Darren’s Notes From The Wilidcat Press Box: An Open Mic Story in the Bleachers
This year marks my second football season with K1017 in the land of Friday night lights. As I mentioned in an earlier online post, I am having an absolute blast producing these games. Even when a little problem pops up.
Last year, our Temple High School football games were something I merely listened to on my radio. Our previous play by play man, the excellent Jamie Garrett, was a totally self-contained operation: sports caster, producer, engineer both before and during the broadcast.
When Jamie defected to Killeen High School where he took over the radio broadcast program as a teacher, I knew that I would be tapped to supervise the broadcast. That's because I'm the operations manager and I have experience in this area. "Go to it, Me," said I to myself.
This allowed me to work with an entirely new crew, all of whom were very closely connected with Temple High School. As I wrote previously, I knew it was virtually impossible to find someone who sounded like Jamie, so we all agreed the broadcast should sound as insider, as Temple-centric as humanly possible. I'll provide them the best possible technical set up for them to grow as broadcasters and to be themselves, the Templeites [sp?] they all are. And it doesn't get much more Temple, Texas than Art Coley, Allen Roark and Joe Palmer, Who are easing their way into their roles in our weekly broadcasts. I'm as proud as I can be of these guys, they are working hard to do right by their friends and neighbors not to mention the students of Temple high school.
I worked with our engineer to assess what we would need technically. One of the things I always liked was the sound of the crowd. It still amazes me when our broadcasters are placed in a booth with zero sound from the outside. In our home studio, we have a built-in conduit which pipes in crowd noise. Last week, when we were broadcasting from A&M Consolidated in College Station, there was no such accommodation for the visiting radio crew.
I was in a pickle: I knew our booth would be small so I opted not to bring our full technical set up. Trust me, lugging equipment up and down stairs to press boxes in ever-more impressive-sized behemoth stadiums is not my idea of fun. Cluttering a two person mini studio with an excessive amount of wires, any of which could be yanked out of the back of the console inadvertently by the foot of an excited color or play by play announcer is a recipe for disaster. Because I didn't know what we were dealing with, I opted for a stripped down version of our usual bag of technical tricks. I may be a decent producer, but I'm not Felix the cat; I have to be conscientious about what I bring. Initially, I was uncertain if we could possibly pipe in crowd noise.
I did bring a crowd mic but there was no place to put it in this sealed enclosure. I ended up running a line of cable out of the broadcast booth, down the hall to an exit which led right into the stadium. I placed the mic next to the stairs and balanced the crowd noise on the console, hoping no one would open the door and kick the mic, or worse, slam the door and cut the cord. Thankfully, neither of these things happened.
It's amazing how the reaction of the fans enlivens a sports broadcast. Their responses are natural and they follow the action of the game. Initially, I was very happy with the quality of the ambience we were picking up from the crowd mic.
Unfortunately, about halfway through the second quarter, we were reminded that this was a high school game in every way. Some extremely talkative A&M Consolidated youngsters had placed themselves very near our crowd mic. As a matter of fact, these girls, who could not have been any less interested in what was going on down on the field, were sitting directly on the floor of the stands with their backs leaning against the press box itself. And like most teenage girls, they could not or would not stop talking. The subject: Snapchat. Geez.
Hearing this and realizing its negative impact on the broadcast, I sprang into action. First I dial down the crowd level on the mixing console. I didn't want the broadcast to sound dry, but I didn't wanted to sound like Stockard Channing and Olivia Newton-John in the movie Grease had taken over our broadcast.
As I bounded out the door to take care of business, I was struck by what I was about to do. First of all, how do I correct this situation without causing an international or rather interdistrict incident? I couldn't do what my id was telling me to do: yell at these kids and command them to shut up. If I had done that, it would have been broadcast over our airwaves for all the world to hear, as we were in such close proximity to the aforementioned microphone.
Thankfully, a cooler part of my psyche prevailed. I simply went out and glared at them with an evil eye. I realized that as an adult, I was probably the last person they want to be around especially if I had an angry look on my face. It worked. They scooted down far enough away from the mic. A few minutes later, another adult came around, possibly bothered by their continuing chatter, and chased them away. The remainder of our broadcast was not encumbered by such distractions.
We will be back home at Temple High School this Friday night. See you then.