You never know who you’ll meet in a press box

Mississippi is one big high school.

I tell my out-of-state friends that all the time, but I’m not sure they really believe me until they actually come here (Kel knows).

Living in Attala County ups this ante even more, because you can’t go ANYWHERE without meeting someone who was born here, lived here, worked here, or has family here.

When I lived in Jacksonville, FL, I met a man who had dated a girl from KosciuskoI. I met a wrestler in Monroe, LA who has family in Ethel. In Nashville this past December I spoke with a former teammate of Peyton Manning’s who dated a girl from Kosciusko after meeting her a the Neshoba County Fair.

Well, I learned this lesson again Friday night as the clock operator, who was seated right next to me in a very cramped press box, told me that he had a connection to Attala County.

His name was RL Clark. He said he went to school in Kosciusko (Tipton Street) through 10th grade, before finishing at Thomastown.

I told him that I live less than 1/2 mile from the old Tipton Street school and that I’ve played basketball in the gym a few times there recently.

He and I then connected about some people we both may have known. He said that his cousin still lives and teachers in the area and said he went to school with Clemmy Harmon (brother of Clarence and Michael).

I sit close to the clock officials almost every where we go and I love chatting with them.

And as I mentioned above, no matter where we are, they usually have some sort of connection to Attala County.

Highlights of the night: 

  • Phillip and I had a pregame picnic with his daughter and son-in-law before the game. They only live a few miles from the school where we were playing, so they graciously brought us over some Chick Fil A. So a huge thanks goes out to Ruth Anne and Josh Van Drunen.
  • Once again, our opponents did not have a full roster for us, so I was forced to make up more names. And since we were playing the Trojans, I resorted to combining names of famous USC players. There was a Clay Swann and a Reggie Simpson. Sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
  • New term’s or phrases coined this game: The Gold’s Gym Pose (the muscle flex celebration); The Jennie Finch (when the QB underhand tosses a pass like a softball)

It’s so much more than just a broadcast

“Is it really that hard? All you do is say what’s happening on the field? Anyone can do that.”

Anyone who has ever broadcasted a game has heard that. And anyone who has broadcasted a game knows that there’s so much more to it than that.

My broadcasting colleague and Twitter friend Melanie Newman, broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles, expressed her own  frustration with that sentiment in a tweet over the weekend:

Now, I don’t broadcast for a professional team, so I know her prep work far exceeds mine. One reason is that I have another full time job (which is like 3 jobs in one) that demands most of my time, so a lot of my prep is done on Sundays and after work hours.

However, I do take pride in the amount of prep I do and have always carried myself as if it were a professional broadcast.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several pros in the business. I’ve interviewed both Ole Miss’ David Kellum and Mississippi’s State’s Neil Price, the latter of which I’ve sat in the radio booth with during a game call (Thanks to the best engineer ever Ross Swanner).
I worked a TV broadcast spotting for Lyn Rollins, a broadcasting legend who is in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

And they all stress just how much research, prep, and other work it takes to make your broadcast stand out.

If I ever had an excuse to slack on the prep work, it was this past week.

We were finally back to a game week after having two weeks off due to COVID-19 protocols. So that meant prep work, recording with the 4 segments with the coach, producing the video broadcast and all that a normal game week entails.

In addition to that, the news reporter on two of our stations was on vacation, so I had to write, produce, and a record a newscast for all three station this week.
Plus we had live broadcasts for our campaign to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

So my week was already pretty hectic.

But to top it off, during this week’s game, the school would celebrate Senior Night and present the homecoming court.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the huge senior night ceremony. We didn’t do that when I was a senior.

In fact, if we had done it, I can picture an 18-year-old Breck actively voicing his position against it, but still participating anyway for the family.

But even though I have my issues with it, I know a number of people enjoy it. So all week long, I had felt the need to find a way to broadcast both of those events because of the limited ticket situations due to coronavirus. The idea that some grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members wouldn’t be able to partake in those festivities just didn’t sit well with me.

So I decided we would find a way to make it happen. Luckily, I happen to have A LOT of experience in running sound (thanks Dad), so I knew what all I needed to pull it off.

Thursday I went to the field and got it all set up and tested and it worked-ish. So, being the paranoid person that I am, I got to the field at 3:30 Friday to get it all set up again to make sure that it worked, and thankfully it did and it all sounded great during the broadcast.

When it was all said and done, I was awake from 3:30 am – 11:00 pm Friday, with 7 of those hours spent at the football field.

So that’s a look inside what a week looks like for the radio guy leading up to a broadcast.

I didn’t write this post to brag, but to just show what kind of work goes into the ballgames you watch and listen to week-in and week-out.

Mine is just a high school broadcast. You can’t even imagine the work that goes into those on the college and professional levels.

In conclusion, broadcasting is one of those jobs everyone thinks they can do. I foolishly thought that too before I started on this journey 8 years ago. But like most jobs, until you’ve actually done it, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

Highlights of the night: 

  • I was elated to see Cam Smith back at the game. He spent several weeks in the hospital battling complications with COVID-19. Prior to the game, I got to go down and speak to Cam and his dad George.
  • I had fun as the stadium DJ again this week. I added a couple of Van Halen songs to the playlist as a tribute to the G.O.A.T. I also threw in some “Gloria” by Laura Branigan because it’s just a fun song.
  • The punter on the other team was not on our roster, so I took to calling him William Perry. Shoutout to all the ’85 Bears fans.

 

Trading the headset for the control panel

Even though my team was off for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols, I was able to get back to the booth this past week.

With all the high school games moved up to Thursday night because of Hurricane Delta, I was called in to help with our East Central Community College broadcast.

But this time, I would instead be in charge of producing our video stream and occasionally providing color commentary.

It was a nice change of pace for me since I’m usually studying film and memorizing rosters, but this time I was creating pregame and halftime graphics and figuring out a way to get a scoreboard on screen.

Things went very well once we finally got on the air. YouTube decided it wanted to completely redo the way you have to set up video streams, so I had to fix that on the fly and get a new code/link back to our producer in the studio, but it’s nothing that I couldn’t handle.

I quite enjoyed doing a little something different, because I like to get experience in all aspects of a broadcast.

However, I will be glad to return to play-by-play this week….hopefully.

Highlights of the night: 

  • I was able to see a high school friend of mine that I haven’t seen since high school. Amy was senior when I was a freshman and we played on the drumline together. She works at ECCC now, so it was fun to see her and talk drumline for a bit.
  • I think I may have watched the best JUCO punter in the country during the game. Robens Beauplan’s punts are a thing of beauty.
  • I dropped a “Die Hard” reference on commentary. If you know me, then you know.

“If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could.”

Captain America: Civil War
“If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could.” -Steve Rogers/Captain America
“No you don’t” – Tony Stark/Ironman
“No….I don’t.” -Steve Rogers/Captain America

A main storyline in Marvel’s Captain America and Avengers movies is that he just doesn’t know how to stop being a soldier.

Several times throughout the movies, it’s referenced that despite his insistency that he wants peace, he just can’t step away from conflict .

Avengers: Age of Ultron
“Captain America…God’s righteous man…pretending you could live without a war.” -Ultron

In one particular scene, an enemy gives the Avengers a vision all of each of their greatest fears.

In Captain America’s vision, his greatest fear is the end of the war. Steve finds himself in the 1940s with his girlfriend at a party to celebrate the end of WWII.

“The war’s over Steve. We can go home.” -Agent Peggy Carter

I feel like Captain America this week. Now I’m no hero and I’m certainly not comparing myself to a soldier. I just mean that it’s hard for me to “turn it off.”

Someone asked me today why I work so much. It’s an honest question.

The simple answer would be that I enjoy what I do, so it doesn’t always feel like work. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult or at times I don’t get burnt out because I do.

Another reason is that I take what I do very seriously. My work ethic is something I take pride in. So, it pains me to feel like something isn’t being done or isn’t being done as thoroughly as it could be.

It’s the old adage that “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”

This week I find myself in a rare situation: I don’t have football games to prepare for or broadcast for 2 weeks. The team’s games have been cancelled due to rising cases of coronavirus.

This will be the first time I’ve had 2 Friday nights off in October since 2012.

Now, you would think it would be easy for me to take a step back and enjoy some much needed time off on a Friday night. However, the truth is, I’ve been looking for a game to work.

I’ve talked to a few of my broadcasting friends to see if they need an extra analyst, sideline reporter, or something.

Of course, none of them have any openings.

But, as luck would have it, today I learned that our other football broadcast is in need of a camera operator. Now, I still haven’t decided if I’m going to run the camera or not, but at least the option is there.

I have a ton of other work to do this week as well, so maybe I will take Friday night off.

After all, The Empire Strikes Back is showing in theaters this weekend to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

And if there’s anything that could make me take off of work, it’s Star Wars.

“Breck, you seriously work all the time.” -Everyone
“I know. I wish I could slow down.” – Me
“No you don’t.” -Everyone
“No….I don’t.”- Me

The weirdest broadcast ever

In my 8 seasons of broadcasting football, I’ve never quite had an experience like we had Friday night.

We went on the road to Holly Springs. A 2 hour and 15 minute drive for us.
This would be the first home game of the season for Holly Springs. Because of a ruling by their mayor, the team was not allowed to play any home games this season. However, during a recent city meeting, aldermen overturned the mayor’s ruling and allowed the team to play.

So, this was already going to be a crazy game even before Friday ever got here.
But, I enjoy a good road trip to a broadcast, because windshield time with our crew is always entertaining.

Now the facility at Holly Springs isn’t the best when it comes to accommodating visiting broadcasters. It’s at a city park and there just isn’t any room for more than a handful of people in the press box.

Well, while doing my research,  I saw the visitor’s side had a parking lot that was on a hill overlooking the field. I decided that would be the best place for us to set up because we’d have a decent view and could spread out.

But also, if you know me, you know I have to add a little flash to most things I do. And if I was going to broadcast from a parking lot, we were going to turn it into a tailgate party.

So in addition to our broadcast equipment, we brought snacks (homemade Chex mix and boiled peanuts courtesy of Momma Riley), a cooler full of drinks, some decor for our table (helmet and burlap), and a generator.

We are the first people at the stadium (something I like to pride myself on), and we notice that the set up was a bit worst than we thought, but not for us.
Our spot was just as I had scouted. However, the field is in very bad condition.

And by very bad condition, I mean it was FULL of ant beds.

Remember, this is the first game Holly Springs has hosted this season. So ants had taken the field as their’s during the off season. Someone attempted to put some poison on each ant bed, but it looks like that was done about 2 hours before we got there.

Luckily, we never saw any players have a run in with the ants.

So yes, broadcasting from a parking lot…for a game that was on a field full of ants….while have to use a cell phone flash light to read our stats and rosters….is a night that will be hard for the remainder of my broadcast career to top.

Highlights of the night: 

  • First things first, we have to say a HUGE thank you to Jay Price and Kosciusko Auto Parts for donating the generator for us to use. There is NO way we would have been able to get the video stream online had it not been for having that generator. So thank you Jay.
  • Former Whippet Bobo Miller was at the game last night. It was great seeing him. He plays for Ole Miss now and with the Rebels playing at home Saturday, he and another football player made the short trip over. He told me that he’s been moved to defense, so look for him the next time you watch the Rebels on TV.
  • On the field, it was a great performance for the Whippets. That defense continues to impress. Holly Springs did not get a first down until the 5:30 mark of the 3rd quarter. The offense had another great game, finding the endzone 6 times on the night.

 

 

Football takes a backseat

Have you ever been in a stadium that was full of people, but was silent?
That was the scene Friday night in Kosciusko during a 40-minute injury delay.

Football is a tough sport and we’ve all seen our fair share of injuries on the field, but when the stadium is silent and an ambulance drives onto the field, it puts things in perspective.

Now I know most of the kids on the team just from covering the team as much as I do, but the player that was injured Friday night, I knew better than most.

Big Mike used to frequent our weekly basketball game at a local church. And since he and I are usually two of the biggest guys on the court, we often played opposite each other.

Now I’m not a good basketball player by any means, but I can hold my own under the goal and use some leg strength to hold my ground and grab rebounds. But not against Mike.

Every time we play, he pushed me all over the court.

Now I still talked trash. Would never let him know I had no chance of stopping him.  He’d just smile….and keep scoring.

Mike is a good kid and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Highlights of the night:

  • Man, it was fun watching this team finally put it all together. The offense has SOOO many playmakers on the field and this defense is one of the best I’ve seen in my 8 years broadcasting games. This team will be fun to watch downt the stretch.
  • Was happy that Coach Orr got a win over his alma mater. Coaching against a school you went to or from the town you grew up in is kinda like competing against your little brother: You better win or you’re gonna hear about it at every dinner, holiday, or family get together. I guess Coach Orr will be enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
  • When I found out it was a blackout night, prior to the game, I hurried back to the radio station to add Ciara’s version of “Paint it Black” to the stadium playlist. Judging from the team’s performance, I’d say it’s a keeper.

There’s no place like home

There really is nothing like a hometown football game.

It’s great to see the parents come out to support their kids on the team, in the band, or on the cheerleading squad.
What’s even better is seeing the fans that really don’t have any parental affiliation to be there, but they come out to support the home team.

And the home fans wanted football. The athletic director told me that there were 200 tickets sold in the first 30 minutes of them going on sale.

Once again, things were different. I got tracked down so someone could take my temperature. We had a plexiglass partition next to our broadcast set up to separate us from the rest of the press box. The visiting radio and video team had to set up in the top row of the bleachers. However, no one complained. We were all just glad to be there.

The game didn’t go how we wanted. Grenada has a good team, but our guys are still trying to get down the new offense. There were marked improvements on defense however. I have confidence that they’ll get it all put together soon.

Highlights of the night:

  • For the 3rd year in a row, I am once again the pregame stadium DJ. I had all of the usual “pump jams” on the playlist, but “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” and “Can’t Touch This” got a few laughs from the crowd. The California Love-Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remix also was quite popular.
  • This was our first video broadcast of the year and it went great. No issues at all. We had a lot of people tuned in due to the capacity restrictions at the games. I was also told a restaurant downtown had the stream on a TV in the bar.
  • This was a crazy hectic week. I had sooo much work to do that wasn’t football related. And Friday I spent most of the day trying to fix a problem with our other football video stream. Ultimately, that couldn’t be fixed so that broadcast was audio only. That irked me a bit because that means those fans that can’t go to the game, wouldn’t be able to watch. So I wasn’t in the best mood when I left the station to go home to get ready for our game, but as soon as I stepped in our press box, all that went away.

 

Broadcasting from the Bleachers

Broadcasting high school football is an adventure. You never know where you are going to be. I’ve broadcasted from 100 degree press boxes, rotten wooden platforms, and from the bleachers. Friday night was the latter.

We went on the road to Winona. Normally, they have us a nice spot in the press box, but due to all of the Coronavirus precautions, we were forced to set up in the visitor bleachers.

All things considered, it wasn’t so bad. For Labor Day weekend in Mississippi, it wasn’t that hot. We had a lot of room to set up and move around. We could see also well enough. And it’s really fun sitting with the fans because you can hear EVERYTHING. Sometimes that’s fun and other times I have to turn my mic down so some of the more “colorful” language doesn’t make it on air.

All in all, setting up in the stands isn’t so bad, so long as we don’t have to do it every week.

Highlights of the night:

  • I started the night by seeing one of my best friends and former college roommate. He lives less than a mile from the Winona stadium, so he pulled in to the parking lot right before the game. He’s getting ready to move out of state, so it was good to see him.
  • The broadcast went great. We didn’t have any issues at all. Which is great given that we didn’t have any electricity and were running off of battery power. Credit to our producer Donald for handling things back in the studio.
  • Even though our team came up on the losing side, the game was very entertaining. It was a back and forth affair for most of the night. Kosciusko showed just how many playmakers it has with 4 different players scoring touchdowns. I liked the effort I saw from the team. They never showed any signs of giving up.

Back in the Booth!

For the first time in 7 months, I broadcasted a game!
Even if it was a jamboree/scrimmage. Even if our equipment decided it didn’t want to cooperate. Even if it rained on us right at the start of the game.
It did not matter. We were broadcasting football.

We traveled up the Natchez Trace (always a great drive) to Maben, MS as Kosciusko faced off against East Webster. This would be the first look at the Whippets under a new coaching staff. But for me, and I imagine a number of fans who made the trip, the way the team looked mattered very little. This night was all about returning to our way of life. Something that we do every Friday night. And it was the same for East Webster and fans.

The stands were packed. People were talking to each other. The band was playing. The cheerleaders were cheering. Normalcy.

I don’t know how many more games we’ll get to broadcast, because of the rules for mandatory quarantines and all that, but last night was fun. So if it has to last me a while, I think it will.

Highlights of the night:

  • I got to see former Kosciusko High School band director Jesse Yates as he is the head director at East Webster now. I had been texting him all week, asking if he could speak to the coaches to find out where we could set up to broadcast. He was able to secure the penthouse (roof of the press box) for us.
  • Kosciusko looks much improved over last year. There were some hiccups with the new offense, but we knew that would be the case because the team didn’t have a spring season to learn it. With the playmakers they put on the field, I have no doubt they’ll get it down. On the other side of the ball, the defense looked great. They flew to the ball and there are a couple of guys I’m so excited to watch for the rest of the year.
  • When we first went live on the air, I got goosebumps because it felt so good to be back on the air.