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American Magazine


Live From Bender

By Mike Unger

Photo: Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier

Washington Wizards' announcers Steve Buckhantz, left, and Phil Chenier broadcast some men's basketball games on Comcast SportsNet this year. 

With the NBA still in a lockout-induced slumber on December’s first night, Washingtonians looking to feed their TV hoops fix tuned in to AU basketball on Comcast SportsNet.

“The White House is a very popular piece of property tonight, but so too is the area around Mass and Nebraska Avenues, that’s where American University is starting to make some noise. Hi folks. From Bender Arena on the campus of AU, Steve Buckhantz with Phil Chenier, and it’s great to have you with us tonight.”

A return to campus was energizing for the local broadcasting duo, voices of the Washington Wizards. This season they announced four Eagles games for Comcast, and Buckhantz will team with sports journalist John Feinstein to do the January 21 game versus Army and February 15 contest against Navy.

“I watched [AU coach] Jeff Jones play in college, and I’ve called his games,” Buckhantz says. “I’m happy for the success he’s had. He’s really built something here.”

For the December 1 game against UMBC, Comcast producers and technical experts set up shop in a visitor’s locker room in Bender. Just outside sat Mark Natale ’14, one of several interns in the athletics department’s communications office who help air every AU home game in every sport on AUEagles.TV.

Natale’s job was to ensure a smooth transition from the game to commercials on AU’s streaming coverage.

“It’s cool for me to be able to listen to [the pros] and pick up pointers,” says Natale, a School of Communication student. “I came to this job without experience in anything, and now I’m producing.”

Michael Gardner is AU’s play-by-play man for several sports. Though he wasn’t calling the Eagles match-up with the Retrievers, he was in the arena keeping his eyes and ears open.

“It’s firsthand information from the professionals,” the sophomore says of observing Buckhantz and Chenier. “They’re sitting two chairs down. It’s an honor.”

AU ended up beating UMBC and gaining untold numbers of fans taking in the action from their sofas at home, and at least one new one watching — and working — courtside.

“It’s certainly a unique feeling to come to a college campus with the cheerleaders and the band and the school spirit,” Chenier says. “You see what Jeff is trying to do, and you see some of the players starting to grow. I’ll probably tune in myself to see how the guys are doing.”