I was the play-by-play commentator during ESPN's broadcast of pizza sports on The Ocho Takeover. I covered pizza sports for seven years (not exclusively for ESPN). I currently work in an entirely different field. Ask me anything.Proof 1: https://ibb.co/NKtkhhXProof 2: (behind the scenes video) https://youtu.be/O7_s7aMQkmM

Comments: 344 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

Omgiseverythingtaken171 karma

Can you give examples of the "strange drama" you referenced earlier?

PizzaPlayByPlay165 karma

Without getting into too much detail, there was a big divisive split that happened years ago (long before my time), exacerbated by accusations of conflicts of interest. (Acrobatics, like figure skating, are subjective. People feel differently about outcomes of competitions.) I've heard stories of a big fistfight brawl breaking out at a bar in Italy once. But I'm happy to say in the modern era, that division is almost non-existent. Outside of the big chains, the pizza world is really small, and everyone knows everyone else. Pizza folks are great people. You really have to care about people to succeed as a restauranteur.

n8_sirly170 karma

Whenever I see ESPN the Ocho, I think of the movie dodgeball. Is this a real channel now?

PizzaPlayByPlay278 karma

Yes and No. Each year for the last three years, they transform one ESPN channel into The Ocho for 24 hours and broadcast eccentric and obscure sports. This was how Cornhole was first broadcast on ESPN, and proved so popular, they program Cornhole competitions on regular ESPN now.

fishcado44 karma

Yeah Isnt there some food company that sponsors this event too?

PizzaPlayByPlay48 karma

Basically yes.... Different events have different sponsors. The team itself has its own set of sponsors that sometimes are different than the sponsors of a specific event.

emcee_paz125 karma

What is pizza sports?

PizzaPlayByPlay213 karma

In a nutshell, largest dough stretch, fastest pie making, fastest box folding, freestyle acrobatic pizza dough spinning.

Comicspedia73 karma

I worked in a pizza place for a long time and took pride in how quickly I could cut a pizza. I thought it would be a lot of fun to participate in a speed contest for cutting, but does that not exist?

PizzaPlayByPlay95 karma

I think you just invented a new event. Speed slicing! But we'd have to sort out if rocker blades are legal.

KJ6BWB22 karma

You're missing the most important part of pizza making. Adding the toppings. True pizza ninjas run the pie down the counter and each hand reaches into different buckets as they go. A single hand passes over the pizza and with no waste bam the ingredients are perfectly and evenly spaced. It's poetry in motion, something beautiful to watch.

If you lack the topping challenge, it's not true pizza sports.

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

You make a compelling argument!

kronosaurusdev58 karma

Has there ever been anyone in the pizza world that’s just a standout athelete and on another level from anyone else? Like the equivalent of a Michael Jordan or Payton Manning but with pizza sports?

PizzaPlayByPlay83 karma

I apologise if this ends up posting three times but my connection is buggy and the response keeps disappearing. The GOAT is Tony Gemignani.

fighteracebob28 karma

What makes him so great? What sets Tony apart from the pack?

PizzaPlayByPlay48 karma

He's won more championships than anybody else, and it's not even close. He's won a LOT of culinary competitions as well.

zgreen053 karma

Is that the same tony from Tony’s in San Fran?

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

Yup.

PizzaPlayByPlay9 karma

Between freestyle acrobatics wins AND winning culinary contests, Tony Gemignani is the GOAT.

PizzaPlayByPlay7 karma

Tony Gemignani is the GOAT. It's not even close.

St_Bernardus42 karma

Can you tell the folks at ESPN to make a full time ocho channel and put it on twitch?

PizzaPlayByPlay57 karma

I suspect they wouldn't want it on Twitch since they're promoting their own streaming platform, ESPN+

redditman75731 karma

What is the coolest thing to happen to you at ESPN? Weirdest?

PizzaPlayByPlay71 karma

The coolest was hearing the guys on the Dan LeBatard show talking about the commentary and describing us as really knowing what we were talking about. And having ESPN themselves list our broadcast as the #1 thing on this year's The Ocho. The weirdest is probably the sport itself and the strange drama it can create.

TigzyWigzy29 karma

What's your favorite pizza?

PizzaPlayByPlay68 karma

I like Detroit style. That carmelized crust is everything. I also like a well executed wood fired pizza Margherita.

PizzaPlayByPlay6 karma

I like Detroit style. That carmelized crust is everything. I also like a well executed wood fired pizza Margherita.

buckwheatho27 karma

Would the competition dough be used for serving restaurant guests or is it made differently?

PizzaPlayByPlay36 karma

It's made differently. Still flour water salt yeast and oil, but in different ratios. You could make a pizza with it, but it would be bad.

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

It's different. It IS flour, water, salt, yeast and oil - the same as you would use in a pizzeria, but mixed in different ratios to make it more favorable to contests. You could make a pizza with it, but it would probably be very tough and salty.

floodo126 karma

How often do people know what you're talking about when you mention "pizza sports'? I'd never heard of it haha

PizzaPlayByPlay32 karma

They never know. It's pretty obscure.

Son_of_Kong21 karma

What is the greatest upset you have ever seen in a pizza-based competition?

PizzaPlayByPlay77 karma

There's a big World Pizza Championship in Parma Italy that's been going on for decades. Tusheng Huang, a freestyle acrobatics competitor from China, came from out of nowhere to do this b-boy style routine. Nobody really knew anything about him. I liked the kid, saw him doing practice tricks and thought he had something special, but didn't think he was at World Championship level until I saw him compete in the finals. He absolutely nailed every trick FLAWLESSLY, did some things nobody had ever seen and I thought "My God, he may really have this!" He got a monster score and to everyone's shock, he won, becoming the first world champion from China in any category.

BLMdidHarambe56 karma

Is this the routine?

https://youtu.be/W3afkSFoUxw

PizzaPlayByPlay32 karma

Wow, that's it! B-boy Sheng!

vtbeavens27 karma

That's some /r/nextfuckinglevel or /r/toptalent shit right there.

I just watched someone fling around pizza dough for 2 minutes...

PizzaPlayByPlay12 karma

There's a lot of great talent from all over. Italians like Luca Lanza. Juan Hermosillo from Mexico was amazing before injuries slowed him down. Japan's Takumi Tachikawa is phenomenal and has won the World Championship twice. It's sort of this amazing niche little thing that could be a really big viral deal, yet almost nobody knows about it.

PizzaPlayByPlay6 karma

There's a big World Pizza Championship in Parma Italy that's been going on for decades. Tusheng Huang, a freestyle acrobatics competitor from China, came from out of nowhere to do this b-boy style routine. Nobody really knew anything about him. I liked the kid, saw him doing practice tricks and thought he had something special, but didn't think he was at World Championship level until I saw him compete in the finals. He absolutely nailed every trick FLAWLESSLY, did some things nobody had ever seen and I thought "My God, he may really have this!" He got a monster score and to everyone's shock, he won, becoming the first world champion from China in any category.

PizzaPlayByPlay5 karma

There's a big World Pizza Championship in Parma Italy that's been going on for decades. Tusheng Huang, a freestyle acrobatics competitor from China, came from out of nowhere to do this b-boy style routine. Nobody really knew anything about him. I liked the kid, saw him doing practice tricks and thought he had something special, but didn't think he was at World Championship level until I saw him compete in the finals. He absolutely nailed every trick FLAWLESSLY, did some things nobody had ever seen and I thought "My God, he may really have this!" He got a monster score and to everyone's shock, he won, becoming the first world champion from China in any category.

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

There's a big World Pizza Championship in Parma Italy that's been going on for decades. Tusheng Huang, a freestyle acrobatics competitor from China, came from out of nowhere to do this b-boy style routine. Nobody really knew anything about him. I liked the kid, saw him doing practice tricks and thought he had something special, but didn't think he was at World Championship level until I saw him compete in the finals. He absolutely nailed every trick FLAWLESSLY, did some things nobody had ever seen and I thought "My God, he may really have this!" He got a monster score and to everyone's shock, he won, becoming the first world champion from China in any category.

Prinzlerr21 karma

What are your thoughts on the pineapple on pizza debate? Followup question: how dangerous are people that think pineapple should go on pizza?

PizzaPlayByPlay42 karma

I am not personally a fan. I would never put a pineapple on pizza. I don't think people that go for pineapple on pizza are dangerous. Perhaps just reckless.

OccamsElectricRazor10 karma

Hey Dr. What are doing now that you left the magazine?

PizzaPlayByPlay11 karma

I work in finance. (Marketing department.)

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

I work in finance. (Marketing department.)

looktheresafox10 karma

When will they lift the ban on throwing flaming doughs? That was by far the coolest thing I saw Scott do in Vegas

PizzaPlayByPlay11 karma

Who knows? Probably insurance adjusters are to blame.

redditman75710 karma

How cool is it to work at ESPN?

PizzaPlayByPlay39 karma

Although I don't work there full time and was a contracted talent, it's still a dream come true. My dad was really into sports. It was only well into adulthood I started to really enjoy mainstream pro sports and it was one of the things we connected on later in his life. My dad died the year before we got on ESPN, and it's a big regret that he never lived to see it. It's very surreal to be part of something you've watched for years.

BrothelWaffles8 karma

How would you score Bryan Cranston's pizza discus throw on Breaking Bad?

PizzaPlayByPlay20 karma

10/10 for cultural relevance. I actually talked to the lady that owns the real house. She wouldn't talk to me on record, but let me take a photo with her. She complained that jokesters would drive by and chuck frozen pizzas on her roof, and it was a PITA to get them down. Folks, please don't throw pizza on that nice lady's house!

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

10/10 for cultural impact. I actually talked to the lady that owns the real house once. She refused to go on the record, but did let me take a picture with her. She said jokers occasionally throw frozen pizzas on her roof and it's annoying. Please don't throw pizzas on the Breaking Bad house!

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

10/10 for cultural impact. I actually talked to the lady that owns the real house once. She refused to go on the record, but did let me take a picture with her. She said jokers occasionally throw frozen pizzas on her roof and it's annoying. Please don't throw pizzas on the Breaking Bad house!

blahjedi8 karma

Wait, The Ocho is a real thing and not just something made up for Dodgeball?

PizzaPlayByPlay10 karma

Each year, ESPN converts one of its real channels to ESPN 8: The Ocho for 24 hours as part of The Ocho Takeover and broadcasts really obscure sports. It's a lot of fun to watch.

PizzaPlayByPlay7 karma

Thanks for all the questions, guys. I'm logging off for the night but will check for comments and try to do a final round of answers in the morning.

i-invented-sex-697 karma

How did you get the position?

PizzaPlayByPlay26 karma

The company I worked for covers the trade aspect of the pizza industry in print and produces video content for Roku and the web. They partnered with a third party broadcast group that provides content to ESPN. The third party said we had to provide the commentary team. In internal meetings, I pushed for the gig because I had journalism experience, tv production experience, on camera experience and a radio background. I also can run my mouth for hours and never run out of things to say. I felt I could do a good job and my bosses gave me the opportunity. Everyone felt really good with the outcome, although I beat myself up on things I felt I could have done better, and worked to improve with each subsequent broadcast. As it turns out, having a big mouth came in really handy for once in my life.

squid50s7 karma

How'd you learn the names of all of the different moves in pizza spinning acrobatics?

PizzaPlayByPlay6 karma

I only know some of them from studying. There's instructional videos out there. My broadcast partner Jamie knows all of them.

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

There's instructional videos running around YouTube if you want to learn tricks. They tend to include the name of the trick. In truth, I don't know nearly as many as I should and let my broadcast partner, Jamie handle identifying a lot of them. He's a great acrobatic talent and equally great in the broadcast booth.

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

There are instructional videos on YouTube on how to do tricks. They identify the names of the tricks. In truth, I let my broadcast partner, Jamie Culliton do the heavy lifting as far as remembering them all.

MilitaryFish4 karma

What's the coolest pizza you ever tried? Worst?

PizzaPlayByPlay16 karma

Coolest is situational. I accompanied the US Pizza Team to Pizzeria Antica Port'Alba in Napoli where pizza was invented and had the guy whose family invented pizza show us around, make us pizza and explain why you really can't get the same pizza outside of the region. (Volcanic Ash from Vesuvius in the soil makes tomatoes grown there different than anywhere else, and the region is too small to provide REAL DEAL tomatoes San marzano to everyone in the world). The official story is that pizza was created at a restaurant called Brandi, but Port'Alba was producing what we now know as pizza earlier than that event. The pizza was really good, and it was special because we were really at the roots and having food made by the family that created what is now a world wide phenomenon. You felt a sense of condensed history and how small the world is. Btw, on this same trip we also went to Brandi and they were total jerks to us.

Worst pizza was probably pizza with durian on it in China. For one, durian is a smelly, nasty fruit that's an acquired taste. Two, they don't really have good cheese in China. (Or tomatoes for that matter.)

hidyho19874 karma

Do you remember the members of the US Pizza Team from Gassville, Arkansas? Nima's Pizza is their business and they have really good pizza.

PizzaPlayByPlay7 karma

Yes! I've had the privilege of traveling with a few times. I've been to their place in Gassville. It's a beautiful area. Jane Mines is an absolutely brilliant culinary talent.

Voxicious4 karma

What, in your opinion, was the most difficult challenge in acquiring a long term position as a commentator.

PizzaPlayByPlay9 karma

Well to begin with, broadcasting wasn't really a long-term position. My seven years of covering pizza sports was mostly for a trade industry magazine. While we did produce non-live content for the company's subsidiary Roku channel and the web, the company only signed a deal with a partner to provide broadcast content to ESPN in the last year I was working for them. Since I had a lot of on-camera experience, a background in live radio, and a gift for running my mouth, the commentary duties seemed like a natural fit.

pants67893 karma

Worst pizza you ever paid for?

PizzaPlayByPlay8 karma

I don't remember the name of it, which town it was in or even which state, but it was a little shop with a map of Italy as their sign/logo. And absolutely nothing was good. The mushrooms were canned, the dough was abysmal, the sauce was straight up whack. They were really really proud of it, though.

EpicMatt283 karma

Is pizzagate real?

PizzaPlayByPlay5 karma

Actually my colleague did a story on that pizzeria. From what I understand there was a photo that leaked that started a LOT of crazy rumors. The photo in question involved the child of one of the owners' friends duct taped to a table leading to wild speculation of what was going on. From what I understand, in actuality.... the kid was just being a goofy kid doing goofy kid stuff and wanted to duct tape herself to the table out of boredom. The adults thought it was funny. Next thing you know there's crazy rumors about child slave cults in the basement. My colleague confirmed it does not have a basement.

enigmatic-ecstatic3 karma

Good to see the Doctor in the house! If you were to build a pizza sports playlist, what songs would be on it?

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

Full playlist? I have no earthly idea. I'd find an excuse to put The Clash on any playlist, however. Probably some old school hip hop as well.

punkrockabilly3 karma

I collect rockabilly records. Looks like the Sun label behind you. What 5 45s you got there?

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

"Folsom Prison Blues" Johnny Cash, "Blue Suede Shoes" Carl Perkins, "Ooby Dooby" Roy Orbison and "Great Balls of Fire" Jerry Lee Lewis.

Avtrofwoe3 karma

I used to work for infinite illusions and we had someone with the last name of Pond perform a Pizza routine at the World Yoyo Championships. Is he still involved?

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

I'm not familiar with that person.

Avtrofwoe3 karma

He was a US Junior champion on the pizza team. But it was with the rubber dough

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

Oh wait, this rings a bell. I work in a different field now and am not up to date on who all is involved in what. I try to follow it on social media and my former co-workers sometimes text me, but I miss a lot of it.

hilwil2 karma

Is there a standardized dough style or can you make it however you want?

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

Competitors can bring their own dough for freestyle acrobatics, as they may have a formulation preference or size preference or some other artistic choice (special shapes or colors), but due to the difficulty of travel and refrigeration, most of them don't. Overseas, they tend to make the freestyle dough on location as they don't trust the venue to have quality dough that won't disintegrate from heat or poor formulation. The other events all require competitors to use the same dough for consistent weight.

NCTrumpFan2 karma

Three questions:

  1. Do you believe ESPN is a legitimate sports network, and why?
  2. Do you believe Monday Night Football should return to ABC, why or why not?
  3. Why hasn't this been covered on ABC's Wide World of Sports?

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

  1. Yes.
  2. Monday night football FEELS like it should be a broadcast network event. It makes it seem special. But maybe it only feels that way because I'm old and nostalgic.
  3. I don't know.

Sigmar_Heldenhammer2 karma

How old is that guitar? It looks nice.

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

It's a 1959 Kay

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

1959 Kay

sets_011 karma

[deleted]

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

My old job paid my bills, took me around the world multiple times, gave me incredible growth and experiences I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, helped put me through college, and introduced me to lifelong friends. I can't speak for my employers' ROI on the whole thing, but if it was wasting time and resources, it wasn't mine. I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything.

Foray2x11 karma

What's your favorite frozen pizza brand?

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

Totinos for value. I mean.... it's practically a dollar, and if you oven bake it, it's flaky and crispy. Is it good? No. Is it good for about a dollar? Heck yes!

littlewootiewoo1 karma

How did you first get into pizza sports? It seems like it’s frequently a family thing. Was the magazine you referenced PMQ?

Bonus question. I went to high school with Chris Green (and his sis). Is he not the coolest dude?

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

I got into pizza sports by way of working for a media company that sponsored events and covered them. It's not really a family thing. It's more pizzeria based. There's a lot of pizzerias that have more than one person that compete. It's good publicity if you got a person that medals or wins a competition. It's easy to get local press in a small media market because it makes for good spectacle. But really, winning an award at a culinary event is better for business. People will order an award winning pizza to see what the fuss is about.

Newwackydeli1 karma

I used to live in the neighborhood with a guy named Chris Green who I saw in a parade years later throwing pizza dough. Same neighborhood the pizzaTV van was always parked 7 houses up from me. I love pizza but have never watched a competition. I know what I’m doing tonight.

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

Was the van white?

Newwackydeli1 karma

Yes! My friends and I would freak out if we saw it driving around town.

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

Hahaha, I totalled that van in Las Vegas. #rip

iamdefinetlynotaweeb1 karma

Do you watch jojo?

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

Not familiar with that.

variants1 karma

Having a USPT implies that there are other countries involved. Is the USPT the only national team?

PizzaPlayByPlay5 karma

There used to be. You'd see a lot of people branding themselves as a national team at the World Pizza Championship. It's kind of evolved into an individual thing now with teams being far less common - or at least not organized by nation. Spain seems to have a big delegation every year. The United States Pizza Team exists as a collaborative of individuals. It's sort of like a wrestling team. They compete individually, but it's DEFINITELY a team effort. These people become lifelong friends and form a supportive network both in pizza competitions and in business. I know it seems like weird or goofy spectacle from the outside, but if you see it from the inside like I have, it's a really inspiring thing.

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

at the World Pizza Championship, it used to be more common that there would be teams under a national banner. You really don't see that as much anymore, although Spain always has a large delegation.

solidsnake20851 karma

What?

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

iknowrite?

Werdna2351 karma

What's the story on that beautiful Silvertone?

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

It's a 59 Kay. I also have a 1953 Silvertone 1356, a Silvertone 1446 "Chris Isaak guitar", a Harmony Jupiter and two identical Harmony Hollywoods. I've loved old department store guitars for a long time. It was a real pain that Dan Auerbach and Jack White made them cool, cause it jacked the prices on everything way up.

Werdna2351 karma

A friend just gave me his father's Kay. It has a cool white silvertone logo headstock, but I haven't been able to identify the year or model number.

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

If you throw pics of it on the internet in the right message board or subreddit, somebody will identify it instantly. Lot of good information out there on those old department store guitars.

novad0se1 karma

What is your favorite category of the pizza competition?

Favorite sports commentator?

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

Favorite category is Freestyle Acrobatics.
Favorite sports commentator all time is probably Howard Cosell.
Other favorites include Doris Burke, Marv Albert, Al Michaels and the late Fred McLeod. I really enjoy Jeff Van Gundy for embracing the almost "heel" role of always arguing a foul wasn't a foul or taking the contrary opinion. In MMA, I really liked the old WEC cards where Frank Mir would be on commentary. He was great at explaining strategy, and I felt they should've used him on broadcasts more. In pro wrestling I actually liked the brief period WWE used Matt Striker on commentary. He was really underrated. One of my biggest influences is actually Tim Kitzrow, the voice of NBA Jam. I've spent years yelling his catchphrases at basketball games.

novad0se1 karma

Thanks for answering! I watch a ton of basketball for your comment about Jeff Van Gundy made me chuckle.

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

Oh I forgot Teddy Atlas! Love that accent and his metaphors are hilarious. (One-sided fight) "He's driving down the road with his car on cruise control." (Later in the one-sided fight) "Now he's got the windows down and the radio on!"

housethemous1 karma

What do you think of Caliente Pizza & Draft House based in Pittsburgh, PA? I know they won a ton of international awards.

They are by far my favorite pizza place and I've tried a lot.

PizzaPlayByPlay2 karma

I know some of their people, and they're great people - but in truth, I've never made it there to actually go eat. Hopefully one of these days.

PizzaPlayByPlay1 karma

I know their people and can say they got great people, but in truth I've never made it there to eat.

Mhykael1 karma

Why do you not have a Pizza eating contest? I have been training all my life for that. Literally, in the womb craving pizza.

PizzaPlayByPlay5 karma

There have been some in the past hosted by Major League Eating, I believe. I've pitched it several times to the Powers that Be that organize the events I've covered that we should add eating contests or categories. It was always met with resistance. Some of the competitors themselves have given me pushback suggesting they don't want to be associated with competitive eating. I never understood why.

Cydia_Gods-1 karma

What the fuck was any of the title?

Edit: that was rude of me.

PizzaPlayByPlay9 karma

Pizza pairs well with salad and I felt a word salad would suffice.

joeyeegee2 karma

Caesar or Garden?

PizzaPlayByPlay3 karma

Garden.

Raxnor-8 karma

So which liberal arts college did you go to?

PizzaPlayByPlay4 karma

Harvard. #gocrimson