Bouncing along the airwaves

And so goes another football season in Lee County. The Southern Lee Cavaliers completed their second straight remarkable season a week later than last year, stunning the state with the playoffs’ biggest upset a week ago before succumbing to Southern Wayne in the second round on Friday night. 

And so concludes another season of me on the radio as the color analyst on WWGP 1050 AM. I thoroughly enjoyed it again this season and hope with my heart that I didn’t force anyone to turn their radios off during the game. I’m not a pro, and for some insight into what I go through when that red radio light flicks on, here is Sunday’s Designated Hitter column:  Bouncing Along The Airwaves

There’s that moment, right before we go on the air, that I freeze.

It’s only for a split-second, though, because almost instantly I remember that the first segment is usually nothing but my broadcast partner going through a brief introduction and a list of the title sponsors for the upcoming broadcast.

This intro to our local football games broadcast on the radio takes about 90 seconds, depending on how quickly Tim Murr or Jon Hockaday breeze through it, and then there’s the gratifying relief of the three minutes of commercials that come next.

When those are done and it’s time for the us to go back onto the air for the next segment, the nervousness has passed, having gone through the sudden burst of trepidation once already. There’s no need to go through such a bout again. I had it, lived through it and now it’s time to move on and go to work.

Still, it’s in that small moment at the top of the broadcast that it hits me full force, and I’m relegated to all of my insecurities.

I’ve been fortunate to broadcast Southern Lee football games for the past two years for Sanford’s WWGP AM 1050, the vast majority of which have come with Murr doing the play-by-play and me serving as those who know what they are doing would call the “color analyst”. I have to be at all of the games anyway for my real job with The Sanford Herald, and since I’m doing the stats for my articles that appear in the next day’s newspaper, it’s a natural fit, I guess, that I share the radio duties as well.

These are the things I tell myself to keep from crumbling into the fetal position with abundant and unrelenting fear.

If you can get past the actual idea that there are actual people out there somewhere, whether it’s two or 200, tuning in to hear you talk about the game that they are intersted in and likely have family members playing in, it’s really a fun experience. I’ve always been interested in radio (I have the face for it), and while at my previous job in Forest City, I served as an analyst for three state baseball championship series and did a year of football games.

Of course, it wasn’t enough to ever make me feel comfortable with the headset on, but when Hockaday asked me to join the team at WFJA for a few Lee County football games here and there three years ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then I’ve been a small part of a few WFJA golf and basketball broadcasts to go along with two years of Southern Lee football.

I feel like I get a little more relaxed with every game, though I know I’ll never come across as a pro. And broadcasting radio in real time is so much different from what I’m really programmed to do, which is to sit down and spend some time — even though it may seem like no time at all with the impending doom of a deadline staring you straight in the face — and formulate thoughts and write them into a story.

There’s nothing like deadline pressure — there’s an old saying that everybody wants to be a sportswriter until the game ends and it’s time to go back and write the story — but radio pressure is a different animal altogether, and no less horrifying. You’re trying to place a picture in a listener’s mind of what you are seeing in front of you, which is a lot easier said than done. On top of that, in my role, you need to explain WHY you are seeing what you are seeing and do it in what feels like nanoseconds before the next play is run.

There are sports where this is easier, say in baseball, where there can be a lot of downtime. Then there’s the other side of the spectrum in a sport like basketball, where you have only the time it takes for the point guard to take three dribbles and reach half court to get in and out with what you have to say.

But in reality, that’s the easy stuff. That’s the kind of thing where you just try to rely on what you know, what you’ve learned from the past and your research. Know enough about the subject in front of you, and after a while, breaking down the jet sweep in the wing-T formation just flows, coming out of your mouth as if it is second nature.

The real fear comes not in WHAT you are saying, but in HOW you are saying it. (Honestly, the temptation to let a curse word slip is never an issue; then again, I’m not covering the Cubs.)

Invariably, us amateurs know what we are trying to say, but it doesn’t always come out as we would have liked. This is where the rambling problems come in, the point at which you realize that your head and your mouth aren’t working simultaneously anymore. While you are talking, your head is wondering where exactly you plan on going with this, and then you stumble over words before eventually finding a messy way to wrap it up. You cringe, you worry about whether anything you just said made even a modicum of sense, and you hope that somebody didn’t just scream “WHAT!?” out loud at you, even though you know you would have done it in the same situation.

It’s right then, however, that you have to make like the cornerback who just gave up the 87-yard touchdown in front of you. I’ve found over the short time I’ve been slicing through the airwaves with the deft touch of a steer in a China cabinet that you must possess a short memory and move on, ready to comprehend, describe, detail and discuss the latest thing that happened and get out before the next snap.

After all, the mistakes in print last forever, staring back at you in that stark reality of the black and white.

The fumbles over the microphone, meanwhile, just dissipate into thin air.

Unless somebody has recorded them.

I think I’ll go lie down now.

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