Focus is the name of the game when you’re calling the Chiefs and the Cougars, a classic Wyoming basketball rivalry.
Thirty-five hundred of Wyoming’s most knowledgeable basketball fans fill Wyoming Indian High School’s gym when Wind River comes to town. They come to make noise. They’re good at it.
Sneakers chirp on hardwood, players call out plays, coaches shout directions, whistles shriek, and all of it is drowned by back-and-forth waves of fan noise.
That can be a challenge when, like Cody Beers and Ernie Over, Wind River Radio Network’s “Voice of the Chiefs” and “Voice of the Cougars”, you’re seated courtside, at the center of the roar, straining into a headset microphone, trying to describe near chaos for thousands of radio listeners.
“… rebound Michael Underwood to Ryan Tiger, Chiefs on the run, four-on-two break, to Natiun Trosper for three, no good, rebound Jayin Trumbull, and this place might have exploded if Natiun hits that shot, right side Xavior Oats, long three-pointer, wonder about that one, no good, taken away Michael Underwood, that’s three boards early for Underwood, to Trosper, in the corner Lane Hill, back up top of the key to Ryan Tiger, Tiger will rise for three, GOOOOOOD! Ryan Tiger, he’s got two three’s, the two big men with four threes in this first quarter, 13-11 Wind River… .”
Done right, listeners hear an unbroken, realtime relay of the action, not the circus-quality juggling act that happens behind the microphone. That the caller is simultaneously logging the game’s events into a scorebook — two missed shots, one made shot, three points and three rebounds tallied to five players on two teams during the 38-second call above — tracking the ball up and down the court, matching players to numbers and plucking notable information from the running stats has to be invisible.
Don’t stop talking. But don’t fall behind on your notes, either. You’ll need to mine the record for stories, on the fly, during the pregame, postgame and halftime shows — two of each with back-to-back boys’ and girls’ games.
Taken together you’ve got about three hours of live airtime to fill, during which you’ll also need to plug all the sponsors, find room for the commercials and communicate with the studio over the air in coded messages. It’s so frantic that you might not notice the backslaps from passers by.
So pace yourself. And hydrate… but not too well. There are no bathroom breaks.
And if, amid the multitasking, the noise, and the off-the-cuff storytelling, your focus starts to fray, take a deep breath and try to remember why you’re there. People need you to paint a picture, to be their eyes, to connect them with their friends, their family, their team, so many frozen miles away.
Remember that, as Beers puts it, “It’s not really about the basketball. It’s about the passion, and the community and the relationships. We’re just lucky to be a part of it.”