Ravens' nest ready for prime time, rave networks

Media Watch

October 01, 1998|By Milton Kent

With two games and two telecasts in the books, Baltimore's football playpen is drawing the same kind of critical raves from national broadcasters that it's receiving from players, coaches and the public.

From the positioning of the broadcast booth and the camera locations to the space and access surrounding the production trucks in the bowels of the facility, the new Ravens stadium is getting thumbs up from the men and women who telecast games from there.

"It's state of the art. It's as good as there is in the NFL, if not the best. We were saying, 'We were spoiled tonight,' " said Fred Gaudelli, ESPN's senior coordinating producer, after Sunday's Ravens-Bengals game.

Said ESPN play-by-play man Mike Patrick: "I absolutely love it. I could do another 15 from here, and it wouldn't bother me in the slightest."

The fact that Ravens stadium is so broadcast friendly shouldn't come as a big surprise.

For one thing, the Maryland Stadium Authority, which built and operates the stadium, received kudos for the broadcast accessibility of Oriole Park when it opened in 1992 and brought many of those touches to the football stadium.

For another, Art Modell, as media savvy an owner as exists, produced television shows and worked in advertising, not to mention his longtime chairmanship of the NFL's broadcast committee.

Representatives of both entities -- Lisa Bercu, Ravens director of broadcasting, and Eli Eisenberg, the stadium authority's director technical services -- worked together for more than two years to get the stadium in line with the NFL's exacting broadcast standards.

And to say the NFL is ultra-conscious of how its game is seen is no overstatement. For instance, the league advised the team that the original camera angles from the stadium's concourse level would get the tops of players' heads on the sidelines, not their faces, so the angles were lowered accordingly.

The team and the stadium authority consulted extensively with directors from ESPN, Fox and NBC, which at the time was broadcasting AFC games, for their input on matters such as where to position the booth where announcers work, where to ideally place cameras, and where to locate panels so cameras could easily hook into them.

The idea was to cover all contingencies, Bercu said, so even though the Ravens may not yet be ready for a conference championship game, the stadium is, even down to having a camera panel in the locker rooms to shoot those wild champagne celebrations.

"We tried to make it very friendly and inviting to cover us, because it only helps us. We really tried not to leave a stone unturned," Bercu said.

They succeeded, according to the professionals who have worked here so far.

"If there's anything missing, we didn't notice it," said ESPN director Marc Peyton. "The sightlines are fabulous, and it looks great on television. It translates nicely on video."

Among the areas that get the most superlatives is the large television broadcast booth, which is positioned in an area that was to be a luxury suite.

Patrick, for instance, is a big fan of the booth's proximity to the field, particularly after having worked the previous Sunday in the press box at Tempe, Ariz.'s Sun Devil Stadium, one of the most distant from the field in the league.

"Honest to God, the birds fly under you. They can't get that high. There's no oxygen. You can't do a game like that," Patrick said.

CBS' Verne Lundquist, a 25-year veteran of NFL broadcasts, likens the feel of the stadium to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium and also salutes the booth.

"That place was put together by people who know football, and (( this stadium has that same feel," said Lundquist.

There can be too much closeness.

During the first quarter of the season opener against Pittsburgh, Lundquist said a stadium beer vendor got so close to the booth from the spectator side that he offered the announcer and his partner, Randy Cross, some of his product while they were on the air.

Bercu said the booth will be protected by security from now on to ensure that doesn't happen again. "I didn't want to refuse his hospitality, and under other circumstances, I might not have, but we were kind of preoccupied at the time," said Lundquist with a chuckle.

Just wondering

Why couldn't ESPN, the worldwide leader in promotion, have warned us that it was doing a tribute to Florence Griffith Joyner Tuesday night? Roy Firestone's retrospective on the great Olympic sprinter went largely unnoticed and unpublicized against Game 1 of the Yankees-Rangers series.

Why can't NBC join the club and keep the score and count on the screen constantly, like every other baseball telecaster? The baseball fan now sees it as a matter of course throughout the regular season everywhere else, so why not in the postseason? Sounds like an issue of "we didn't do it first, so it's not worth doing," which, of course, doesn't serve the viewers at all.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events in Baltimore during the past week:

Event .. .. .. .. .. Day .. .. . Ch. .. .. R/S

Rav.-Bengals .. .. . Sun. .. .. . 2 . 10.1/15

Bucs-Lions .. .. ... Mon. .. .. . 2 ... 8.2/13

49ers-Falcons .. ... Sun. .. ... 45 ... 7.5/15

Rav.-Bengals .. .. . Sun. .. . ESPN ... 6.9/10

Bronc.-'Skins .. ... Sun. .. . . 13 ... 5.5/13

Pack-Panthers ... .. Sun. .. ... 45 ... 5.5/13

Cubs-Astros .. .. .. Sat. .. ... 45 ... 4.8/12

O's-Red Sox .. .. .. Sat. .. ... 54 ... 4.5/13

O's-Red Sox .. .. .. Thu. .. ... 54 .... 4.4/7

O's-Red Sox .. .. .. Fri. .. ... 54 .. . 4.0/7

R-Rating; S-Share.

Notes: Ravens-Bengals ratings are listed twice because the game was seen on two outlets in the Baltimore area; ratings for Monday's Cubs-Giants playoff game were unavailable.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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