75 years of March Madness: Behind the mic with Clark Kellogg

We’ve all narrated our own game-winning shots in the driveway at home. But it isn’t as easy when you are paid to do it in front of millions of households during March Madness, one of the biggest tournaments around. We tip-off our programming celebrating 75 years of March Madness this Saturday, Dec. 29 with 75 Years: Behind The Mic (2 p.m. ET , CBS). Greg Gumbel hosts the show and is joined by Clark Kellogg Nantz, Bill Raferty, Dick Enberg, Greg Anthony and Gary Bender to to relive the greatest March Madness moments, share their memories calling the action and see how they handle the pressures of making the big calls behind the mic in March.

We decided to put the full-court press on veteran color commentator and President Obama H-O-R-S-E partner, Kellogg, to discover the x’s and o’s of being behind the mic. 

Inside College Basketball: What goes into making a great call?
Clark Kellogg: Obviously it starts with the enthusiasm and passion that comes through naturally in an exciting and great play. The nuts and bolts from a broadcast standpoint are you need the right mix of description and layout. You can’t over articulate it and upstage the moment.

ICBB: How do you avoid just straight out yelling when you’re overcome with emotion and excitement?
CK: I can’t think of a time I would describe my call as yelling but someone listening may (laughs). Most of your great calls come from the play by play. As the color guy, I may have one or two words to add to it and my voice may just go up an octave or two.

ICBB:  Everyone has a role model, who did you model your craft after?
CK: I’ve always enjoyed how Doug Collins and Hubie Brown saw the game. Also I’ve always liked John Madden’s unique way of framing and calling the game.

But I don’t really try to be them behind the mic. When I started this career, I always knew I wanted to be me and but I wanted to be prepared like those guy are. I want to find different ways to describe basketball situations for myself. I like to figure out ways to communicate by using analogies that people can relate to. Sometimes I use food analogies because everyone can relate to food. I try to distinguish myself as a bit of a wordsmith. I like to spring those words on my partners for a natural reaction.

ICBB:  Are most of your words prepared or is it spontaneous?
CK: I keep a folder of words when I’m reading books and I’ll put it in my notebook as I’m preparing for games. I make note of anything that might fit. I won’t force it, but I will keep it at the ready just in case I can use it.  I have some words and phrases I haven’t used for 18 or 19 years.

ICBB: What words have you used that caught your partners by surprise?
CK:  Spurtabilty: it’s a phrase I created. It’s when there’s a bunch of points scored in a short spurt. Like a 10-2 run in short period of time.

Gracile: it means willowy, slender and graceful. I threw it out to Jim Nantz during a Kentucky- Baylor game on Dec. 1st. A play followed where he tried to use the word and it didn’t work out too well.  (laughs)

ICBB: What is the toughest skill to grasp when working behind the mic?
CK:  Being able to get my thoughts narrowed down to concise windows and talk in sound bites effectively. I have to describe what I’m seeing for the viewer in a quick and vivid way.

ICBB: Watching some of the greatest basketball moments and telling stories about it. Your job sounds pretty awesome. Am I right?

CK: I remind myself of that on a regular basis. Almost every time I’m courtside I think about the privilege and joy of being around the game I love and to get paid for it. It’s part of my pre-game prayer. As the national anthem plays I give thanks.

ICBB: What was it like being on the set of Behind the Mic with some pretty big names?
CK: I love being in a conversation with my colleagues about basketball. And when I say colleagues, I mean those from every network because we are in the same fraternity. It was a lot of fun to hear their memories and experiences in this remarkable journey that we’ve all been in for a while.

Watch 75 Years: Behind The Mic (2 p.m. ET) with host Gumbel, Clark Kellogg, Jim Nantz, Bill Raferty, Dick Enberg, Greg Anthony and Gary Bender. Also, get in on the action by using the using the Twitter hash tag #MM75 or tweeting to @hoopsonCBS and your tweets could be featured on CBSSports.com.


Gumbel will also host other specials on CBS including:

- Top 10 Coaches – Saturday, Feb. 9 (12:30 p.m. ET) 

- Top 10 One-Hit Wonders – Saturday, Feb. 16 (12:30 p.m. ET)

- Top 10 Buzzer Beaters – Sunday, Feb. 17 (12:30 p.m. ET)

- Top 10 Upsets – Saturday, Feb. 23 (1:00 p.m. ET)

- Top 10 Champs That Never Were - Saturday, Feb. 23 (1:30 p.m. ET)







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