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Saturday, June 4, 2011

What Is That TRUCK Really Like

Probably the most important person in bringing us any televised sports event is its PRODUCER. Someone you never see, you never hear from and their name is lost in the night.

Matt Lipp is one of the best sports producers in the business today and is based on the west coast. He is so good that at various times he works for ESPN, Fox Sports, Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West and whoever else is lucky enough to grab him on a rare day off. To break it down, Lipp brings into our living room (I guess in these days I should also add our computers and cell phones), the Clippers, Angels and a whole host of college basketball nightly.

For the record, you have to be really, really, really good at to be a sports producer for ESPN,  Fox Sports and Prime Ticket. High tech is in, poor production banishes you to a seat in the stands as a fan.

 Matt Lipp is not only a great sports producer, but he is a fine person, so I contacted him and like a lot of you, I wanted to more about what goes into the production of a college basketball game and how those pieces fit together to bring you a near flawless broadcast night in and night out.

Once the game begins, Lipp and his staff,  work out of what looks like the average long haul truck. It is far from average and has so many screens, computers and gadgets that it would make Steve Jobs blush. But Lipp's job begins well before he ever sets foot in that mystical truck.

 What is Lipp's definition of a sports producer?

"I am like a well paid storyteller/traffic cop. The producer handles everything and I do mean everything that goes on during the broadcast, with the exception of the camera shots, which are handled by the director."

But long before the ball is ever tipped off, Lipp, just like the teams that play the game is hard at work in preparation. He first emails the sports information director of both the home and visiting teams of his upcoming game and tells them what time the game is expected to tip off and who the game announcers will be. At the same time he requests the game notes be sent to himself, the director, announcers and graphics coordinator, who prepare and do their homework on the same level as Lipp.

Lipp will then follow up with phone calls to the SIDs to see about the "state of the teams" and if there is any interesting stories about any of the players. Lipp is very proud of the fact that sports producers in all sports never tell anything which would compromise the integrity of the teams' game plans or reveal plans which might give one team an advantage.

Once he gets the info from the SIDs, like the teams playing, he formulates a game plan. Lipp checks to see if the teams have played previously, to see if there is any pertinent video he could use during the game and also sends along a graphics package to the graphic coordinator. (Graphics are the stats, numbers, score and anything else on the screen, besides the game).

On game day, Lipp checks with his staff to see if everything is in order and also meets with his staff approx. one hour prior to the game. Once again his staff is prepared well in advance, as evidenced by the great sports broadcasts we see on all networks.

THE GAME. Once the game begins, Lipp is in charge of when all replays are shown, what graphics appear and making sure all promos are read by the announcers, something very important to all networks. If questions arise from anyone, the buck stops with the producer. Besides everything else,  the producer must keep up on any storylines that are developing during the game and also any national storylines which might be developing. In essence, Matt Lipp must lead the announcers down the path that the game is developing into and the announcers need to have complete trust in what the producer is telling them through that all important earpiece. Per Lipp,  the most important thing any producer can do is make sure that the producer and announcers are constantly in sync to the game that we are seeing on the screen.

Not to be forgotten, because we would not have games without them, is the sponsors. Lipp needs to make sure all media timeouts  happen when they are suppose too, as well as any "play of the game" or "player of the games" comes off,  if sponsored,  with giving the sponsor the full credit. (And Craw's Corner  might add, for all the complainers about media timeouts and too many commercials, there are so many people who depend on tv sports for their only source of entertainment, often who are house bound or simply can't afford to attend the game, so we do need those sponsors, more than you might think, so hush up.)

Matt Lipp,  like many who play the games we love is also the constant team player. He loves to give credit to all his staff of which many he has worked with for years that include, Steve Turnburger (Director), Ernie Spargur (Associate Director), Andre Dawson (Associate Producer) and Dave Feldman (Associate Producer).

So the next time you hear your announce team on a game say, "Let's see what the truck can show us? or how about that great work done by our truck on showing us those replays", hopefully you will think of people like Matt Lipp and the hard work his staff do behind the scenes to give us those great sports broadcasts each and every night.

Suddenly, that TRUCK does not seem like the mysterious vehicle that sits next to a basketball arena. It actually has people in it and quality people, dedicated professionals who make sports  and college basketball what it is, JUST GREAT.

Matt Lipp and staff, I know I speak for many, THANK YOU.

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