On the Air

For a guy with no actual training, I've been lucky enough to get a fair number of opportunities to appear in front of broadcast audiences. It started with a brief appearance on WRDU, the Triangle's old UHF station, channel 28, when my preschool classmates and I got to pretend we were sitting rapt at the feet of Santa Claus. My solo debut came a few years later, when at the age of 18 I wandered into the basement of the Frank Porter Graham Student Union and volunteered to become a student announcer on UNC's legendary alternative radio station, WXYC. I got a quick lesson in pop music from Dave, the music director, who held up a Doors album ("This is GOOD.") and a B-52's album ("This is BAD.") and then turned me loose at 89.3 on the FM dial, where I held forth for several hours a week for the next decade.

I've also had brief moments of audio and video glory such as my appearances on Martha Stewart Living Television and Frank Stazio's excellent program on WUNC public radio, The State of Things, but these days, my broadcast audience is both smaller and more regular, as it comprises those parents, alumni, and friends who turn in to listen to me broadcasting Woodberry's varsity sports. I've been at it for not quite a decade now, and considering I don't get paid extra for doing it, I must be enjoying myself.

The man to blame is my colleague Greg Jacobs, Woodberry's ace physics teacher, a Cincinnatian with a love for baseball purer than that of George Will and a fondness for Reds announcer Marty Brenneman that defies belief. After several years of coaching, Greg decided he wanted to broadcast our school's baseball games, feeling certain that he could manage the play-by-play part, but uncertain about such issues as wires and microphones. By contrast, I had spent some time running cables and potting up volume knobs, but I knew diddly-squat about baseball, making our broadcast partnership a nearly perfect exercise in licking the platter clean. With the help of our technology department and our school webmistress, we set up folding chairs on a platform high above field level and launched the fledgling Woodberry Forest School Sports Network in the spring of 2004.

After a few years, we branched out to handling the occasional football game, where I had a bit more on the ball, so to speak, and took on the role of play-by-play man to Greg's color man. We made sure we had our equipment ready to set up at the annual Woodberry-EHS tilt, but for a few years, that was about it. Then we got talked into handling a few more home games when I could shake free of my own coaching commitments, and before long we were doing basically all the home football AND baseball games.

During my spring sabbatical in 2011, Greg needed some assistance, and he found it in the person of Dr. David Smith, our school chaplain, who in his misspent youth did a few years' work at a commercial radio station. David immediately looked at our equipment and deemed it unfit for the job, dropping a few dollars of his own budget to improve our microphone, connection, and broadcast setup, so that when I returned for football season that fall, I was delighted to have new toys AND a partner with actual hardware expertise. It also helped that David has a wry sense of humor and a wealth of memories from Woodberry's glorious football past, making him a perfect addition to the broadcast team. Quickly, we established our roles in a three-man booth--I'm play-by-play, Greg is color, David is "off-color"--and started talking. We haven't shut up since.

In short, I've gotten kind of used to the idea of speaking in situations where people not in the room can hear (and occasionally see) what I'm saying, and I'll be doing it again this afternoon when the Tigers take on the visiting Cougars of Richmond's Collegiate School. Gametime is 3:30 p.m., and you can listen in by clicking on this link to all our webcasts, including our archived games from weeks (and even seasons) past.

Mind you, there's still a bit of a thrill to it, particularly when you get a wider audience. And that's just what we got when we were provided this link previewing an upcoming ESPN special, one that will air on Tuesday, October 9th, at 7:00 p.m. The opening voice in this clip is indeed mine, saying (too fast, in my opinion), "It's gonna be a big day, that's for sure, and we'll be talking about Woodberry's quarterback, Jacob Rainey."

Jacob's story is one that we've been talking about all year--in fact, all of last year, too. It's not a story like any I know. It's one that has drawn attention from across the country, from schoolkids and parents and students and even people like NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. I won't tell you much about it right now, because it deserves to be seen and heard in its entirety, and I simply can't provide that.

What I can say is this: given what Jacob has been through, many young men would never have returned to Woodberry Forest. They would have gone home and sought strength and comfort in that familiar environment, and I for one would have understood perfectly. But Jacob didn't go home. He stayed in school and kept working and kept succeeding. This year he's a prefect, a leader of our student body, and a varsity football player. He will graduate from Woodberry in May, and he will have earned more respect during his time here than nearly anyone who has walked this campus.

So yes, it's a thrill to know that your voice is going to be heard by people all over the country. I won't deny that.

But it's a much bigger thrill to know that your voice is going to be heard telling a story about a guy like Jacob Rainey.

Tune in to E:60 on Tuesday and hear that story. I promise, by the end you won't care whose voice it was.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on October 5, 2012 1:50 PM.

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