My first ever basketball broadcast
By Ron Soanka
As we have reached the half way part of this basketball season I got to thinking about the past 22 seasons and all the fun I’ve had doing games. I decided it might be fun to share with you my first experience of doing a game. So here I go.
The only thing I’m unsure of is the year this story took place. I remember getting a call from my broadcast partner asking me how I felt about broadcasting college basketball. I liked the idea of getting a chance to do a sport that I had not done yet, and also the challenge of doing college basketball. I said yes and asked when would we start. The response I got was “we start tomorrow night”, and I”ll pick you up at 4:00 PM. We would broadcast games for the Clark College Penguins and I was fairly familiar with their program and the athletic director of the college, Joe Hash. My next step was to go to try and familiarize myself with the men’s and women’s teams we would cover that year.
The big day had arrived and I felt that I was ready to take on a new challenge. We got to the gym around 4:20 pm and started setting up our equipment for the night’s work. I remember Joe Hash coming up several times making sure we had everything we needed to do the broadcast. The pregame show was 15 minutes and I felt very comfortable and was more then ready to go. The pregame show was really a blur. We talked about the two teams, their records, and key personnel. Now it was time for the national anthem and we were two minutes away from tip off. I remember no feeling of anxiety at all .I just wanted to get started and enjoy the experience.
The lineups were introduced and I would also repeat along with the public address announcer the starters for the nights contest. OK..here we go. Ten players, three officials, and one basketball. What else to you need? Ball is up in the air and we are underway. Three minutes into the game and I am sailing along and keeping up with the pace of the game. Timeout is called, and we take a break. I remember taking my headset off and asking my analyst why he had not said anything. His response was “in a minute”. I just kinda shrugged it off and said to myself let’s have some more fun.
Around the ten minute mark I think their is media timeout and we took it. I remember thinking to myself my analyst has not yet said ONE WORD at all. Once again I removed my headset and said “What the heck are you doing. You have not said one word yet”. The response I got is one that still lives with me to this day. “Ron, I’m just sitting here enjoying the great job you are doing and don’t want to mess the broadcast up”. If it wasn’t for the emotional rush I was on doing my first game I might have been completely stunned right there. I really didn’t have time to respond or even think about the great compliment I was just paid. The first half was over and it felt to me like we were just getting started. I remember feeling sad that it had gone by so fast.
At the half I remember we were going to talk with Joe Hash, the athletic director at Clark College at the time. Still up to this time I was having a great time and really loving this experience. We were in our break and I remember looking to my left looking for Joe and here he comes into the gym from his office. I remember seeing the big smile on his face and him clutching a small stack of papers in his right hand as he made his way up to our seats in the stands.
Break over with and I start the interview and the first question I asked was “what are you holding in your hand”. His response were like words of magic to me. “Ron, these are phone messages to me from people listening to your broadcast”. I held my breath and asked, “do they like my work so far”. Joe got one of the biggest smiles on his face that I’ve ever seen and said, “they love what you are doing”. It was like I had crossed the pearly gates of broadcast heaven folks. I had no words that could even describe how I felt. In fact, I really don’t know what the rest of my talk with Joe was about.
On a side note I had the good fortune of talking with Joe the other day as I was preparing this story and it was great to catch up with an old friend. At the present time Joe is the athletic director, which is one of his numerous titles, at the College of the Redwoods. Well, just like that the half was over and time to get back at it.
I really don’t recall much of the second half to be honest. Everything was so surreal and I was having the time of my life. I also might add that my color analyst did add to the broadcast but, I think I might have been able to do it myself believe it or not. Before I knew it the game was over and the post game show flew by.
Now it was time to pack up and head home. I had the time of my life but there was something nagging me the whole time of this great experience that was starting to get to me. As we were putting the equipment in the van I said to my broadcast partner I need to talk with you. He said, “what is on your mind”. I said that believe it or not this was the first time I’ve ever done a basketball game live. He dropped his bag and was stunned. He said, “are you kidding me”. I said, “the reason I didn’t say anything before this was the fact that I knew I could do it and I didn’t want the company to miss out on this chance”. I will never ever forget his response to me. “Ron, I was amazed at the job you did tonight and you really have nothing to improve upon”.
To say I was stunned is the biggest understatement in my lifetime. “I’ve listened to thousands of games before, and I would have to say this was the best hands down”. The emotion that ran over my body was amazing and it was like a giant weight had been taken off my shoulders. I thanked God for the gift he had given me to do these games and pursue a career in this wonderful business. I have never looked back.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my first basketball broadcast. It was fun for me to write and I hope it is good reading for you.
As Telly Savalas would say, “who loves you baby”?