Sunday, September 9, 2012

Confessions from the Football Broadcast Booth

This weekend is home opening weekend for my College Alma Mater’s football season. Game-day yesterday was a beautiful late summer day with sun-splashed blue skies and light winds but the humidity was almost unbearable. I was thinking that it was a good thing the game was played early in the afternoon before things heated up. But in the late afternoon, a frontal passage came through and cooled things down with a long train of thundershowers so the day was a pleasant one. This morning dawned clear and cloudless and dare I say it, a little cooler.

It has been a couple of years since I went to a college game, which says something, because back in the late 70s, I was the producer/engineer for the University of South Carolina football radio network that carried the games. I remember like it was yesterday, walking into the football stadium on game day, seeing the crisp blue skies and the green grass of the playing field all lined up and measured out for the contest. My pulse quickened, knowing it was a good day for football. Heck, even if it was rainy and grey, it was always a good day for football. Sitting in the broadcast booth at our home field, Williams-Brice Stadium, I had a great view of the field. Our booth had an open front, no glass, and that meant that I could really hear the crowd and smell the peanuts and hot dogs. One one side we were right next to the coach’s booth and the game statisticians. On the other side was the PA announcer’s booth. Yup! We were right in the middle of the action.

I would always arrive at least 2 hours early, because I had microphones to lay out, connections to the portable audio board to make and telephone lines to test. The stadium was still mainly deserted that early, just security, food venders setting up shop and athletics department staff in their final preparations. By the time the announcers, Bob Fulton and Tommy Suggs made it to the booth, all my testing was done and I was usually sitting in the back of the booth enjoying the great meal that the university always laid out in the press box. After travelling to most stadiums in the southeast, I can tell you that South Carolina lays out the best spread of any press box in our part of the country. After eating, Bob and Tommy would lay our all their gear, the offensive and defensive charts and go through their spotting drills with the team members assigned to assist them with the game. Next, the broadcast would begin with the playing back the pre-game show recorded with Coach Jim Carlen earlier in the week. Then it was time for the National Anthem and the kickoff. For the next three hours it was all about “riding the sound levels”, giving station break and commercial cues to Bob and Tommy and keeping the log. This was the time that I switched from being the engineer to being the producer of the broadcast.

Pretty soon, it was time for the post game show; first Bob would interview the coach via a hookup to the locker room then Tommy would give the post game wrap up and statistics and then talk about the upcoming games and scores from other games around the country. By then, the sun had set in the west and I could see the taillights of the cars of the fans stuck in game day traffic as they made their ways home from the stadium.

In this picture, the press box can bee seen, the lower of the two rows of boxes above the stands. They are kept dark to make it easier for us to see the action below.

It has been 33 years since I was last in the announce booth high on the west side of Williams – Brice Stadium. But those hours spent above the crowd cheering on my college team still play bright, load and clear in my memory. Bob is gone now but I can see his smiling face as he announced the game and ignored my cues. Tommy’s face is still youthful, minus some of the creases from the passages of time. We won’t even talk about mine. “Go ‘Cocks”. Oh MY!

No comments:

Post a Comment