lax game.  I do not know if was a good idea or not, but we decided to try an “on camara” open from the field, and needless to say – Ty was a bit nervous (as was I).  We sometimes laugh when I look back at how cumbersome that moment was, especially when we consider how easy Ty does his opens now – we call him “one take Tony”.

 

Joe:
We continued to build our broadcast team by adding in some additional cameramen. I was at a Verizon store working with an account rep who wanted to know what Kudda was all about. When I told him about the Game of the Week, he immediately informed me that he and his partner also videotaped games and that he would love to help us. And that’s how I met Patrick Graham and later, his partner Mattie Cruz. It worked out perfectly because I was scheduled to go on vacation and we needed help videotaping the Hill Academy/Calvert Hall game. This game wasn’t on our original schedule but since we had the extra camera guys we figured why not also film the game. Patrick and Matt put so much effort into that game with multiple cameras and reverse angle playbacks that I knew we had some real talented guys to help us. So what they enabled us to do for the rest of the year was to have a second video crew at another big game and also give me relief from having to be the principle videographer with Booker. These two “busted it” for us and really helped to increase the production value of our games. Because of this, we began to consider how we might scale and cover more games.

We felt the need to also broadcast some of the local girls HS games. With our natural connection to McDonogh and coupled with the fact that my daughter was playing for them, they were our first target…plus they were the #1 ranked girls team in the nation. I called their head coach and good friend of mine, Chris Robinson, to let him know that we would be covering the McDonogh/Notre Dame Prep game as NDP was in the top 5 and we figured it would garner a large audience. He suggested that I also contact the NDP coach to give her a heads up that the game would be on the web. She agreed and we were all set to broadcast with the exception of a minor detail. Booker had never done a girls game and really didn’t know a lot of the rules and nuances of the game. We scrambled a bit to find a color person to help navigate these unknown waters for Booker and were relived when he convinced Rick Fiorito to help out. Rick’s two children had both played goalie for McDonogh, Tyler for the boys team and later Princeton and Team USA, while his daughter had just graduated and was playing at Ohio State. I felt that the game went smoothly and that Rick’s presence helped Booker get confidence with the girls game. I do remember standing on the hill videotaping and noticing that a lot of the families were giving us strange looks and asking, “what are they doing?” It dawned on me that although we were known in the boys lacrosse community, we still had a lot to do to get noticed in the girls community.

We had published a schedule of the games we would be covering and this schedule contained several more girls games. However the girls games had to be removed due to rules within their league that prohibited videotaping of games. Yes, it was 2011 and there were still rules that prevented anyone from possibly videotaping and sharing footage for scouting purposes. We first got wind of this rule when I received a call from the AD at one of the girls schools that we were set to cover. She wanted to know who we were, why are were doing it and had we gotten permission. My answer to all three questions was, “Nope” and that we basically just showed up at games and no one questioned us (except the public school AD’s). She wanted me to fill some forms and that I would have to do this for every game that we wanted to do. In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” And that’s pretty much why we haven’t covered too many of the girls games. Again, too many hoops to jump through. Now we have done a few games, usually a McDonogh game because Coach Robinson and their AD are super easy to work with. I believe it was later that year we covered the McDonogh/St Anthony’s game and St Anthony’s from Long Island was ranked #2 behind McDonogh. I did contact the St Anthony’s coach and they were so excited and supportive, they even sent rosters and where their players were going. It was a Saturday morning game and I recall the sun affecting our ability to see the St Anthony uniform numbers. Booker was calling the game solo and really struggled to identify the St Anthony players. He called a great game but we got ripped in the forums (probably by some of the St Anthony parents) because we were very “one-sided” in our calls. It was not intentional, we couldn’t see their numbers.

Back with the boys game we were really beginning to gather a national audience. We heard that teams would use the Kudda game to scout. Certain coaches, I’m not going to identify them, even had to turn off the sound because their players would mimic all of Booker’s calls. Throughout the league players were replicating all of Booker’s calls during their practices. I believe the coaches also started to see the value of having their games up on the web for all to watch. Initially they may have been uncomfortable with future opponents being able to easily scout them but eventually the coaches liked the fact that we were promoting their league and even more importantly, promoting their kids. I think this understanding laid the foundation for Kudda expanding it’s coverage from 2-4 games a week to covering all of the MIAA games in year 3.

Booker’s breakout to the national stage came during our last game, the MIAA Quarter-Finals (remember we can’t do the Semi-Finals) between Boys Latin and McDonogh. McDonogh had a 2-3 goal lead going into the 4th quarter but BL slowly came back to tie it. (Quick side note: BL has ended McDonogh season 5 straight times.)  Then, with about 4 minutes left and just after McDonogh had killed off a man-down situation, BL attackman Greg Pike scored. What happened next catapulted Booker into national fame. His call and subsequent use of rap lyrics by Biggie Small gave Booker much needed national recognition. I was on the camera that day and immediately started laughing and Ty’s reaction of, “I don’t know what was more impressive, that goal or your call?” was spot on. We both had gotten used to the Bookerisms but this one was something entirely new.

Booker immediately got on ESPN top plays and every lacrosse site had a video of that call playing. The forums were active discussing the appropriateness of the call. There was so much buzz created that Booker even appeared on some of the ESPN talk shows and radio shows. There were a lot of folks who really liked what he was doing and his style. Unfortunately we also had some folks who harbored some resentment and would write some negative comments on various sites about Booker. Booker, at first, was a bit sensitive about the criticism but eventually realized that when you put yourself out there people are going to find something to be negative about. Can’t make everyone happy and you need to continue to do what you feel is best to promote the league and the kids.

 

 

 

 

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