Saturday, August 21, 2021

As hobbies go, sports PA announcing is a strange but fun one

The high school sports season has kicked off here in Northeast Ohio, though I generally refer to it as "announcing season."

I have picked up a variety of public address announcing gigs these last few years, mostly through Wickliffe High School. It all started with the Wickliffe Swing Band, whose announcer I became back in 2014 (making this the start of my eighth season on the mic for this great institution). In subsequent years I've taken on Blue Devil boys and girls soccer, volleyball, and boys and girls basketball.

All of that, in turn, has led to separate engagements announcing for the Mentor Ice Breakers hockey team; Lake Erie College; University School; Perry, Mayfield, and Riverside high schools; and even a Division I men's college basketball game for Cleveland State University.

I've often said that PA announcers are much like football linemen: In ideal circumstances, you don't even realize they're there. Our job as announcers is to enhance the experience for both fans and players, all while staying out of the way and melting into the background.

The kids are and always will be the show. Just as no one comes to the ballpark to watch an umpire call balls and strikes, no one buys a ticket to hear the guy talking over the public address system.

That doesn't mean we don't do our jobs without enthusiasm. These kids who work so hard on their chosen sports deserve robust introductions and verbal recognition of their achievements. The trick is to balance energy with restraint.

The best I've ever seen and heard doing that was the late Ray Milavec, who taught, coached, and announced at Wickliffe for decades before passing away in 2016. He was a master at the craft, if you want to call it that.

Between now and mid-October, if all goes as planned, I will have announced something on the order of 40 total volleyball matches and soccer games, not to mention halftime band performances and miscellaneous band festivals. I also run the scoreboard for girls soccer.

And I can't tell you what a privilege it is to do all of it. I get a little sad when fall sports end, but six or so weeks later I'm back at it doing basketball, which makes for a very fun winter.

Some people collect stamps. I strive to pronounce kids' names correctly into a microphone. To each his own.

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