Monday, June 09, 2008

SPORTS: Here Are Your ...

Watching tonight's basketball game between the Lakers and Celtics, I was taken with how relatively understated the intros were by the Celtic PA Announcer. He really only went crazy for Kevin Garnet (K.G.) and Paul Pierce (The Captain, The Truth). We'll see a lot less restraint when the series goes to Hollywood this week. And compare tonight (well, actually last night, but you are keeping up with me, right?) with earlier productions in Detroit and you get the visual and aural definitions of bombast.

When the Toronto Raptors were aborning in the NBA, there was mutual consideration between the club and myself to be the PA announcer. I had been the original PA announcer for the Toronto Tornados of the Continental Basketball Association. I'd also done some University of Toronto games while Brian Heaney was coach and I'd done a credible job at the World Basketball Championships that had preceded the start of Toronto's first season.

I was interested in the job. Not gaga, but I will tell you that announcers have the best seat in the house for basketball games. Forget Jack Nicholson envy. He would die to sit in the chair. There are few negatives. Sure, you have to do some work, but I'd be talking anyway. And occasionally, you do get stuck with a ginormous human being (or two) standing directly in front of you. I remember distinctly the appearance of an eclipse back in the CBA days in a game between Toronto and the Puerto Rico Coquis. Turns out the eclipse was just Geoff Crompton getting ready to enter the game. Crompton made Shaquille look like a skinny little kid. And I've seen both close up. But other than that, it's sweet seats time.

At the time, the only announcing I was doing regularly, was for the Bramalea Blues of the then Metro Toronto Junior Hockey League. The Americans even shipped me in to do the World Box Lacrosse Championships in Baltimore. I had done world championship softball, track and field and table tennis and enough national and provincial events in softball to pick and choose what I wanted to do. At the inaugural World Youth Softball Championships, I announced games between Canadian games. I did well enough that the Japanese team that made the final against the USA, petitioned to have me do the final game. We'd lost to Japan in the quarter-final in extra innings and I was honestly astonished that they then defeated China to make it to the gold medal game. But I just couldn't make myself announce what I was sure was going to be an American romp in the final. We (the Canadian team) didn't get along all that well with the Yanks, who acted a lot like Big Brown's trainer did this past week. And like Big Brown, the Americans went down to defeat on a last-inning run by the Japanese team. THEN, I was sorry I hadn't been at the mike!

Anyway, getting back to the Raptors. I was talking to a Raptor executive who was going to come out and talk to me at a Blues game. We had trouble co-ordinating. On one day, I knew he was in the office, so I called him. (I had spies). His secretary put me on hold, and then told me he wasn't in. But I knew he was. Still was. I calmly hung up the phone and waited 24 hours. Then I called the same secretary and told her to withdraw my name from consideration. It takes 24 seconds to tell somebody you are busy and that you will call back at another time to resume the conversation. That's being civil and it's perfectly acceptable. People have jobs to do and can't drop everything they do, just to talk to me for hours at an end. I'm a ceaseless prattler, afterall.

But not having the civility to tell me you're too busy and to lie about it, well, those are Mount Mugford eruptions words. I take that line of attack very personally. And I vowed I would never attend a Raptor game while the individual was still employed by the Raptors. I kept that promise, by the way.

What's bad about it, is that I had the backing of some of the NBA Head Office personnel. They liked the way I called the game. I believe, with absolutely no way to corroborate it, that David Stern, preferred my calling approach. But as it turns out, the Raptors were going to follow what has become the way almost all NBA teams approach the job of PA announcer. It's a riotous shouting fest.

The man who got the job was Herbie Kuhn. And he's a far better announcer than I would have been under the circumstances. His personality and patter work. And I think I'm too old now to be jealous of him. What's worse, I was probably too old even then.

It's been a long time since I announced anything. A pre-Olympic women's softball tune-up, I think. The itch is till there, if fading. But every know and then, I look at a roster and for no reason at all, other than that it feels good, I burst out with "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, heeeeere are yoooour ..."

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