(Note from Ryan: If you want to skip all my sports talk and just get right to my story, scroll down to where it says STORY. This is just another way the CDP helps to shorten your attention span. Blogger has been up in arms the last few days, which explains the delay in posting. This was intended to be published on Sunday evening. Enjoy!)
I have always wanted to be an announcer.
This comes as no surprise to people who know me. When other kids were dreaming of making the last second shot that wins the NBA Championship, I was dreaming of what I would say on the air shortly thereafter. I quickly put all thoughts of becoming an actual athlete behind me once I turned 13 and still wasn’t tall enough to ride the Gravitron at the county fair. I play to my advantages. In the case of broadcasting, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia and statistics, along with a leathery-smooth radio voice. I think I like sports, too.
I bring this up because of the time of year. I’m currently in the process of filling out my NCAA tournament bracket, and I’m pulling my hair out. This is without question the most competitive bracket ever, and I’m just getting over a terrible weekend of college basketball. I achieved the Holy Trinity of basketball depression on Sunday:
A Kentucky loss, a Wisconsin loss, and a Duke win.
The Kentucky wildcats almost rival the Green Bay Packers as my most treasured sports franchise. If I could marry a basketball team, I would marry the Kentucky Wildcats. In fact, I think that sort of thing is legal in Kentucky, so more power to me.
I cheer on the Wisconsin Badgers for obvious reasons. And then there’s Duke.
Every time I close my eyes in anger, I can see Christian Laettner making that turnaround jumper to beat the Wildcats in overtime of the 1992 Regional Final. It’s burned into the insides of my eyelids, permanently scarring me for all eternity. It makes me sick just thinking about it. For me, Duke goes beyond a college basketball team that I dislike. They rate right up there with Hitler and the Black Death as the most repulsive thing to ever grace this planet. To this day, I cannot watch the replay of that game.
I picked them to lose to Syracuse in the regional semis. I put Kentucky in the Final 4, but I don’t know if they can make it past UNC/UCONN (I haven’t filled it all the way in yet). Enough sports talk, I have a story to share with you.
STORY! When I was a Sophomore in High School, me and my friend Dale were offered the job of announcing the Winneconne Wolves basketball games. This was a big deal to me, as previously mentioned. Me and Dale worked on our routine and rehearsed for a week before the big game, learning how to pronounce names and carefully selecting music for time outs.
I forgot to mention that this particular game was basically the biggest of the year. This was the game in which we hosted our cross-town rivals, the Omro Foxes. The place would be packed, and the game would be huge.
True to thought, the seats were packed just as we finished setting everything up for the evening. The sound was just right, the music was cued up, and we took our places behind the scorer’s table for the first of many nights behind the microphone. Little did I know that in less than 2 hours, I would be right in the middle of the biggest Winneconne sports controversy in years.
Because Dale managed to get the job for us, we made the deal that I would announce the Junior game, and he would do the big Varsity game. (Is that what they’re called? Junior and Varsity? I can’t remember anymore. Feel free to correct me.) It was a good call for me to do the first game. People were still filing in, and nobody seemed to care all that much. I did a flawless, professional job, and I got nothing but compliments as I exited the gym in between games.
I began to help Dale set up for the big headlining event, and I realized something a bit disturbing. You see, Dale is somewhat of a showman. More accurately, he loves attention. I love the guy, but he loves to chew the scenery when he can. I instantly realized that he was going to attempt to put the focus on him that night, instead of the big game. (Any professional broadcaster will tell you that’s the cardinal sin of the job; always know your place.) It looked like he was getting ready for a stint on a wacky morning radio show. I was afraid, yet too compelled to turn away.
The gym got crazy, and the game was underway. I was working sound for the game (done perfectly, may I add), and Dale immediately went into his shtick. He introduced himself with some wacky nickname, much to the anger of the Winneconne head coach. After the introductions, he settled into game mode, and things went pretty well up to halftime. The music was supposed to cue for the cheerleading squad, but through no fault of my own, something went wrong. The cheerleaders stood in the middle of the court amongst silence and tumbleweeds, waiting for something, anything to bail them out.
Where most professional broadcasters would scramble for stats or something relating to the game, Dale had someone from the audience tell a story. I’m almost positive this person was Ben. Thinking that this was somehow part of the act, the raucous crowd got collectively quiet, listening intently to what this person (Ben) had to say. Of course, he had nothing to say, and stumbled through a story about a cat, or something to that effect. The downward spiral was careening out of control at this point, and people were starting to get upset.
The second half was a tightly contested match. Dale got mostly back to business, and when the game got right down to the wire, knew better than to do something stupid. Unfortunately, the Wolves lost to the Foxes at the very last second. I cued the exit music, the mostly depressed and angry crowd started to leave, and Dale started an impromptu speech into the microphone.
Never one to keep his opinions and feelings to himself, he said “To you Omro fans, I hope you get into a car accident on your way home”.
Or something to that effect. You see, I was a few rows up from the scoring table, messing with the stereo. What I DID hear was the collective gasp from about a thousand people.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
All at once, about 50 screaming people started heading right towards me, pointing fingers and flinging accusations left and right. I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that I had to say something. I’ve done a lot of nice things for Dale in the past, and blindly sticking up for him was something I was good at. Had I known what he said, I would have been the first one down there to kick his ass. Instead, I waded into the unruly mob, playing mediator so he wouldn’t be murdered.
So, there I was. This was supposed to be the coolest moment of my High School career, and all at once I was surrounded by a lot of parents and students that wanted to hurt me.
What did I do?
I started fighting.
Frankly, I didn’t know what else to do. “Take it up with the school!” I said, pushing and shoving. “Apologize!” They fired back, as Dale snuck his way out of the gym. “For what?!” I replied to the mob. I got right back in their faces, a collective uncorking of 16 years of hatred for PTA parents and jackasses on the school board. I didn’t really care what the reason was at this point, I just wanted a reason to yell back. “I hope your happy!”, some old guy yelled. “You’re gunna get expelled!”
“Take it up with the school!” This was the only comeback I could muster.
I did this for a few more minutes, then I managed to escape just before people started getting escorted out. Nobody got hit, but I’m really surprised that I didn’t. Only much later, did I catch up with some friendly faces, who told me what had happened, and what I put my ass on the line for.
I wanted to kill Dale. Not only was I going to get suspended, I was going to be banned from Wolves games for life. I fought in the bleachers with 50 people because of a single foolish comment that I didn’t even make. Unbelievable.
A few days later, Winneconne’s principal issued a formal apology in the local paper, and I was thankfully cleared of all charges. Dale was hit with a suspension, and had to write a lengthy paper on broadcasting.
He got the announcing job back. I didn’t.