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The Birth of the Kudda Game of the Week: Year 1

As we prepare for the upcoming 2014 MIAA lacrosse season and Kudda’s 5th year of broadcasting the best High School lacrosse in the country, we take a look back on how all of this started. How did a company, focused on helping coaches do a better job by providing them with ample resources, develop a video broadcasting company? When we have shared this story with folks and businesses they have all commented about how sometimes you come across the “Perfect Storm” and you need to take advantage of it.

Joe Rice, President of Kudda:
A little over 4 years ago, one of my former teaching colleagues and one of the funnier people I knew, asked me for some help. Booker Corrigan and I used to teach middle school social studies at McDonogh School. Booker had just stepped down as head coach of the lacrosse team and I had left to take on Kudda full time. Knowing that I was pretty savvy with video production, Booker asked for my help in creating an audition tape to send to ESPN as he wanted to get into broadcasting. I have to admit that I was less than enthused as I thought this was going to take a lot of effort and time. I remember Booker in my backyard reading some promos with my kitchen spatula as his microphone as I videotaped him. I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and natural he was at talking… imagine that? After an hour of doing various “reads” in the freezing wind, Booker left and I started to edit the best pieces thinking that I was done with this project. Little did I even consider what was going to happen.

Booker Corrigan, Broadcaster:
Kudda Game of the Week literally came out of nowhere. I had been a school teacher for 20 years, and had decided to take on a new challenge. I reached out to the Sr VP of Lacrosse broadcasts at ESPN and he told me after one 5-8 minute phone call that “it sounds like you have a good command of the language, I like your speaking voice, but I am not going to put you on the air just because we talked on the phone”. He said I needed a lot of experience, which I now understand was the best advice at the time.
I called Joe Rice, a former teaching colleague, knowing that was involved in some video work, to see if he could help me. I put on a necktie and headed over to his backyard on a brutally cold January morning. We had no microphone, so I spoke into a plastic kitchen serving spoon. I went through all kinds of different stories about lacrosse teams and players, many of them off the top of my head, some from bullet points, and some from verbatim scripts. Joe seemed to tolerate the cold to hear what I might address next, so I guess that gave me a boost.

The following day, Booker called and asked if I would go down to Hopkins with him and film the Hopkins-Cornell scrimmage. It would give him an opportunity to call a “live” game and both coach Petro and Tambroni gave us permission to video. So I would video the action and Booker would do both the play by play and color. As Booker called this game,  I started to really take notice of his natural abilities. He played it pretty straight-forward with zero “Bookerisms”, movie-quotes, or rifts on the official’s names. One of these days I will share clips of Booker’s first broadcast from that afternoon.

That night I called my friends coach Petro and Coach Tambroni to see if they would allow me to do some practice play by play during their scrimmage the next day. As a coach, I know that the last thing they need is every parent asking them “why was someone filming our scrimmage, that is against the rules, now every opponent will have an advantage”. I assured them that the footage would never leave our eyes. They were both fine with our being there. Good guys, helping out because I asked nicely and up front. It was an eye opening experience for me. Very hard, very cold, very inexperienced, very dull…. Because it was so cold, and I was in no way ready for prime time, did not have rosters, I smoothed into some fun stuff, and would talk for 15-20 seconds and then pause … as I would tell Joe, “to let my analyst speak”. It was very odd to be in the top row of the bleachers at Homewood, with parents milling around, calling play by play for no network, with no analyst, and getting many a “Hairy Eyeball”
It was after that day I realized that if I had the guts to do that, and ignore being the moron in front of many people who I knew one way or another, I figured everything I did from then on had to be less intimidating. As that spring evolved I knew I had to keep finding a way to call games any way I could.

At the same time, my son was a senior at McDonogh and I eagerly volunteered to help Coach Andy Hilgartner cover the videotaping of the games. It was my way of supporting the program…plus it removed me from the parents and some of their criticism, whining and complaining. So I got to watch my son’s last year playing lacrosse by looking through the viewfinder of my camera. You’ll notice that on occasion that first year, the camera stops following the action. That’s because I would look up and watch the game, momentarily forgetting I was videotaping. You’ll also notice that I was a bit too zoomed in and occasionally lost track of the ball… both rookie mistakes. Hey, Booker was learning and polishing his craft and I was polishing the camera side of the equation.

I told Booker that we should broadcast some of the McDonogh games in order to give him more practice. Our first game was the McDonogh-Haverford game up in Philly. It was at this game that I first heard the name that would become part of Booker’s staple, Carmen DiJohnDaminico. We uploaded that game to Vimeo and password protected it so only McDonogh coaches and players could watch it. We heard that they were quit popular with the McDonogh boys. Here is that first game that Booker called.

McD-Haverford from Kudda on Vimeo.

We did 2-3 more McDonogh games which were not publicly available before I told Booker that we have to share these with the lacrosse world. I had to get Coach Hilgartner’s blessing to have his team’s game footage be available for all teams to see. Hilgy was a bit hesitant at first but quickly realized that all of his opponents already had video of his team. So after these 2-3 warmup games, we started to broadcast and share the McDonogh games. About the same time, I created a section on the Kudda site to have the games appear.

Joe had offered McDonogh Coach Andy Hilgartner to assist with filming, as his son Kyle was a senior, and we started doing their games for more experience. There were many games we did that we did not have a roster. I knew all the McDonogh kids since I was still teaching there to pay the bills, but their opponents was a mystery… so I simply made up names. I used names of guys that I grew up playing ice hockey with, and against. My Sophmore year of high I was about 5’7” 145 lbs. and the biggest best defender in the state was 6’2” 210 lbs named Carmen Digandiminico. What a great name, and I had nightmares about him for decades, so I decided to make him one of the refs for every game. I got quite good at saying his name while my mind was thinking of the next sentence. Carmen has since been referenced in many of my ESPN games in both Lacrosse and Basketball (as the official timer) I guess I am just waiting for it all to come full circle one day when a really big gentleman approaches me and says he is Carmen and he is here to have me pay for years of using his name. I am not guessing he will be willing to except a check.

Note that at this time, Booker was still calling the games somewhat “Old-School” with a few scattered “Sky-Whamers” thrown into the mix. We even practiced using another broadcaster in the booth for the McDonogh Calvert Hall game. Booker was able to play off and react to what the other announcer said. It was an exciting 1 goal game that game down to the final set play and I believe it gave Booker a ton of confidence moving forward.

Calvert Hall McDonogh Highlights from Kudda on Vimeo.

Slowly Booker started adding more calls after goals which would become his signature. He hadn’t added any rap lyrics yet…that moment would come near the end of year 2. One of the first was, of course, “And Daly logs into www dot I Sting Corners dot com. “And like the day after a bad chili cook-off, we’re knotted at dueces”. He even had a hilarious sequence after my son scored.


“Who’s that?”

“It’s the mailman”

“What does he want?”

“He has Kyle Rice’s weekly subscription to ‘I score big goals!'”

Another way I found confidence is by calling in some favors. I have a old friend who got me in touch with Mike Emerick, the great hockey announcer, I went and watched Joe Beninati do a Caps game form the broadcast booth, and Jim Jackson of the Flyers welcomed me up there for a game as well. Each one of these pros was more than willing to help me get a feel for how to best bring my own style to a game, teach me how to do an “open” answer all my questions in person, over the phone, via email. I am sure they scratched their head once or twice about a 43 year old rookie, but again, I couldn’t have cared less. I was going to make this happen.

When our schedules permitted, we would cover other league games. One of the best games that year was the St Pauls/Boys Latin triple overtime thriller won by the host BL Lakers.

Overtime St Pauls Boys Latin from Kudda on Vimeo.

We had a special visitor join us that day, Ty Xanders who was very popular in the Laxpower Forums for his detailed analysis of HS players. I was impressed that a 19 year old kid had discovered his passion. Little did I know that Ty would join us a year later and challenge Booker to the “Race to Nifty”. It was this game that we started to really notice a national audience as 2 of the top programs in the country squared off. It was during these last few games that Booker started to polish his announcing while adding his signature movie quotes and irrelevant comments. We also developed our “style/culture” of always presenting the players in the best light. It would’ve been real easy to criticize the mistakes that these players made but we never wanted to embarrass them. Remember these are 16-17 year old kids with fragile egos. If you watch the games, you’ll never hear Booker point out a bone-headed mistake made by a player but rather a brilliant play made by the opponent. Just the way we want to present these kids.

We did a host of McDonogh games all season, and on the last regular season game we struck gold. We decided to go over to Boy’s Latin to do their rivalry game with St. Paul’s. Triple OT thriller, played by two of the best teams in the nation, and we had it. I was almost good by this point, I had a great time doing the game, and even sent a copy of it to Joe Beninati, who reviewed it and gave me feedback. Joe B. is known and respected in the sports pxp world as being class all the way, and that is an understatement. He was fantastic.
Kudda had something we could build on. Something we could sell. We could get sponsors and make this an every Tuesday and Friday.

We finished our first year with Booker getting the opportunity and big break when he was asked to do the commentary on the local TV station’s coverage of the MIAA Quarterfinals. We also learned all about video and television rights when we attempted to cover the Semifinals later that week. We always just showed up and no one ever asked questions. When we showed up to Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson where the games were being played we were prevented from filming because another firm had purchased the rights. Dejected, we watched from the stands as my son’s career ended with a 10-8 loss to BL.

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.


Part 2 of Kudda’s Game of the Week is coming soon!

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