Do They Really Know It Bothers Us?

Do They Really Know It Bothers Us?

There are some things, as game ops people, that bother us when others do or say something but not mean any malice when all they’re trying to do is be helpful. Nothing bothers me more than when I do a mic check and someone shouts out, “IT WORKS”. Oh, so many sarcastic comments run through

There are some things, as game ops people, that bother us when others do or say something but not mean any malice when all they’re trying to do is be helpful.

Nothing bothers me more than when I do a mic check and someone shouts out, “IT WORKS”.

Oh, so many sarcastic comments run through my head and after 25 years of hearing this a few times here and there, I’ve come to the realization that the person who shouts that remark may not be caught attempting a joke, but assisting in their own way.

It goes back to the first time I announced.  Most of the time a sound check was performed for an empty ball field or stadium long before anyone got there.  Then, my first winter behind the microphone happened.

“Check, mic check one-two,” I said in a gym full of high school kids playing basketball while others were setting up the gym for a preseason scrimmage.  And then, the comment.

“It works!” followed by laughter.

Now, you have this high school sophomore, who had only been to two basketball games in his life and seen a few on TV and just realized that there is an instant response to everything.  Add to that, older kids laughing at me.  That’s all I heard was the laughter, not why they were laughing, or if they were trying to be silly.  Since I took announcing seriously, they must be too.  I was self-conscious at the time and still am to this day which is why the reaction to this response is usually met with a little bit of enclosed anger.  And why so many other announcers have issues when someone says this.

We don’t get upset because we’re self-conscious, we get upset because we want the production to be the best it can be at all times.  We’re the magician that doesn’t want to let others know how it’s done, keeping the illusion alive for those that show up and marvel at how well things are run and don’t want to know how it all comes to be.  The attention to detail we follow for their enjoyment and someone has to minimize it all the way down to a joke.

However, how many times has someone said, “it works” and it’s one of your biggest supporters.  It’s someone who’s been there when it didn’t work and you relied on for advice.  It’s someone that sees your attention to detail, tells others about it, and is happy to hear your voice gracing their sound system.

How many times have we thought the above, compared to, “oh great, another wiseguy trying to be funny.”  I’d venture to say the latter more than the former and it’s basic human nature.  We don’t want to be laughed at, we want to be praised and it takes a lot to do our job well, to make it easy, to notice the little things.  To them, they hear the noise; to us we hear a hiss, a hum, too much low-end, not enough mid-range, too much gain, not enough headroom, too much bass, a click that shouldn’t be there, a slight buzz that hasn’t been there before.  We hear a potential problem, they hear, “mic check one-two.”

There have been times the situation allowed me to inform the person who was trying to make a joke that it was in their best interest not to attempt humor for someone else.  There have been times others have done so while I was in charge.  The hardest part, is being the person in charge and having to inform someone their attempt at a laugh is being seen in a negative light and to cease the behavior.  As announcers, we have to figure out how to say things in a tactful way, without insult to others while also being as informative and welcoming as possible.  We’re stuck behind a microphone that amplifies how we feel at all times.  It’s a tough line to walk when you simply want to tap the person on the head and say, “no” but you have to keep your cool and calm for the good of all.

There are other things that come to mind when talking to others about those minor annoyances.   Here are a few of those:

  • The person who feels the need to walk into your location and start speaking loudly because, well you’re already talking loudly and they feel the need to try to talk over you to be heard.  You want to turn around and shoot them a dirty look, but need to keep an eye on the script and an eye on the field, and you only have two eyes.
    Did you think that the person may have been involved in a conversation or needed to speak with someone around you immediately?  Yes, it does happen.  But you also get the people who are just completely oblivious to the whole thing.  I’ll snap my fingers, slap the wall or table, or anything else to get their attention while announcing.  When given a chance, I’ll quickly turn the microphone off and say something quick like, “hey, you need to be quiet in here” and keep announcing.  If they’re truly oblivious or think they’re not being a distraction, I’ve been known to find a good stopping point and say, “you need to leave now, and not come back until the [game segment] is over.” 
  • The person who knows you’re the announcer and feels the need to correct the second-to-last name you announced just after the moment-of-correction has passed.
    It’s very frustrating to get a name wrong and I want to get it right, but please don’t tell me after I’ve announced another name.  I’m already thinking of the next name I need to announce and anyone saying another name can cause more harm than good.  The moment-of-correction is the moment immediately after when someone can whisper the correction to you so it can be corrected immediately.  Thank the person for the correction, then ask them, “please stay here” and “please write it here for me” when you come to stopping points.
  • The person who absolutely needs to give you an announcement, while you’re reading an announcement.
    There’s one club at a high school that has me announce for them who gets an email at the beginning of the year that announcements will NOT be accepted at the game.  There are so many announcing elements at their games, that scripting is necessary.  They’ve literally brought me their announcement five minutes before kickoff and try to ask me to announce it while I’m doing my big build to bring the team to the field.  I got an email from their administrator after the game asking why they didn’t get their announcement.  After explaining everything from my side to the administrator, we were all on the same page.  The admin had told his students to wait until five minutes before the game started to bring it up because it was misunderstood in the original email that there is a “five-minute block of school-related announcements 35 minutes before the game starts”. 
  • The person who gives their immediate response as soon as you make an announcement, then lives by that statement no matter how many adjustments you make or how long it’s been since you’ve corrected the situation.
    There was a night in which the warm-up CD, provided by the team, contained a song that had the word “hell” in it.  A woman came up to the pressbox to complain about the song after it was over, to which she was informed that it was the team’s CD and had been approved by the administration with my council on the song they didn’t like.  This was roughly 90 minutes before kickoff, but this family felt it necessary to shoot me looks the rest of the pregame, go onto the field to complain to the coaches, find administration to complain to, all while sitting in the band’s section and was roped off for the band.  They were not band parents.  Even after explaining the song went through the principal, athletic director and three coaches, they wanted their way even after the song was over.  They continued to complain that we were playing songs with explicit lyrics and went to the newspapers who dismissed them (all of the local sports reporters know me and a few have hired me to DJ for them) quickly.  The family wrote letters to the school and PTA about songs with explicit lyrics that fell on deaf ears.  Even after they were offered an apology and that it was out of my hands as the song had ENDED when they complained, they just wanted to complain.  They were asked by several including myself, “what would you like me to do?”  Never getting a full response, just that I was a terrible person for playing that song.  Even after offering reassurance that it won’t happen again, they still complained.  You just can’t please everyone.
  • The person who feels it should be done their way, when they’ve never announced.
    My first year with one school, we played a rival who I’d never had any issues with in other sports.  I loved the school, loved the parents, loved the students.  But this one sport was a complete polar opposite.  They were upset that their players weren’t getting walk-up music, that the home team was getting announced with more flair, and that upbeat songs weren’t played after their hits.  Keep in mind, the home team was paying me to be there and it was their home game.  The rival’s parents even went so far as to gather a list of songs for their players to walk-up to the plate to and hand it to me.  Not knowing all the parents yet, I asked what team they were with because I already had the walk-up songs.  When they indicated they were with the rivals, it had to be explained that the home team is paying me to be there, and that they get the home-field advantage.  When we play at their field, they can do whatever they want, but this isn’t their field, it’s someone else’s.  They felt that because they showed up, that things should be done their way.  There was one moment during the game in which one of their players hit a home run to which a father came up to me, got in my face and yelled, “what are you going to play for that?”  So I calmly clicked, “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain and smiled.  I got booed by their parents while their player who’d just hit a home run was trotting around the bases.
  • The person who wants to make a late change to a promotion AFTER it has started.
    This happened to me with three teams in Minor League Baseball, the first two we worked out after the first occurrence as both were my fault for lack of communication.  The third, I tried to head off before it was an issue, but it quickly became an issue when the person in charge of the game operations was so disorganized and disinterested in the games that promotions would be missed, names would fail to be called to the pressbox, late changes that wouldn’t allow for proper coverage (calling a boy by the wrong boy’s name, that’s not a glaring mistake; announcing “here comes Jeffrey celebrating his seventh birthday” and it’s a 50-year old woman, yes that makes us all look bad), and just being difficult getting everything on a consistent basis so we could be prepared in the pressbox made it a nightmare on a nightly basis.  Even after talking to the person a couple of times, the GM had to get involved.  Mistakes happen, but if you don’t learn from them, they continue to happen.
  • The boss who wants to make changes after the show has already started.
    I can relate more to this one because the person in charge wants things a certain way, and if it’s a sponsor that has to leave early, you move their promotion up a few innings or earlier in the schedule to make them happy.  Without the sponsors, you don’t have a team, thank them whenever you can.  It’s frustrating when you have a full night, but understandable in the grand scheme of things. 
  • The official who decides they know your job better than you and absolutely has to insist on enforcing rules that don’t exist.
    Early on, this was a battle.  Announce one way for 10 games and have high-ranking officials comment positively on your work, only to have someone who had to insert themselves everywhere trying to tell you how to do your job and threatening to throw you out for not doing it their way.  Not fair to younger announcers.  Over the years, the skin has grown thicker and experience has taught me how to handle these situations.  Figuring out how to combat possible issues beforehand has helped, such as the “resume drop” when talking to officials before the game.  “Nice to meet you, it’s great to have you here.  We’ll be doing the line-ups for both teams, and then the anthem.  When the one-minute horn blows during warm-up, I’ll announce the sportsmanship announcement the NCAA has me use during tournaments they bring me in for.”  It starts a conversation and typically try to change it to talking about them as quickly as possible.  Very rarely do I get issues anymore and you really only have to do this until you’re established.  Officials do talk. 

As you can see, there are always going to be minor annoyances, and they can pop up at any level.  It happens.  The thing to remember is that most of the time, it’s someone who has good intentions but poor execution.  We’ve all been there, so remember to treat those people the way you’d wish to be treated when you’re misunderstood.

Jarrod Wronski

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