Over the past week, I’ve been dealing with some of the crud Ginny and the kids have had — although not to the same extent. At least, I didn’t think so until Friday night.
One of our broadcast stalwarts, Tim Miller, had come down with the flu (as has most of Emporia by this point), so I was asked to broadcast Friday’s Emporia High basketball doubleheader. We had plans for me to go to the Globetrotters game at White Auditorium, but with another world tour stop in Kansas coming this week, we made arrangements and I agreed.
My voice was somewhat scratchy going in. It was completely gone going out.
I’ve found out beforehand that I’m not one of those sportscasters that can dial down my call depending on my voice condition. And winter is typically a bad time for my voice anyways, but I figured I’d load up on cough drops and water and be OK.
The girls game was, honestly, noncompetitive for the most point, so I didn’t really feel the need to put added stress on my call. On top of that, my partner, Steve Inwood, sensed things weren’t going well in the vocal department, so he extended a lot of his analysis into some play-by-play, which helped me as well.
And my voice was still hanging by a thread by the time the boys game started.
In my mind, I needed a second noncompetitive game. Honestly, I needed a change in mindset.
I’ve always approached sports play-by-play with two mental metrics:
- Am I accurately calling what’s happening in front of me?
- Am I capturing the rhythm, ebb and flow of the contest?
I’ve always prided myself as somebody who can do both reasonably well — because I believe both are critical components of a sports broadcast. You can call the action well, but you lose listeners if you can’t give people a sense of how a specific play fits into the overall flow of the action. On the flip side, you can capture the highlights of a given game — great catchphrases, raising your voice and the like — but if people can’t trust you’re actually telling them what’s happening on the court or the field, well, you’ve lost credibility and you won’t have much of a broadcast career. Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist…but that’s for another post.
Anyways, E-High promptly falls behind by almost double digits, and based on the first few minutes it looks like this will be a yawner. Before the first quarter, however, the Spartans get some things figured out, and just before halftime they take a brief lead, trailing by a point at the half. By this time, the decision to gear down my call has been thoroughly overridden by that two-pronged approach I’ve had in my head for a couple decades at least. I have a sense what’s coming in the second half — a game that comes down to the final four minutes — but I don’t expect eight lead changes in the third quarter followed by a brief burst at the end of the third quarter to give E-High a 4-point lead, followed by another pair of quick buckets to push the lead to eight early in the fourth period.
When you’re calling a run for the home team, especially in a tight game, the energy level goes up and the voice raises to match. In my case, it went from a reasonable facsimile of a voice to a series of nearly incomprehensible squawks as I’m trying to both capture the play and the emotion in the gym.
When the run reverses, the voice comes down but the intensity does not. And that’s what happened. Highland Park scored eight unanswered points in 90 seconds, including two deep three-pointers, to suck all the air out of the gym. They then added six of the next eight points, by my recollection, to take a four-point lead midway through the quarter.
And then the Spartans responded, although they missed a critical pair of free throws with about 2:20 left and another pair with under a minute to go. Upshot: Highland Park leads by four with 20 seconds left, Emporia High hits a pair of free throws and the visitors throw the ball out of bounds.
So you say there’s a chance…
If anybody could tell what I was saying by that point without a translator, congratulations. And with the remaining shreds of my voice, I try to fill in everybody about the last five seconds: missed shot, offensive rebound, forced shot offline, offensive rebound, buzzer. Ball game.
Good guys lose game. Broadcaster’s voice a lost cause a loooong time ago.
Postgame from my microphone is a mixture of a whisper and a croak, and to be honest I should have just let Steve take over — possibly for the entire back half of the doubleheader. As I write this Sunday, the voice is finally starting to come back, although its nowhere close to full strength.
And as I write this, I’ve noticed several things about what it’s like when you don’t have your voice — or, in my case, a critical component of my job:
- If your voice is scratchy and squawky when it normally isn’t, your kids will laugh at you. Repeatedly.
- I’ve found it’s harder to avoid singing than talking. And the kids have made it so I can’t avoid talking. Such is life.
- Whispering at kids to get their attention only goes so far. And in our house, it’s not very far.
- There are a host of remedies for a blown-up voice. Many involve tea…and/or ginger…and/or whiskey. Haven’t tried the whiskey-related remedies yet.
- Timing is everything. I’m grateful I’ve had the weekend to rest the voice, relatively speaking. Having to turn around and try newscasts the following morning would have been a broadcast disaster in the making.
- I’m eternally grateful Sean Thornton saved over the postgame interviews and not the full games from Friday. Although it would be interesting to go back and listen to those at some point waaaaaaaay down the road.
I’m not sure how well the voice will do Monday — or how long it will last before it starts shredding again. And with this being a mild, breezy week fraught with high fire danger, it could be at least the rest of the week before I sound like I normally do. Anyways, thanks for listening in general. And thanks for staying with the broadcast Friday night. Hopefully, we’ll all be back to normal for Substate this week.