One more week, and I'm back in my sanctuary.
Teaching? Oh no. That begins Tuesday with a new crop of students. I meant I'm back in the press box at our football stadium, ready to make more games come alive for Westminster fans.
It's a new season as we come off a sizzling 2015 campaign in which we went 13-1 and got to the Missouri state Class 4 semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Kearney (in weather that would've made the South Pole look like a balmy upgrade). We are replacing two wide receivers, our record-setting quarterback, our starting offensive line (which averaged 300 pounds per man!) and defensive front, plus three defensive backs.
Yet new coach Chris Pederson is not rebuilding but reloading. We have talent.
But that waits until mid-week when I do my season preview issue of our unofficial team newsletter, the Wombat.
PA announcing dominates my thoughts now. I'm not going to repeat what I've said before. Right now, I'm excited about getting back in the booth and capitalizing on some areas I've grown over the last couple years as a broadcaster. To wit:
1- Anticipation: Doing the little things in between plays is essential to smooth storytelling. Notice who breaks from the huddle before the play. Have an understanding of the team's playbook. Keeping track of who is on the field will help you get a call right of who snags a 17-yard reception or who makes a dazzling open-field tackle.
2- Preparation: Research the history between teams and share details of the series, who's won the most recent game, and so forth. Announce who the opposing coach is, how many years he's been there, and anything else.
3- Get the little things right: I always go to the opposing coaches' room in the press box with their team's roster and go over players' names and pronunciations. It takes only about five minutes, and it promotes good relations between schools. Plus, you're more guaranteed to prevent a parent from MICDS, John Burroughs, Priory, or Borgia from getting upset their son's surname got mangled on air. Well, maybe not Borgia. They tend to hate me no matter what.
4- Celebrate the milestones: I study the regional stat sheet at stltoday.com the week before each game. If a player is close to breaking 1000 yards rushing or passing for the season, or throwing his 20th touchdown pass, I keep running stats during the game while I'm announcing. That way, if he breaks the milestone, I acknowledge it on the microphone and the fans get to cheer. Yes, this goes for opposing teams, too. (You have to be objective) When a Westminster player breaks a school single game, season, or career record in any category, I'm always on top of it. That always gets a roar from the crowd.
5- You're there to announce, not coach the game. I still have to learn this in spots, because I can still go back to my coaching days and get into the play-calling chess match on occasion. Or, even worse, I just go nuts. I mean, absolutely nuts...albeit with the microphone turned off. Last year, when we beat John Burroughs in a huge game, our lead was sliced before halftime after we got hit with two personal fouls and Burroughs took advantage. I got so blistering mad that I jumped out of my chair and punched the seat of a steel chair next to me. Didn't even think about it. The newspaper guy next to me looked as if I'd lost my mind (I wrote him an apology three days later), and that was nothing compared to how my pinky knuckle swelled up and bled. At halftime, my wife looked at me and said gently, "Remember, you're not coaching anymore." Yep, room for growth.
All that being said, I'm anxious to get in the booth again and being back in my game storytelling mode for another season. If you're in the area, come to Westminster at 1 pm on Saturday, August 20th, as we take on the Dragons of St. Mary's.