I first got into announcing in my first year of teaching. Our Rose Hill Junior High wrestling and basketball games were full house affairs (life was different back then) and the coaches were two of my best friends. I did not have to be very good, and I am sure I wasn’t, but I did learn that I had no fear of speaking into a microphone. In fact, I’m more confident speaking with a microphone than without – which seems weird, doesn’t it?
When I moved to Juanita High in 1989 they needed a new announcer for the football games. I had not attended a high school football game since 1965, my senior year of high school, but what the heck? Famed coach Chuck Tarbox had listened to me speak at various events when I was the president of the local teachers union, and he thought I would be great for the job.
The reason WHY they needed a new announcer was not mentioned, nor did I ask, but turns out my predecessor had been arrested before school started and charged with the rape of one of my former students! Just as well I did not know that. To be fair, one whole year and two hung juries later, nothing happened.
Anyway, with no example to follow, and with an extremely limited wage, I did what I wanted to do, and it worked out very well.
Tarbox always told me that my announcing was worth about 7 points a game. He was a great promoter, and not above grotesque exaggeration, but I learned that the voice and enthusiasm you employed for a first down or touch down or whatever for the home team could be toned back to placid calm for the other team. It did have an effect on the crowd, and a small one on the field of play. Tarbox was sure of it, and I would never argue with him about football strategy.
I did have fun from time to time. On one occasion all the lights failed, which could be a disaster in a crowded stadium. I urged the crowd to remain where they were, and explained that the lights needed to be recycled and would come on gradually over the next few minutes. While we were waiting, I noticed that the scoreboard lights were still on. I asked the scorekeeper next to me to add a touchdown for Juanita. When the lights were back on and play ready to resume, the official on the field looked at the scoreboard, and then cast a steely glare up at the press box – but he was smiling as we re-set the score correctly.
My absolute favorite trick relied on the design of the press box. The scorekeeper and I sat in the middle. To our right were assistant coaches from the opposing team. The Juanita assistants were through a doorway to the left. The Juanita coaches heard what I said over the PA, but the opposing coaches heard it from my mouth.
After a failed Juanita play, I would sometimes turn off the mike and then say in a loud voice “And we’d sure like to know who called that dumb ass play!” The opposing coaches heads would swivel toward me in horror, and we would all laugh as I turned the microphone back on. It occurred to me that this would end in disaster if I forgot to turn the microphone off at the right time, but I never did. I announced all but two of the football games and most of the boys and girls basketball games for 11 years. I made some mistakes along the way, like the time a basketball ref came to the bench and said “One more remark like that and I will kick you out of the gym.” Oops. He was correct to reprimand me, of course, but it was really a bad call!
In my second career as a motorsports maven I got to announce several motorcycle events and charity auctions and so forth, but the most interesting were three weekends of announcing kart races. The first one was a three day event in Denton, Texas (just North of Dallas) and consisted of the national championship races for the Rotax Max spec kart series. Each day the owner of Cycle Barn would drop me off at the track and go off to visit friends. I would walk into the pits and be handed a microphone and start talking.
One limitation was that I had driven a kart, once, 35 years earlier, and had never raced one!
However, I had edited the user’s manual and the rule book for the Rotax Max series, so I sounded like I knew about chassis set-up, weight jacking and other things.
I had a wonderful time, highlighted by walking to the men’s room and realizing, as I was relieving myself, than the microphone was still on! I thought that was pretty funny, but I was topped by one of the pros doing the videotaping of the event. He told me he had done the same thing once, but had a video camera on his shoulder, and of course he looked down, and of course it was on
I also hosted a call-in motorsports radio talk show for three years. Talking into a live microphone can be challenging, and I occasionally muffed a word or a sentence (Susan would term these “word boogers). And then once in a while I would say something I should not have said.
Highlight for me was a caller who responded to a request for trivia who relayed that he used to own a Ferrari Daytona, and wondered if I knew what the owner’s manual listed as the top speed of the car – in 5th gear. And reverse. I guessed 192 and 168 and he got very quiet. I think I was off by 1 mph on each end. Of course I was just tossing off a wild stab of a guess.
This was a live show, and a CD was made of it while I was on the air. I would listen to my own show in my car on the way home. I noticed that, during the show, I was so intent on what the guest was saying, what the next question should be, (we did not have questions sent in ahead of time) and when the next commercial break was coming up, that I often had no recollection of anything I had said myself. Often I would be surprised on the way home by something I had said, but not remembered, that was really funny. To me. Or something that I wished I could do over. I wonder if Sean Spicer, who is under several tons or pressure more than I have ever been, ever actually hears his own words.
My point (oh, you were wondering if there would be one of those?) is that talking into a microphone can be a lot of fun, for some people. An utter horror for most. Even for people who enjoy it, mistakes will happen, and unlike a modern computer, you can’t simply backspace to delete your gaffe and start over.
Stuff happens. It’s out there.
But – but – but – Sean Spicer. Are you kidding me? He issued three printed statements today, in 19 minutes, each of them trying to explain his latest episode of foot in mouth, and it was a whopper. So offensive I won’t repeat it. This guy is essentially a Saturday Night Live skit, and does not need to worry about writers. He is absolutely stunning in his idiocy, totally ill-suited to have a microphone in his face, and ironically … the perfect spokesperson for this train wreck of an administration.
Speak it loud, my friends! Resist!
Copyright 2017 David Preston