It's hard to follow all that goes into NBA telecast
Posted: Monday January 23, 2006 3:53PM; Updated: Monday January 23, 2006 4:46PM
Reggie Miller prepares for a TNT telecast.
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
For the last few years, my friend and golfing buddy, Scooter Vertino, has given me an open invitation to come to his office and watch him work. Now, if Scooter was a janitor or a toll-booth collector, I probably would have said no. But Scooter and I work in related fields. I cover the NBA, and as a producer for the NBA on TNT, Scooter teams up each Thursday night with a crew of more than 50 people to descend upon an NBA arena and let the truth be told. In high definition, no less. ("The highest," Scooter notes.)
I met Scooter about five years ago in Atlanta. We met through J.R. Rider, of all people, which may be the most fruitful thing Rider did during his disastrous season with the Hawks. Scooter went from producing Hawks games to working on "Inside the NBA" the first year Charles Barkley joined the cast to now producing all TNT games that Marv Albert calls.
As a sports fan, I watch TV all the time, catching the big game or even the small game. What's easy to forget is that for every telecast, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes action that has to happen. You usually don't even notice anything unless something goes wrong, but I was curious to see how it all unfolds.
They call the epicenter of action on a TNT game night "The Truck," although I'm pretty sure it's more of a trailer that gets towed around from city to city. It's the on-site brains of the show, the Optimus Prime of each broadcast. A mess of cables snakes around the pavement outside, and a few other trucks that handle other aspects of the evening are parked parallel.
I went outside Madison Square Garden about 20 minutes before tip-off last Thursday night, found Scooter and was shown to a seat in The Truck. I'm sure if you work in TV it gets old after a while, but being inside The Truck is cool, like being inside a time machine, or maybe mission control in Houston. I counted 75 screens, all in HD, across the end of The Truck, each showing a different camera's feed or a replay angle or something. The lighting is dim, the walls covered in grey carpet.
There are three long desks in The Truck, all situated to face the screens. At the front table, Scooter sat in the middle next to director Renardo Lowe. According to Scooter, the producer is in charge of content while the director is in charge of technical operations: "I tell Renardo what I want to do and he gets us there."