Can't Use the Tape? Reenact It With Toys! Arcane rules prohibit showing highlights of some NCAA games. North Carolina's Penn Holderness responded by doing what any sportscaster would do — he borrowed his daughter's stuffed animals and got to work.

Penn Holderness discusses his unique highlight reels

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When an NCAA basketball tourney game ends and lot of people like to watch the highlights, that's not really breaking any news in any way. And in a place like North Carolina, home to powerhouses like Duke and UNC, can you imagine how many people turn to their local news just waiting to hear all that sports verbiage about the big dance and some kind of swish to the rim? And now imagine all those people really bummed out.

Buried in the rulebooks, the NCAA rules prohibit stations from showing highlights of some completed games if the other games are still in progress. Recently, that rule presented an interesting dilemma for the sports director of a local TV newscast in North Carolina whose viewers want to know what happened to their Tarheels and their Blue Devils. Here's what any clever sportscaster does. He borrowed his daughter's stuffed animals and re-enacted the games himself.

Mr. PENN HOLDERNESS (Sports Director, NBC 17 Raleigh, North Carolina): The Blue Devils' thriller with Belmont ended two hours ago, but there's this pesky NCAA regulation that says you can't show highlights of the game until all the games are over. So I'd be breaking the law if I showed you Duke highlights right now - unless I stole a couple of my daughter's dolls. Let's do this - Duke and Belmont, the doll version.

STEWART: As you might expect, videos of the broadcast and others like it are making the rounds on YouTube. The man behind this joins us now. Penn Holderness is the sports director at NBC 17 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi, Penn.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Hey. What's up?

STEWART: Hey, for the record, do you really use your kid's dolls?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: About half of them, yes. The goal was given to us as a present for her first birthday, I don't know, a few months ago. So, yeah, without Lola's help, I don't think I could have done this.

STEWART: And where do the other half come from? I'm frightened to ask.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: I send out a station-wide email saying I'm sick of this rule, can I borrow some dolls? And of course, I got a lot of real smart-alecky responses.

STEWART: I'm sure you did. Very popular in the lunchroom. So hey, when did the idea come to you?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Well, I did something similar when I was in Orlando, working as a sports director there. The Orange Bowl was on, and the University of Florida was playing and I found a guy who did - you remember the old electric football games?


Mr. HOLDERNESS: Little vibrating, you know. So I used that and back then there was no Internet, so I didn't get much response because no one was watching. As probably no one was watching the Carolina-Duke highlights I was doing because they were all watching basketball. I kind of just assume I can get away with this or whatever and now there's this worldwide interweb and everyone sees it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Ah, the kids like the YouTube. They'll forward it around. So, just basically how do you illustrate highlights with the dolls? I mean, is it, I noticed it's not just your hands down on the floor making the stuffed frog dribble down.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Yeah, you kind of have to convince some of the floor directors, Alison, you've worked in TV, some of the - one of the actual directors, it was pre-taped, I was like hey, do you mind helping me out with some dolls? And they guy's like, this is not part of my job description.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Union! I need to get to the union handbook.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Right, thank goodness it's not a union station, because otherwise I would have been completely hosed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: All right, so this story's a little bit visual, so I'm going to play a little bit of what these highlights sound like. And then I'm going to ask you to describe what it looks like. Let's play the highlights briefly.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Hansbrough unstoppable in the first, going up for the dunk. Mountaineer defender, terrified! You know what's going to happen, oh, he gets smashed and big dunk by Hansbrough. Twenty-one points in 26 minutes for him.

STEWART: OK, who was the defender?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Well, the defender was a little chicken, a tiny little chicken that had a really scared look on his face that my producer Michael Justice (ph) found at a dollar store. It was perfect. And Tyler Hansbrough was played by Jason Voorhees.

STEWART: Oh, a Jason doll with the whole mask, right?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Oh, yeah, right. There was this Goth chick at my station who has life-sized, not life-sized, but very large Jason Voorhees dolls. And Mike Myers dolls and she brought that by. His nickname is Psycho T, so it was ideal that we use Jason Voorhees. For those of you who don't know, that's the Jason from "Friday the 13th."

STEWART: All right, anybody else involved there?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: No, just Jason and the chicken and that was their highlights.

STEWART: OK, well, that's the way it should be, just Jason and the chicken, of course.


STEWART: Forgive me for following up.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: I think that there's a t-shirt that says that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Have you - what's the response been?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Well, I'm on NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLDERNESS: I don't understand it. I mean, this is basically just an excuse to do something stupid.

STEWART: We don't either, Penn. We don't either.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: And you guys are like the most sophisticated radio network on the planet and this is the least sophisticated thing I've ever done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLDERNESS: So I seriously don't get it.

STEWART: Keeping it real here at the BPP. Any negative feedback? I mean, people take their sports seriously in North Carolina.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: And I was expecting to get some. Once this went viral, I was expecting to get someone saying, hey, these are my Blue Devils, come on. But I haven't gotten any. I think people are - you got to give viewers some credit. I think that they see the same highlights all the time and I think they appreciate the imagination, whether it's positive or negative, for their particular team. I - apparently it's on some Belmont website and they liked it.

STEWART: You think this is going to become a regular shtick?


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLDERNESS: No, I can't do that. It would get old really fast.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: You're not going to do it again? You are going to do it again, come on.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Tonight I am. Yes. I mean, up until - when the need presents itself. You know, like tonight we can't show highlights again, and Carolina's playing in the Sweet 16, that's a huge game.

STEWART: You can't have Christmas every day, Penn. You have to save it.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Exactly.

STEWART: Would you promise, Penn, to send us the clips of what you do tonight?


STEWART: So we can put it on our website?

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Absolutely.

STEWART: Our erudite, elegant, eloquent website.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Yeah, nice.

STEWART: All right.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: I'll try to fit in the word "erudite" somewhere, too.

STEWART: There you go. Excellent. Penn Holderness, sports director at NBC 17 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Good luck tonight out there.

Mr. HOLDERNESS: Thank you.


That was fun.

STEWART: That was entertaining, far more than it should, far, far more. I love this show - a profile of Muqtada al-Sadr and a bug-eyed dollar chicken doing sports highlights. Hey, that is what the Bryant Park Project is all about. The BPP is directed by Ian Chillag, edited by Trish McKinney, produced by Matt Martinez. I'm Alison Stewart.

MARTIN: And I'm Rachel Martin. Don't go away, though. We're always online at And this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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