Behind The Scenes

Final horn at Women’s Final Four signals more work, different sports for broadcast team and director

ESPN play by play announcers Dave O'Brien and Doris Burke. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
ESPN play by play announcers Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

NEW ORLEANS — Last night’s NCAA Women’s National Title game victory by UConn signified the end of the college basketball season. But for members of ESPN’s broadcast team, that end is a beginning — starting tonight.

Play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien is on the call for the Red Sox radio network as Boston hosts Baltimore; Doris Burke goes from color analyst last night to NBA sideline reporter for tonight’s Brooklyn-Boston game (8 p.m., ESPN); and director Michael Schwab helms the second half of ESPN’s NBA doubleheader as Denver hosts San Antonio, with Dave Pasch and Hubie Brown on the call.

ESPN director Mike Schwab (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
ESPN director Mike Schwab (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN)

There is no rest for the weary, but you won’t find these true sports fans at heart complaining.

“It doesn’t matter how little sleep [I had], where the game is, what time I have to set a wake up call for, what city,” Burke said. “If they’re tipping off, I want to be there. So I can’t wait to get to Boston for [tonight’s] game.”

O’Brien — who is surely one of the busiest play-by-play commentators in the industry — is on pace to match the 215 games he called last year (between ESPN and Red Sox assignments).

“If it were work, that would be one thing, but every game is an absolute blast,” O’Brien said. “[Tuesday night] I’m on the floor calling a national basketball championship and [tonight] at 7 p.m. I’ll be at Fenway Park to call the first pitch for Red Sox-Orioles. There’s not a single day that feels like work.”

“Sports television is a perfect job when you’re passionate about both sports and TV,” Schwab said. “And, I love directing. Is it crazy? Yes. Is it stressful? Not really. I’d say I feel more responsibility than stress — responsibility to all the people who’ve worked hard in preparing for a show, no matter what aspect that may be.

“The other part that alleviates some of that craziness is my co-workers on the road,” he said. “They’re just as passionate and dedicated. With everyone involved and prepared, ‘stress’ just becomes an opportunity to excel.”

One season ends, others roll on and ESPN’s dedicated professionals head to their next assignment.

“Miracles and magic moments happen in sports,” O’Brien said. “And I want to be there when they do. That’s what makes it so much fun.”

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