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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Local public address announcers do it for love of the game

Friday, October 31, 2003

Lee Brooks, the voice of Sikeston Bulldogs football, has been the public address announcer for football games for the past 10 years.
Leonna Heuring

Standard Democrat

SIKESTON -- Whether the sound of their voices gets you excited or makes you cringe, high school football game announcers admit they're not there to please you on Friday nights, they're there for the love of the game.

Lee Brooks has announced football games for Sikeston Senior High since 1993. Prior to that, he spent 25 years in the radio business.

"You fly by the seat of your pants a lot," Brooks said about announcing games. "What we try to do is keep people aware of what down it is and other things. We make public service announcements, and we try to get the people involved in the game, but you don't want to distract them."

Fans at New Madrid County Central will hear a "Are you ready for some football?" come out of the mouth of their announcer, Brad Whatley, before a game.

"As an announcer, you have one of the best seats in the house, you're always on the 50-yard line. I've had a ringside seat for some of the best games ever," said Whatley, who's announced for NMCC for over 10 years.

Whatley said he doesn't try to broadcast like radio because the crowd is trying to watch the game. In fact, he listens to the style of other professional announcers when he goes to a St. Louis Rams game or a St. Louis Cardinals game, he said.

"I like to see what they say. Sometimes I like what I hear and have written some things down like catch-phrases," Whatley said.

Whatley even receives good comments from the community such as "You did such a better job than what we heard last Friday night (at a visiting game)" or "Wish you would've done that game." It's such a pat on the back when Whatley hears that, he said.

Greg Mathis, on the other hand, announcer for Dexter High School, recalled one experience where a comment wasn't exactly positive.

"One time at a Little League football game, I overheard a woman say, 'I don't know who (announcer) they get for us at the high school, but we need this guy (the announcer at the game).

Mathis continued: "So I asked her: 'Is he that bad?' She said: 'Oh, he's awful. Why? Do you know who he is?' she asked. I told her it was me and she thought I was joking," Mathis recalled.

But Mathis said he just tries to tell it like it is.

"When the play is over, I say what happened. Everyone's different, though. Charleston (announcer) does a running play-by-play," Mathis noted.

When asked if they had any advice for fellow announcers or new announcers, Brooks said: "Get comfortable and get ready to make mistakes, but have fun with it and interact with the crowd. I've always thought the mark of a good announcer is to make it sound easy."

Whatley suggested use a clear voice and try to show some excitement. One of the most difficult tasks announcers have is give equal exposure to both teams, he noted.

It's hard not to play favorites, Whatley admitted. During districts, the Missouri State High School Athletic Association sends a reminder asking the announcers to speak equally for both teams.

"I've taught at New Madrid for 28 years. This is my life so it's very hard not to get excited for Central when we do well," Whatley said.

Since announcing is live, the unexpected does occur. And when it does, announcers just have to work through it, Brooks said

"One year at homecoming when I got to announcing the queen, no one had given me the winner. When I opened the paper and said 'This year the homecoming queen is' -- and it was blank inside. I had to ad-lib until one of the principals brought me the name. It was about a 45-second delay. Now every year, about five or six people tell me who the winner is," Brooks laughed.

While announcers have spotters who help them see every play, it's also possible to make mistakes.

Most mistakes are mispronouncing names and calling out the wrong names when programs have misprinted numbers with players, the announcers said.

Even so, spectators are pretty tolerant when mistakes are made, Brooks noted.

"I try to keep home mommas happy and make sure their sons get the credit they deserve," Mathis said.

It's the camaraderie with the coaches and the team that Whatley likes. Announcers get to see the players mature through the season and through their high school careers, he commented.

And of course, all good things must come to an end. After this year, Whatley will be eligible for retirement and he admitted he's not sure how much longer he'll stick around.

"It would be very difficult to see someone different sitting in my position when I go to the games," Whatley said. "But I still don't know what I'm going to do next year -- I enjoy it and I just do it for love of the game."