Image: Doug Collins
Doug Mills  /  AP
Former NBA coach Doug Collins is the voice you hear dissecting the game on television when the U.S. men's basketball team plays in Beijing, but he's not the only color commentator working for NBC.
By
Associated Press Sports
updated 8/22/2008 1:46:43 PM ET 2008-08-22T17:46:43

Former NBA coach Doug Collins is the voice you hear dissecting the game on television when the U.S. men's basketball team plays in Beijing, but he's not the only color commentator working for NBC.

The other sits at a desk in a Stamford, Conn., office building with a television set, computer screen and keyboard in front of him.

As part of its Olympics coverage on NBCOlympics.com, the network is experimenting with bloggers who type live commentary as some events progress. Collins is a former Olympian, NBA player and coach; commentator Steve Alexander is an editor for a fantasy league Web site owned by NBC Universal.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft).

"I like to throw my opinion out there,'' said Alexander, 40, a former mutual funds salesman and sports fanatic who bugged the editors at Rotoworld.com until they finally gave him a job.

He didn't know what he was getting into until his boss told him to clear his calendar for August.

A visitor to NBC's Web site who wanted to watch Friday's semifinal game between the U.S. and Argentina could open a window that shows live video without any announcers. The squeak of sneakers on the court is audible, along with coaches yelling at the players and the crowd cheering a slam dunk.

It's almost like being at the game - without the loud opinions of the guy in the next row.

Two boxes under the video offer play-by-play and live commentary. A computer generates the play-by-play (Chris Bosh #12 (USA) gets rebound) while Alexander types commentary in a separate box. Alexander switches off games with Mike McCollow, a Fox Sports employee and former assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors.

The online coverage is still in its infancy. The live picture was plagued by stops and starts, and a computer user had to occasionally refresh the browser when the written commentary froze.

But Alexander and McCollow provide information that wouldn't be evident from the live feed, such as pointing out that Manu Ginobili had been absent from Argentina's bench due to an apparent injury.

They occasionally repeat what the video or play-by-play provides ("Bogut misses the free throw,'' Alexander wrote during the U.S. game with Australia). But there are also some provocative opinions.

During the Australia game, for example, Alexander wrote that U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski "won't admit it, but he loves when (Jason) Kidd gets into foul trouble. It gives him a chance to put Chris Paul into the game.''

At another point, Alexander wrote that Krzyzewski was not happy with how his team was playing.

"They need to settle down and start taking high percentage shots,'' he wrote.

"I've done nothing but study pro basketball for the last six years,'' he told The Associated Press. "I think I'm really qualified for the job.''

He said he tries to inject humor into the commentary and not take himself seriously.

While Collins is courtside in Beijing, Alexander sits in a nondescript office half a world away. At least there's a fast food restaurant across the street.

"A lot of guys cover NBA games sitting at the top of the stands,'' he said. "I don't know if you have more of an advantage sitting in the rafters or watching it on TV.''

It has not been as hard as he was worried about to keep track of who was making shots or committing fouls, he said. NBC provided him with thorough research on the players involved on all the Olympics teams.

When the U.S. faces Spain in Sunday's gold medal game, Alexander said he and McCollow are trying to figure out a way to do the game together.

"I don't think there's much of a chance that they're going to lose,'' he said. "If the U.S.A. men's and women's basketball teams don't win it all, I think it will be a bigger upset than the U.S. women's softball team losing to Japan.''

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