Jan 13, 2010

A bit about the evolution of PA announcing in sports

The Toronto Argonauts of the CFL hired a new PA Announcer last year. The Toronto Star had a short article that touched a bit on how the job of stadium/arena PA announcer has evolved:

When the Argos began their search for a new announcer, Nathan Downer was at the top of their shortlist. The professionally trained voice that can go from deep and authoritative to booming and excited? Check. Toronto sports (and especially Argo-centric) background? He counts the team's 1982 return to the Grey Cup as a cherished sporting memory. Add experience as sports director for the Flow 93.5, and his present position, and there's some recognition factor there.

That, and, of course, a personal style, deepens the longer Downer, or anyone for that matter, stays in these kind of positions. Andy Frost, who replaced the legendary Paul Morris as the Leafs' house voice a decade ago, can't open his mouth without the potential for one of those "Hey, aren't you...?" moments.

"It happens constantly – I'm in a store and I say something and people recognize the voice," said Frost, who was among upwards of 100 (some say as many as 300) to be considered to fill Morris's estimable vocal cords. "Sometimes it's, `Hey Andy, call a Sundin goal for us!' That's usually young kids."

There's more to it than uttering "last minute of play in the period." Accompanying Downer on his dress rehearsal night – a pre-season game – was a huge file of sponsors' announcements, timing notes and lineups. A spotter sits at his side, because, as he says, "you're going through this page by page – then you look up and there's the game going on. You can't lose track of that."

For the generation around when the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup, Morris's deadpan delivery was the gold standard. In a pro sports environment where glitzy packaging and "Make Some Noise" messages on the Jumbotron are the norm, the Morris model is emulated nowadays in fewer and fewer spots.

"A lot of teams are looking for people to be a little bit more of a cheerleader in some ways – guys like John Mason in Detroit (with the Pistons)," said Jon Cudo of gameops.com. "It's part of the NBA's entertainment model going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, which other sports have picked up on."


It is not quite anything-goes, though. This remains very much a boys' club, the San Francisco Giants' Renel Brooks-Moon the only woman working as a PA announcer in big-time North American sports.

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