July 10, 2008
Dante Marchitelli (far right) and George Galante are ready to go. They sit down in their chairs, put their headsets on, and sort through the papers in front of them. It's about time for tip-off in the first summer league game of the day.
"3,2,1," Marchitelli says smoothly into his headset, as he begins to introduce the day's action. A few more seconds go by, and Marchitelli realizes there is a problem. "Let's go ahead and turn this on," he says as he reaches for the power switch on the control panel.
Welcome to summer league broadcasting.
If you've watched any of the summer league action this week, you've probably been wondering who the two guys doing the commentary are. Marchitelli, the play-by-play guy, is a jack-of-all trades in the Magic's media department, providing sideline reports for the team's radio and television broadcasts, as well as occasionally hosting the team's local weekly wrap-up show. Galante, the color commentator/e-mail reader, is the Magic's Director of Communications.
Over the course of the week, these two have developed a cult-like following on the Internet, by providing witty, sometimes off the wall descriptions, of what is going on during the game, and anything else that pops into their heads, or their inbox.
Before the Bulls-Magic game started, the Magic's website, which also serves as the official home for summer league action, had already surpassed 1,000,000 hits over the last two days. Almost as importantly for Marchitelli and Galante was the fact that they had received over 2,800 e-mails since play began on Monday, many of which they read on the air. "We'll read anything that comes in," Marchitelli joked.
In the first game alone, the pair fielded e-mails about Jason Giambi's mustache, Eva Longoria's looks, and Chuck Norris' awesomeness.
They were also offered a job by a guy who wanted to hire the pair to follow him around and provide commentary about his life, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000, and were asked by another e-mailer if one of them would consider marrying his sister.
One of the pair's favorite e-mails of the day came from a woman, who asked the guys to give Joakim Noah her phone number. She actually sent the number in an e-mail, saying she had met Noah at a Gainesville restaurant a while back. (When told of this development, Noah responded, "Is she hot?" When I told him that the girl said she was a blonde twin, he played it off. "It's good," he said jokingly about the e-mail, "It's good for my confidence." For the record, I don't think Noah had a clue who she was, and to Marchitelli and Galante's credit, they did not read the number on the air.)
So how did these two guys end up becoming the voices of the summer league?
Two years ago, the Magic started streaming the feed of summer league games on their website, the only problem was there was nobody there to call the action. "People were e-mailing in saying it's just really hard to follow," Galante said. "All you're seeing is a grainy picture from a coaches' cam ... you can't tell who the guys are. (People asked) Can you get somebody at least to go up there and say who the guys are?"
At first the pair tried to call the action as straight as possible, like any other professional broadcasting duo. "It lasted for about 15 minutes," Galante said. "Because the basketball just really was not that good."
Or as Marchitelli put it, "We were bored to death."
So the pair started joking around during the broadcasts, and haven't really stopped since. At first, they were only supposed to call the games that the Magic were in, but they decided that if they were going to provide commentary, they should do it for every game. "(We thought) if we're gonna go up there, why don't we just do 'em all, have some fun with it, Marchitelli said.
The popularity of their summer league broadcasts, convinced the duo that there was an outlet for their brand of basketball commentary. Before the beginning of the '07-'08 season they started the Dante and Galante Show, a weekly podcast series, in which the pair interviews a different basketball personality each week.
"If (fans) want to get straight basketball stuff, there's 10,000 outlets that they can get straight basketball stuff," Galante said.
If they want to know whether Dwight Howard would rather wear a t-shirt on a first date that said "Who cut the cheese," or "I'm with Stupid," the Dante and Galante show is where they turn.
Because of the relationship they have with the players, almost nothing is out of bounds, giving fans a chance to hear a different side of the athletes. "We know (the players) as people because we're fortunate enough to work for the team, Galante said. "Joe Fan doesn't get that opportunity, Joe Fan just sees what is out there in the mass-media, (the podcasts) are just a different outlet for people."
The key to Dante and George's success is that they don't take themselves or the games too seriously. While Marchitelli admits to googling each player's name to get some background information on them, most of the time they don't even talk about the game. When asked by one e-mailer what they planned to do on their next vacation, Galante responded quickly. "I'm going to Vegas in a few weeks, and I'm going to treat my body like an amusement park."
The other key is the interaction they have with the fans. They are the first play-by-play team I have ever seen that uses the Internet to constantly communicate with viewers. Most broadcasters will read a couple of e-mails on the air, and then that's the end of it for the night. Marchitelli and Galante are constantly reading e-mails, getting instant responses from viewers all over the world. Like almost everything else pertaining to their summer league broadcasting careers, the rise of reading hilarious e-mails on the air almost happened by accident. "The first couple e-mails were all straight" Galante said. "What do you think about Tyrus Thomas? What do you think about Lebron James? Then we got one just randomly that was like, "I'm having a big dinner tonight with my girlfriend, I'm trying to figure out how I should cook salmon, how should I cook the salmon," and then it just went from there ..."
Both men realize how lucky they are to be able to do this for the week. They know that most fans would do just about anything to be able to call a game with their buddy. "We were all in college, and we all sat around with our buddies and watched a game and made smart-ass comments through the whole game," Galante said. "That's basically what I'm doing, I'm up here with my buddy and we're watching the game and we're being smart asses, it's the same thing."
"But," Marchitelli wisely adds, it's being broadcast."
That, it most definitely is. By the time I left the duo's perch, high above the floor, Marchitelli and Galante had received almost 1,200 e-mails during the first game, bringing their total for the week up over 4,000. As I walked back down the steps and towards the floor, I remembered something George had said during the broadcast, and it had me laughing for the rest of the day. "We're uniting the world," he said. "One bad minute of basketball at a time."
Can't beat the summer league.