Welcome to the world of sports announcing, where hockey is played indoors, football outdoors, and the announcer resides comfortably in a pressbox out of the elements, or courtside in a nice comfy chair. But what happens when that isn’t the case. In almost 25 years of sports announcing, I’ve announced in some pretty interesting places,
Welcome to the world of sports announcing, where hockey is played indoors, football outdoors, and the announcer resides comfortably in a pressbox out of the elements, or courtside in a nice comfy chair.
But what happens when that isn’t the case. In almost 25 years of sports announcing, I’ve announced in some pretty interesting places, and sports in places they don’t normally get played.
I’ve announced on scaffolding, a scissor lift, a picnic table (once for a baseball hall of famer), under a tent, without a tent, leaning on the boards, 5 feet above street level on a “floating” platform, and the corner of an ice rink. Also, ice hockey, football and wrestling indoors and out. Can’t forget the games announced in a 50,000 seat stadium with only 100 fans, or a 1,600 seat arena with only the players to entertain. On sound systems that were decades old, and sound systems that were just set up (sometimes haphazardly). Whether cavernous or quaint, there’s always a level of comfort for an announcer, except when nothing is comfortable and makes you nervous before even going into the game.
One such game, The President’s Trophy championship game for a tournament in Baltimore, Maryland. The championship game was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Cal Ripken was one of the coaches, his son Ryan was pitching and he faced a batter named Gehrig. Yeah, there was all kinds of “cool” baseball going on that day, in front of a few dozen fans from Gilman and Mt. St. Joseph High Schools. Going into the game, I knew it was going to be an empty stadium, but it was a stadium I’d always wanted to announce in, and one that I’d been to many times.
I had the chance to announce some of the earlier rounds of this tournament which included a game at Gilman School where I was sitting on a picnic table with a bullhorn speaker and Ripken sitting next to me and nothing over our heads except the clear-blue sky. Talk about night-and-day!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and intimidated by the large scale of a stadium, but the key thing to remember, it’s still a baseball game. Should I have changed my style because now I’m in a Major League stadium rather than behind the backstop of a pressboxless field? No, I did it my way, and part of that style was a nod to a long-time Baltimore P. A. announcer, Rex Barney. One of the highlights of my announcing career was saying “Thank Youuuuuuuu”, like Rex following the post-game wrap up.
Another game, which is fairly frequent now among Minor League Baseball teams is when the Potomac Nationals played a game after a Washington Nationals game at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. A stadium I’d seen on TV hundreds of times hosting Redskins games, and had always been used to tempt baseball fans in the Mid Atlantic with the possibility of hosting a team for so many years. I had been working for the P-Nats at the time and was assigned with announcing the game in 2006. Again, this was a baseball game, but one that counted for our team, and even though we were blown out by the Salem Avalanche, it was still a fun game to announce, but it was still our game. The style did not change because of the setting.
Earlier this year, Fairfax High School held a wrestling meet outdoors in the Town Square of the City of Fairfax. It was a unique event, but wrestling is typically an indoor sport.
When you announce hundreds of games in one setting, it can feel uncomfortable announcing that same sport but in a different setting. Whether it’s a new arena, a larger arena in a tournament, or a pro arena, there are so many what if’s that go through your head.
- What if I’m too loud? Simple, they’ll turn you down, or adjust accordingly.
- What if I don’t sound like their announcer? That’s fine, sound like you. That’s who is announcing. Don’t go in like you’re doing them a favor, but just do your job the best way you know how.
- What if I’m too over the top? Very simple, take a breath, focus on the game/sport and announce accordingly. Don’t change your style because you’re now inside when you’re used to being outside or vice versa.
- What if I make a mistake? Yeah, you probably will. And if you don’t harp on it, neither will anyone else. The announcers say a lot of things on a microphone and proper preparation will help you avoid making simple mistakes.
- What if they listen to me? You want them to listen to you, and “they” are the people who work at that facility. Even if they don’t hire you for anything, it’s a great networking opportunity, but your best foot forward.
- What if they laugh at me? They won’t. The fans coming to the game are ready for that sport and expect to hear an announcer that knows that sport. A baseball-only fan won’t go to a football game in the baseball stadium and expect the football line-ups to be read like a baseball line-up.
It’s ok to be a little nervous, after nearly 25 years, I still do before every game. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a large arena, or small community rink. Just take a breath, focus on your script or scorebook and go. Remember the most important thing, have fun.