I had long suspected that play-by-play was, and I say this with no pun intended, my life’s calling. It’s only natural, then, that at 7:30 PM on the last day of August, I’d be a little bit nervous.
But I wasn’t nervous because the thought of being live on the radio daunted me. No, I’d done it plenty of times before, co-hosting the Front Page Edition of All Things Considered on Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM from May to October of last year. I wasn’t thinking about that live audience, and what they, in turn, may be thinking of me. I wasn’t afraid of messing up; this was my first game, after all, and I was more than prepared for that to happen, and to move on when it does.
More than anything, I was nervous I wouldn’t like what I was doing.
Everything happened so fast that night that I didn’t really have time to think about whether or not I was enjoying myself. I didn’t need the time to think about it. I knew that I loved what I was doing.
I called out the formations–“Here’s Roddenberry under center. They’re in the I-formation, with split receivers…” I called the action–“Carter runs up the middle, shakes off a tackler, and plows forward for another yard or two before being brought down!” I made jokes, too–“There’s a flag–excuse me, two flags on the field. Four more and that’s a theme park!”
And through it all, I was having fun.
I’d been calling games for as long as I can remember. I used to turn down the volume on Miami Dolphins games (not because I couldn’t bear the scores–at least, that wasn’t the initial reason) and do the play-by-play myself. My living room was my first pressbox, and I didn’t know it then, but I’d been practicing for years for this moment, when I would finally announce my own name on the radio and not pretend I was Al Michaels or Jim Nantz or Bob Costas.
As we neared the end of our broadcast, there was a stillness in me, because I knew I had done what I set out to do: successfully call my first game. There was also a sadness that this game was over, that my first game out of the next few hundreds will soon be a memory. However, this memory is something I treasure, and I know will continue to treasure as I go on to call even bigger and better games. That night was a turning point. It was the night I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
It was also the night I discovered that, with my headset on, in the pressbox, I am home.
Just like I am in my living room.