Monday, November 2, 2009

Thinking too much can get you in trouble

If you watch a lot of sports, you'll note that it always seems to be the easy, routine plays that cause the most trouble. That slow ground ball hit right at the shortstop goes right through his legs. The perfect pass that hits a wide open receiver dead in stride is dropped.

Athletes will tell you that they'd rather react to a play than think about it. That receiver waiting for the pass to come down has time to think. "I'm wide open and the whole stadium is watching me. Don't drop it."

And then he drops it.

Many times when you don't have to think, when you just react, you make the play.

I remember one time when I was doing morning weather. It was five minutes to air and the producer walked back to the weather center. "I need a huge favor," she said.

"Okay," I said.

She handed me the script for the one hour newscast. "Someone gave the anchor the day off and didn't schedule a replacement."

Now you have to understand I'm not a morning person. I'm not even in my body till noon, so filling in doing weather was always a chore. Now I was being asked to do both news and weather, with a script I'd never seen. (Meanwhile, I was pretty ticked that no one seemed to notice there wasn't an anchor in the building till five minutes till air.)

Not having a choice, I sat in the anchor chair with the script. The sports guy gave me a pat on the back and the red light came on. I read the prompter cold.

Next day a member of management told me I'd done a really nice job. "Really?" I said. Remember, I'm still asleep at that hour. But he was being sincere in his praise.

On that occasion I didn't have time to think and things went fine.

It seems that when you over think stuff, particularly on live shots, you run into trouble. Or you sound robotic. Or both.

When you're trying to be too perfect, you'll never get there. Oh, you may get through your script without a mistake, but when you look at the tape something will seem a little off.

So don't think too much. Relax as much as you can. Rehearse, but don't overdo it.

Eventually things will come naturally, and seem more routine. And when you're not thinking about it, that's when you'll nail that perfect live shot.

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