Sitting an otherwise empty table in the Chick Hearn Press Room at Staples Center this afternoon, Bob Miller fidgeted around with his 2012 Stanley Cup championship ring that weighed down his right hand.
“I might be the only person who has one who has worn it every day since last summer,” said the Kings’ Hall of Fame play-by-play man. “Some people have told me when I’m on camera holding the stick microphone with this hand, they can really see it shine on TV.”
With the blings of success, there still comes some steering through the blahs of reality.
At that moment, three hours before the Game 2 broadcast of the Kings-Sharks Western Conference semifinal series, Miller had no prep work to do. It was almost as if he was the official greeter in the press room, saying hello to everyone who came in to work.
As is the case that Kings’ fans finally came to grips with a season ago, NBC takes over all Stanley Cup playoff live game coverage from the local teams beyond the first round. John Forslund and Joe Micheletti have had the call on this series for the NBC Sports Network, leaving Miller and longtime analyst Jim Fox to fend for themselves.
Miller could have spent Game 2 sitting in the stands with his wife Judy, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Instead, it was easier to stay perched high in the media press box, focused on the action below, without anyone to broadcast to about it. For good reason, the Kings have stayed with longtime radio play-by-play Nick Nickson and analyst Daryl Evans for the broadcast on KTLK-AM (1150).
Just because Miller and Fox stumbled through the awkwardness of not having a game to call a year ago during the Kings’ improbable run that ended with a finals win over New Jersey last summer doesn’t make it easier to prepare for the scenario that it could happen again as long as these Kings decide to defend their title this May and June.
“I guess I’m still not used to it; it’s still weird,” said Miller, in his 40th season with the team. “Maybe it’s easier to accept based on how it went last year, and I know it’s not going to change, so I’ll do my best not to be upset about it. Doing it this way is much better than doing absolutely nothing, or not being in the playoffs at all. There were too many years of that.”
What keeps Miller and Fox engaged in the playoff run is an extended live post-game show each night, popping up after the NBC broadcast ends either on Fox Sports West or Prime Ticket.
Last post-season, Fox worked up in the press box doing social media live chats during the games. This time, he and usual game producer Steve “Hoover” Dorfman spend the game in the Fox production truck in the bowels of Staples Center watching the NBC feed as well as additional cameras that FSW has set up for the games.
It allows Fox to concentrate on key plays during the game, call for video replay and then diagram them on the Telestrator so they’re already in the computer system ready to pull up hours later.
If Fox saved 20 plays in the course of the game, six were used in the Game 1 show. Even then, nothing’s set in stone. As the Kings protected a two-goal lead in the third period, Fox had to leave the truck with five minutes to play and get to his studio booth for the show. In that time, the outcome could have changed, leaving him and Miller to divert from their gameplan and take a new direction in their analysis.
“The result is I get more views of the play as it happens, we see all the replays, we have some time during timeouts and between periods to set them all up, and it’s a much more professional presentation rather than doing so much of it from the seat of the pants,” said Fox.
“The purpose it to get as much visual proof of a critical moment that explains a theme or a trend that has carried itself out during a game, which is much different than if I was in the booth calling the game, thinking much more of the bigger picture and telling stories of what we were seeing.”
Again, it’s different, but not all that easier.
“From a nerves standpoint, I’d much rather be doing the live game,” said Fox. “I’m more engrossed the entire evening and there’s no time to get nervous. Now, I’m trying to concentrate on finding examples, and there’s still time for the mind to wander about the outcome of the game.”
Or getting too fidgety.