Print Edition: March 25, 2015
Aaron Levy, CIVL station manager, and Jaslyen Singh (Jazz), a former UFV women’s basketball player: these are the two voices of the UFV broadcasting team. They had the call on every single UFV men’s and women’s basketball home game this season. For Levy, this is old hat; he has been calling UFV basketball games for the past five seasons and has seen the careers of influential players like Sarah Wierks and Jasper Moedt from start to finish. For Jazz, this was an entirely new experience, unlike anything that she had done before. I got the chance to sit down with both Aaron and Jazz to see if I could get a little insight into some of the secrets behind their craft.
NH: For you, Jazz, how did this opportunity present itself? After just finishing a three-year career last season?
JS: I got a message from Aaron out of the blue on Facebook and he asked me if I would be interested in broadcasting the games. At first I thought it was a joke, but then I got pretty excited.
NH: Now that the season is over, can you reflect on what your first year of broadcasting was like?
JS: Overall it’s been a crazy experience. It’s been a lot of fun working with Aaron — I learned a lot. It’s really nice to take a step back from playing and just watch everybody play. I feel like I was kind of bad sometimes on certain plays.
AL: You’re saying as a player you can see your mistakes from a different angle now?
AL: Wow, interesting.
NH: Jazz, you played for a couple years on this UFV team. How did your success at the CIS level contribute to you as a broadcaster?
JS: I think I came in knowing a lot of the players and a lot of the teams and their history — that really helped. I still have my old playbook from playing with Al [Tuchscherer, head coach of the women’s basketball team], so I had a pretty good idea about what they were running. It came a lot more naturally than I expected.
NH: Jazz, is this something that you are looking to do next year as well?
JS: I would love to do it next year. Other than that I think I have to work on my skills if I want to take it up to the next level. For now, I am enjoying my time with Aaron and learning a lot from him.
AL: I don’t know if you have to take yourself up to the next level — you just have to give up on all your hopes and dreams.
JS: I would have to learn how to grow more as a commentator. I would have to listen to more NBA people and have a lot more energy — maybe even some catchphrases. That would be pretty cool.
AL: She has, too, “become a nerd.”
JS: Like you, Aaron; you spit out stats twenty-four seven.
NH: Can you both talk about the preparation that you would need in order to do a weekend’s slate of games?
JS: I would spend like an hour Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday looking at both teams, their rosters, and the games they’ve played so far this year, stats, and any other articles I could find. When Aaron came in he would show me a lot of different websites. We would usually meet up on the Friday and prepare together for at least an hour. I found I didn’t have to prepare as much for the girls because I knew most of them, but for the men, it was a complete shock. I really struggled with the pronunciation of their names — that was probably the toughest part.
AL: Jazz prepared as much and as effectively as her 60-something-year-old predecessor [Dave Piotrowski], who has master’s degrees and was a Carleton Raven in the Stone Age, when there were dinosaurs. She’s got a work ethic; it really shows the Mouat — and Coach Al — pedigree.
NH: Aaron, is watching film ever a part of your preparation?
AL: I watch every game after I broadcast it. I watch every away game. I watch generally if it’s a team I’ve never seen before; I will watch their broadcasts from other games what other schools have done. I watch and re-watch good and bad calls that we’ve done or I’ve done in the past. I do actually like watching the other broadcasts to see what I like about other broadcasts, what I don’t like about other broadcasts, what I see in my broadcasts that are similar — good or bad. [I look for] what I can tell my partner. It’s not like I gave Dave too many tips. That was more because I wasn’t planning. I knew this year that I kind of had to direct the bus. With me and Dave it was fluid, it kind of just flew. I think it does with me and Jazz now, but I think it took work to make her comfortable, and let her know that it can just flow … it does take work to make sure that you know where you want to go and where your partner is ready to go.
JS: I think it really started to come together in the last three weeks. I think that’s when I was really comfortable with Aaron and that’s when we had a huge change in our broadcasts with the flow. It was just a lot nicer to listen to.
AL: Yeah, it took me a while to read how she reacts to certain things. The Regina coach, Dave Taylor, he loved her ripping on me for how old I am and bringing out all these old sports references — people from before she was born. Or like Ty Cobb, who was before my grandparents were born. She goes for the things that you don’t want people to know about you; she pulls those out of me like in the broadcast. Remember when I turned beet red?
JS: Yeah! And I rip on you when you cry. He is so emotional I can’t even handle it.
AL: It was a crying season.
JS: You with your Facebook rants. It was so much fun to work with you. You really are a big brother — a super emotional big brother, but a good big brother.
NH: Aaron, you’ve been watching and broadcasting basketball games for years. Can you talk a bit about the evolution of the teams as far as the style of play goes?
AL: They are physically dominating. They are more skilled than a UFV team has been for a while. Sure, we had Joel Friesen and Sam Freeman who were three-point specialists — and it’s not like Sam never went inside, and Joel definitely did — but I feel like with Kadeem and Nate, even with the addition of Dom this year, the team is more athletically capable in comparison to other teams over the years. They wouldn’t have been able to back down 6’10” [Victoria standout] Chris McLaughlin five years ago, even in his first year; I think it would have been a different story.
NH: What’s your proudest moment as broadcasters?
JS: Probably when I could keep up with him and when he brings out the old comments from like the ’80s and the ’90s. I’m like, “Yeah, I remember that” after reading a little in my history books. Other than that, no, the whole season was exciting, so I don’t have a specific time.
AL: My best basketball moment is Joel Friesen’s [three-pointer]. I can’t say anything else. Look it up: Friesen buzzer beater on YouTube.
JS: I wonder how many views it has by now?
AL: Only about 7,000.
JS: 1,000 are your own, just listening to yourself.
AL: Yeah, probably. And all the people I have shown it to in Ontario.
NH: What’s been your most embarrassing moment?
AL: The Calgary weekend when she told me I was yelling at her and I got beet red.
JS: I think for him I’m going to call him out on his worst moment. It was when he started crying in the last home game.
AL: No, that was a great moment.
JS: I wouldn’t call it a great moment.
AL: That should be your worst moment for not crying.
JS: I’m not as emotional as him for someone in his 30s.
AL: I’m not in my 30s yet!
JS: I think my worst moment was when I actually listened to my own voice, and I was like, “That’s not great.” I laugh a lot and my parents told me not to laugh as much. That was like the first month and a half of broadcasting. I think that was my worst.
NH: I notice a few unique and funny catchphrases when listening to broadcasters, like “fluffy bunny” for a soft, easy lay-up. What are some of your favourites? Do you want to coin any yourself?
AL: So I’ve been developing the “Envision bank” kind of thing this year.
JS: Developing? You said it every game this year.
AL: Yeah, but I’m trying to make it better — that’s how I’m developing it. What I was really pleased with was when we beat the Dinos … and I said, “And that’s the way she wrote it.” That’s what I want to work on this year. See, history, his story or her story. “That’s all she wrote”; “She wrote it like that”; “That’s her story.” I want to work on that at the end of the game when someone has a record-breaking day or they get an important win: “And that’s the way she wrote it, her story.”
JS: My dad wants me to add in a little brown flavour, like “shakalaka.” For my catchphrase next year maybe I’ll get more enthusiastic, like, “Ayeeh,” or something like that.
NH: What does it take to be an effective broadcaster?
AL: You’ve got to know your shit.
JS: Which Aaron told me I didn’t at the beginning of the season.
AL: No, I told her, “You do know your shit.” Dave Petrowski — legendary broadcaster and coach, my Abbotsford / Carleton father — quits, he retires, and the thing I said to Rocky and Alicia and everybody involved at UFV at the time was, “You find me someone who knows basketball and I don’t care about the rest; I will turn them into a good broadcaster.” I think that Jazz has become a good broadcaster; she is a good broadcaster. But that’s what you need: to know your shit. If you know your shit and you are confident — that’s probably the biggest thing we worked on this season, is Jazz being confident when I talk so much. I talk over her. She could be like, “Oh, I’ll just let the guy talk,” but she needs to be poised and ready to talk, and I think she is now.
JS: A good commentator is someone like Aaron, who you want to listen to. One of the reasons my parents were so gung-ho about this is because they had listened to Aaron for the three years I had been on the team. Him and Dave together made the games exciting. My parents wouldn’t come to the gym to watch me play because they would rather listen. It is also about making it fun, easy, and exciting for the viewers.