College Sports Announcer
I could usually run out while a song was playing at halftime if needed, or quickly in between games when teams were warming up. Or astronaut diaper style.
For our teams, I'd ask the new players at the start of the season and just memorize it. There are a bunch of other items to learn each game, so if you can knock out the consistent stuff it makes it easier. For the visitors, you'd typically get the roster or media guide a bit before the game. On the "Joe Smith" types, no further effort required. Otherwise, before tip/kickoff I'd hit up the SID (sports information director) from the visiting school and ask how to pronounce each name. If possible, I'd also reach out to the player his or herself during warm-ups, because sometimes you get conflicting reports and it is better hearing it from the player. Then I'd write out the difficult names phonetically on my crib sheet, which was the one page roster for that game plus tracking boxes I drew ...More
Absolutely, but you got used to it quickly. Also, this was college, so it took a bit of willpower not to use your powers in completely inappropriate ways, e.g. an oblique reference to girls or buddies in the crowd. You need to get comfortable with the mic and the system in general before you dive in, because if you think you sound weird you'll be thinking about that and miss something you are supposed to say. Once it goes live the announcing action happens faster than you'd anticipate just watching a game, so those kinks need to be sorted out in advance.
I definitely had some "announcer" shtick, but to a certain degree I think that is required so that you project and enunciate clearly. The voice I used was a slower, deeper voice than my conversational tone, which forced me to think before speaking (a life lesson I should apply in general) and phrase things with proper emphasis. My experience led me to believe that almost all persons talking on a PA system, radio, TV, etc, adapt a bit of affect on their regular voice in order to deliver whatever message they are being paid to provide. That being said, you can't go too overboard or it sounds like parody. I definitely practiced alone until it sounded right.
My basketball announcing was limited to public address, not play-by-play. The women's team during my announcing time won two D-III national championships and lost a total of five game in my four years, so the crowd was large and energetic with or without my loudspeaker ramblings.
In terms of PA announcers, the best were distinctive voices that did the job straight but with a personal touch - for New Yorkers I'm sure that was Bob Sheppard, who I had the pleasure of hearing in person in old Yankee Stadium before he passed. For me, it was Rex Barney, who was the Baltimore Orioles PA guy during my childhood and my announcing role model. I did a drawn-out "Thankyoooouuuu" at basketball games in honor of him, and he also had this great ploy where if a fan caught a foul ball clean he'd say "Give that fan a contract" and the usher would come down with a novelty one day contract to hand over.
In terms of play-by-play guys, I'm drawn to the types that focus on adding value or information that is actually useful, not platitudes or personal history. Nationally, I think Charley ...More
On the PA system there wasn't a tremendous opportunity for that, thought the sports information department would prepare information packets and the like upon request to help promote players for the next level (at D-III it is largely overseas).
Leaving college ended my announcing days and I went to grad school from there. The confidence in public speaking and focused preparation for games has helped in my career and the great thing about announcing is that there are always opportunities if you look for them, even if it is a local game. I haven't fully retired the vocal chords just yet.
I messed up a name on occasion, almost always because I thought the name was easy and I glossed over it in prep. Here's a made up example: Devi Smith. Unless I asked, I'd assume it was "Dev-E" instead of "Dev-I", and my natural read would be to "Dev-E". Mistakes like that were the most common.
In terms of actual screw ups, at a lightly attended soccer game I announced Carnegie Mellon as "The Melon" for the entire introductions and first half. This was intentional, as I was bored and immature, but it certainly was a screw-up in than their athletic director happened to being traveling that trip, and told the Wash U athletic director that it needed to stop immediately. I got a stern warning at halftime, and it could have cost me my job. Lesson learned -- no one comes to hear the announcer, ...More
Well, given that my highest profile sport was D-III basketball, the cup wasn't exactly overflowing. The dance team and cheerleaders knew who I was since I introduced them and played their routine music at halftime, so that was a plus I guess. I was supposed to announce the Division I slam dunk contest my senior year, which we hosted for some unknown reason, but it was during spring break so I gave up the gig. Maybe that would have had a bit more groupie action?
Being a PA announcer teaches the value of preparation and clear speaking in ways that even other types of public speaking can't. Without doing the prep prior you'll quickly be overwhelmed, and your mistakes are literally magnified for all to hear. Not being able to gloss over anything forces an attention to detail that has helped me in many non-announcer venues.
"Have to"? Thankfully the games were scheduled well in advance so I could plan accordingly booze-wise (it was a college job after all). I took the job seriously and, even though basketball games were on a Friday night, I usually laid off the hooch until at least the second-half of the men's game (Friday games the women were at 6 and men at 8pm). Noble I know. There may have been some exceptions, and Sunday noon tip-offs were often handled hungover, but usually the "fun" of AnnouncingWI wasn't worth the risk or effort as it is much easier to announce while sober. Soccer-wise, one particular game on the day of our all-campus party was certainly AWI, but (a) soccer PA announcing is line-ups and then goal recaps, so not the most taxing of afternoons and (b) if it works for Pat Sajak... http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/gossip/2012/01/pat-sajak-drunk-wheel-of-fortune.html
I was the announcer for boys basketball games at my high school as a senior (high school sports are a must-do for young aspiring announcers -- an easy resume builder), and when I arrived on campus I heard through friends that the athletic department was looking for someone to assist with PA in the fall. I started with a few soccer games. They previously had a professional announcer from the local area hired for hoops, as those teams drew a good deal from the community (the women's basketball team won its fourth consecutive national championship in 2001, during which time the team won 81 straight games). The professional announcer prior to my tenure serendipitously stopped my freshmen year and, after a brief trial period at the annual winter invitational tournament, I was in for basketball ...More
All announcers have to walk that fine line between support and outright cheering- there isn't anything wrong with the former and I think most PA folks make sure the home team gets the hype while they are flat for the away team. I think only the Joe Buck/Troy Aikmen-type national guys are expected to keep it impartial, and I think that is largely for marketing purposes so fan bases aren't alienated.