Who could argue with courtside seats? Being among the buzz of action, seeing the sweat, hearing the groans and quite possibly breaking the fall of that notable hustler, all the while having the opportunity for hundreds and even thousands to take note of your commentary, analysis and opinions. This is the life of an Ohio State women’s basketball radio announcer. They gather memorable moments and are always keen to share those memories.
“Getting to know the players and coaches and traveling with the team is one of the best aspects of this job,” Marty Bannister, the women’s basketball play-by-play announcer for WOSU Radio (820 A M), said. “I sometimes feel like I am apart of the team and the whole process.”
“I’m still able to be around the game without the pressure of coaching,” Toni Roesch, a former OSU player and a color commentator on WOSU, said. “I obviously continue to analyze the game, but when I’m done I can leave it behind for awhile and not be up at 2 a.m. trying to figure out how to motivate my team. I have the best of both worlds.”
There is plenty of work involved when it comes to preparing for a broadcast on game day. For some such as Bannister, a day and a half before tip-off is needed to become familiar with opposing teams. He looks for information about the opposing teams by reading a college or university’s athletic website to get acclimated with the players and their stats.
“There is a website called sportspages.com. It has links to sports pages from all across the United States from every major market and you can go there and find many stories. I try to read that, especially stories about other Big Ten schools. I also try to watch games as a part of the homework process.”
Alysiah Bond, another former Buckeye and color commentator for WOSU, finds preparation to be a constant, ongoing process that starts nearly a week before a scheduled game.
“When I prepare in this manner I feel more comfortable when I am on the air,” Bond said. “It is a situation where I have to learn different things about the players, such as their tendencies, over the course of the week, because it needs to become knowledge, rather than things I have to memorize. Each day I step up my preparation. I largely compare it to students studying for an exam. It’s easier to study a little each day leading up to the exam, rather than cram in all the information the day before.” Traveling to different locations throughout the country is a perk and sometimes a challenge faced by the radio broadcasting team.
“Sometimes traveling is difficult, especially to different time zones,” Bannister said. “On our road trip to California, we arrived the day before the first game and I was exhausted. I’m used to waking up at around 4:30 in the morning here in Ohio, but when you rise at 4:30 in California after being there for just one day, your body is really waking up at 1:30 in the morning.”
Once the announcers have become aware of the players, their stats and any facts that may prove valuable to the broadcast, all the members of the broadcast team have different ways of setting up their work areas, hopefully ensuring themselves a smooth broadcast.
Bond and Kristin Watt, yet another former OSU player and color analyst for WOSU, both use an 8 ˝-by-14 manila folder to keep track of Ohio State players on one side and opponent information on the other.
For Bannister, the process is a little more complicated. He must have a steno notepad at his side to write down his information. He usually makes note of the running score, largest leads and television timeouts.
“It’s my security blanket to have my steno pad,” Bannister said. “I also write in different color pens throughout the game for easy reference. For the first half, I use a blue pen, in the second half I use a red pen and if the game goes into overtime, I use a black pen. If there is a double overtime, I’m scrambling for another color pen to write with.”
Bannister can usually determine whether or not the broadcast will be smooth within the first two to three minutes of being on the air.
“I can tell right away,” Bannister said. “Sometimes the game can even dictate whether or not the broadcast will run efficiently.”
While the announcers are keeping their notes and painting a visible picture for the fans listening elsewhere, sometimes technical problems can occur, leaving the crew frustrated at times, but reassured that the problem will be resolved.
“When we were broadcasting the game against UCLA, we were kicked off the air and I was forced to redial everything,” Bannister said. “The initial reaction is to become irate, but your thinking is not very clear if you react that way. You know you will get back on the air, so you have to calm down and sort things out. You just have to step back and take a minute to figure out what is wrong because the fans are depending on you to get back on the air.”
Sometimes the radio team finds themselves at the crossroads of being a fan and yet remaining objective as their occupation requires, especially when they are calling close or exciting games.
“I’m a Buckeye at heart, especially having played basketball at Ohio State,” Bond said. “But what I am doing is a task. I am doing a job, so I try not to be a ‘homer.’ My goal is to be as objective as possible and simply tell the fans what’s happening in the game. It is not fair to speak of only the good things a team does in an attempt to protect a player or the team in general. I have to tell a story and be as impartial as I can when doing so. It is a fine line you have to walk.”
“Because I have gotten to know the players and coaches well, I naturally want them to do well and I do get excited for them, but I’m not a screamer or a cheerleader,” Bannister said. “People have told me though that the minute they turn on a broadcast they know if we’re winning or behind simply by the inflection and tone of my voice.”
Watt admits that she has the tendency to say “we” when on the air, as opposed to Ohio State, proving that remaining objective is sometimes a difficult task.
By the end of the broadcast, whether the Scarlet and Gray put up a win or a loss, the objective of all the announcers is to transfer the energy of the game to the fans listening. In addition, they desire to be themselves and let their personalities permeate throughout the broadcast. Ultimately, the WOSU crew wants to have as much fun as possible when doing their jobs.