Open letter to NLL broadcasters: get it right

This article isn’t the 2018 version of the NLL Pronunciation Guide, though that’s coming soon. This article is my rant on why my Pronunciation Guide is necessary. The long and the short of it is: it is absolutely necessary, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be.

When you are an announcer for a sports team, you are to some extent the public face of that organization. We as fans don’t often hear the Kroenkes or Dan Carey or Pat Coyle speak, but if you watch Mammoth games on NLLTV, you’re going to hear Teddy Jenner and Jamie Shewchuk. They represent the Mammoth and also the league. The league and each organization owes it to the fans to make sure the information it’s giving through the broadcasts is as accurate as possible, and they owe it to their players to show them the respect they deserve. Pronouncing someone’s name incorrectly in this kind of case is not only disrespectful but it’s unprofessional: it shows that you didn’t make the effort in advance to make sure you got it right, and what kind of league has announcers who don’t know who the players are?

There are lots of people with unusual or uncommon names – uncommon in North America, anyway. I’m one of them. For someone not of the same descent, pronunciation of names like Nik Bilic or Riley Loewen is not obvious. We can’t assume that all announcers will just know how to pronounce them but that’s no excuse. It’s part of their job. If you’re an announcer and it’s not part of your preparation, it damn well should be.

In Saskatchewan last Friday, the announcers messed up names all night. Note that this was more than just a case of pronouncing names incorrectly. Yes, they pronounced Brownell badly all night but we also heard about Dhane Schmidt and Dhane Jones. Jordan Dunston. Bandits goaltender Zach Harris. Pat Sanders. At one point, Teddy Jenner tweeted that they referred to the Bandits as the Stallions. There is a Bantam AA hockey team called the Saskatoon Stallions*, perhaps that’s where the confusion began.

"Go on, say BILL-ick one more time" (NLL photo)

The odd error like that we can forgive. Hell, seasoned lacrosse people still occasionally slip and talk about going to Edmonton to take on the Rush. Many people, myself included, said “Black Hawks” instead of “Black Wolves” many times the first season they existed. It happens. But when the errors are constant or you’re getting that many names wrong in a single game, it’s obvious that you didn’t prepare. That is unacceptable. People frequently use the term “bush league” to describe the NLL, and this doesn’t help.

In Buffalo, play-by-play man John Gurtler is known for getting names wrong as well (including Bandits players). On a recent broadcast, he even said himself that he regularly “butchers” (his word) names. So this is a problem you know about and yet it still happens? Sorry, but “yeah, I get names wrong a lot” is not a defense, it’s simply a statement of the problem. It’s great that you’ve recognized that there is a problem, now go and fix it. Study the names and make the effort to get them right.

If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard Chris Driscoll say Logan SHUSH, I could afford to fly Logan out to Rochester for a chat with him.

Not all NLL announcers have this problem. Guys like Stephen Stamp, the Calgary duo of Farhall and Ballantine, the Vancouver duo of Elliott and Challoner, and the aforementioned Jenner don’t need the guide because they either know the players already (Stamper regularly helps me update the guide if I get things wrong) or because they do the work to make sure they get it right. Former Rush announcers John Fraser and Casey Guerin explicitly thanked me for creating the guide and used it regularly. The new Rush guys haven’t mentioned it.


The league itself does have a pronunciation guide. I have a copy of the 2013 one; here are a few of the entries:

  • Dan MacRae MICK-ray
  • Peter McFetridge MICK-fet-ridge
  • Joe Resetarits Res-UH-tare-its
  • Brodie MacDonald BRO-dee MICK-donald
  • Mitch Belisle BUH-lie-uhl
  • Nik Bilic BILL-ick
  • Kiel Matisz KYLE MA-tease

These are all wrong. Most of these are close but have the emphasis incorrect, but “BILL-ick” is just wrong. Most of the entries in the guide are correct, so the announcers who get those ones wrong are at fault. But It’s also hard to fault them for all the mistakes when the league has provided them faulty information. This was five years ago so maybe they’ve cleaned it up and the 2018 guide is bang-on. I don’t know.

In the end, people have weird names, and so the league needs to have a complete and accurate guide on how to pronounce them. Every season, someone from the league needs to talk to each new player and make sure they get the correct pronunciation of their name. Every broadcaster in the league MUST have a copy of this guide, updated as new players come in, and they MUST learn it. If they don’t, there MUST be consequences; the league needs to take this seriously. The individual broadcasters are to blame for their own mistakes but in the end it’s a league problem, and the league must solve it rather than leaving it up to me.

* – As an interesting side note, the Stallions currently have players with such prominent lacrosse names as Toth, Berg, Sorensen, and Hodgson.

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3 thoughts on “Open letter to NLL broadcasters: get it right

  1. I would also LOVE if NLLTV.com had enough bandwidth to not be constantly pausing and buffering. Games at times are almost unwatchable and this also doesn’t help the “bush league” appearance of the league.

    Like

  2. I was going nuts with the Logan Schuss pronunciations as well!

    As someone with a very similar last name to you Graeme, I get what it is like to have mispronunciations, it happens. However, the people that meet me long term, friends, coworkers, etc. They actually learn to pronounce it properly over time. It is just courtesy to the person you are speaking too. I work with people from all over the world, I do my best to say their name how they want it to be said (sometimes I just can’t make it work due to dialects, but I try).

    Oh and can we add a request for play by play announcers, to actually know the rules of the damn league?! I can’t stand when an announcer goes “why are they reviewing this goal? I didn’t see a flag”……..It is in the rule book. Please read it.

    As you said, this is not across the board. However, it is prominent.

    Like

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