Inspired by commentary legends, Arlo White treasures his handmade match day boards

Behind every great football match is a great commentator, and in front of every commentator is a set of notes. NBC Sports’ Arlo White and BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes have some of the best—and most unique—in the business.

In this extended issue 05 feature, we present a side of the commentary booth rarely seen. For part I, featuring Nick Barnes, click here.

All photographs by Henrik Knudsen for Eight by Eight.

CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_1CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_2NBC Sports’s lead football commentator Arlo White devised his system of note-taking from watching other commentators in action. He cites legendary commentator Barry Davies as a personal hero—and his notes, which White was once shown at Wembley Stadium, as an inspiration. “They were beautifully handwritten, detailed and meticulous,” he said.   CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_7During the match, White circles a player’s sticker to indicate a substitution, and uses a series of pens to highlight the information he has accrued. What do the colors mean? “I get asked that a lot,” he said. “The colors have no significance at all.” CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_3White and his team start mining information to fill the boards, which he will use during the two matches he calls every weekend, on Tuesdays. “Of course, the board is completely blank until an hour before the game when the starting XIs are announced,” he said. “Then it’s a sticker frenzy.” CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_4How much does White use his notes during an actual match? “Surprisingly little,” he said. “Football is continuous action, perpetual motion, so I’d risk missing something significant. I’d estimate 95% of information on each board never gets used.” CheatSheet_Web_Arlo_5White archives his notes in meticulous fashion after they are used, even calling himself the “Frasier Crane of football commentators.” So what makes them special? “My notes are proudly old-fashioned, just sticky labels and cardboard,” he said. “And I like it that way.” 
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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Fred Mertz says:

    His “brilliant” system is the names and numbers of each player, laid out in formation, with a few relevant facts and quotes? Arlo White is quite brilliant, but it surely doesn’t stem from a rather standard note system.

    • A Zee says:

      Where does it say that the system is “brilliant?”

    • Steven Hahn says:

      There is literally not one line in this feature that says White is brilliant for his note taking- stop trying to find fault in everything. I for one find this pretty fascinating seeing how the best prepare for match day. There are some commentators that are awful, then there are those like Arlo White, Kirk Herbstreit, Mike Breen, and Jeff Van Gundy that are excellent. It is interesting to see what separates them.

  • […] vor, also den Notizen, die sich die Sprecher machen, um alle nötigen Infos parat zu haben. Arlo White von NBC Sports ist mit einem tollen System dabei, und die unendliche Schönheit des Notebooks von Nick Barnes (BBC […]

  • Jack Harrington says:

    Arlo makes watching the match a true delight. This insight is fun and informative. Fred Mertz has been hanging around Ethel and Lucy too much. His brain is addled.

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