I had to work a basketball game tonight. Yeah, it’s my old gig. The one where, just three seasons ago, they honored me during halftime of a game with a plaque for my years of services as “the voice of the Jungle” as we all thought I “retired.” Well, I’m back at it. I sort of feel like Keith Jackson, when he got the big sendoff when he retired. But it wasn’t long after that he decided to keep working college football games, but only on the west coast.
Anyway, I’m splitting my time behind the mic and doing some other in-game coordination. Tonight was supposed to be the latter, but I ended up behind the mic. I’ve learned over the years that one of my greatest fears while working a game is to be unprepared, so I end up over-preparing.
It’s bad enough I create my own roster sheets in addition to my own game management sheets while doing the announcing. But now, I’ve taken it a step further and created a script to manage music during the breaks. I’m sure every PA announcer in America has his or her own way of doing things, but in my case I think it’s just to make me feel like I’ve got something important to do.
Although it’s worth noting the foul sheets started back while I was in college, working as a PA announcer for my college team. The PA was set up on the opposite side of the court from the scorers table. Since I didn’t have the luxury of looking over someone’s shoulder for the answers, I was forced to improvise. That improvisation has become a full-blown production. I’m tracking fouls, timeouts, media timeouts, substitutions and now, scripting the in-game music.
I’m sure, to you, it seems like an awful lot of effort when I’d probably do just as well skating by with little to no preparation. You’re probably right. But that’s the difference between doing a satisfactory job and a great job. That’s the difference between “can we trust him to get it right?” and being reliable.
It’s about work ethic, honestly. Despite the utter silliness of what I do I take it seriously. I want the people around me who invite me to do this work to invite me back. The only way you get invited back is gaining trust that you can get the job done, get it done well, and be reliable.
Believe it or not, even at a small, mid-major basketball game, there are a lot of moving parts. Rube Goldberg would be both mortified and impressed. The opportunity for something to go wrong is as close as the loose wire connecting your radio crew to the phone line. The way I see it, by showing the crew that I’m prepared to handle the announcing duties and whatever else they throw at me, then I’m halfway there.
The other half is getting through a game without making a single mistake. We’re still working on that one.
And oh yeah, the home team won tonight. Woo hoo!