Those that know me well, know that I am an obsessive rule follower. I believe that in general, rules and laws are created to train us on how to become productive members of society, and to protect us from those that would wish to do us harm. That being said, I have also seen my share of blanket rules handed down across the board to control what seem to be mundane affairs. The craze a couple of years back of hitting a driver with a $200 fine with no warning for covering up the word TEXAS with a license plate frame comes to mind.
Basketball is, and has always been, my favorite thing to announce. I remember going to Baylor games in high school, hearing Brad Cox announce the Baylor starters with the Chicago Bulls theme blasting in the background, and telling myself that I wanted to do that one day. Now I do admit that since day one, I’ve been a bit of an envelope pusher. Maybe announcing’s not just my outlet, but also my release from an obsession with simple obedience that has driven me crazy for years. I have known about the following ever since the discussion was brought up on the Facebook group for Public Address Announcers a month or two ago, but the NFHS (the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body for high school athletics) has re-released a set of guidelines for basketball announcers that it put on its website several months back. In looking in the basketball manual for UIL (University Interscholastic League, the Texas state organization) this year, it originally appeared that this point of emphasis was omitted, to my relief. That all changed when, lo and behold, this surfaced:
The said article makes it a point to do two things: to prohibit “cheering the home team on” (supposedly it hurts the opposing team’s self esteem) and to place severe restrictions on what types of things can and cannot be announced.
As for the first bullet, I agree that the announcer is not a cheerleader (okay, I’m guilty of “accidentally” cutting the mic off right before I get to the words “first down” when Robinson’s on offense). But back to my point, non-NBA basketball is not the place for chanting DEFENSE over a mic, GO BIG BLUE, playing the organ, etc. “Inciting the crowd”, which in fairness the UIL has actually had in its announcing guidelines for years, could be taken a number of different ways. Does it mean not doing the fancy intros as one columnist writes? Or is it more along the lines of the angry parent in the stands, but with a mic? The NFHS’s suggestions state that high school athletics is “educationally based” and so the announcer should not behave as, say, a college announcer. What, pray tell, is a college other than an EDUCATIONAL institution? And if they want to go that far, I have a suggestion for a few more rules to ensure that the contest is held in as neutral of an environment as possible:
1) All high school gymnasiums must be painted a solid gray, with appropriately colored furniture and fixtures to match. If gray is one of the home school’s colors, lavender or lime green are suitable replacements.
2) Cheerleaders are only permitted at football games.
3) Schools must designate the top two rows surrounding the perimeter of their bleachers as the student section. Students must remain in these top two rows and must remain seated throughout the contest. A decibel meter is recommended to ensure that student exuberance does not affect the outcome of the contest.
4) Coaches are responsible for coaching any player on either team when said player asks for a play or for advice.
5) Team mascot names may not be mentioned verbally or in writing by anyone involved in the contest.
6) Any parent who says the word “referee”, “ref”, any other form of the word, or anything resembling said word, is to be ejected immediately.
My major point of contention is with the second bullet. The following is NOT a made-up hypothetical list, but is ACTUALLY what has now been banned NATIONWIDE for all basketball announcers by a group of maybe ten people:
* Number of points a player scored. No big deal; it isn’t done in college, and the only time I ever did it was to acknowledge the performance of a player on either team who had fouled out.
* Number of fouls on player / number of team fouls. I don’t know any announcers that DON’T announce this information, at any level of basketball. Makes no sense, keeps the fans informed, and on plenty of occasions the entire table has had to remind the ref that a team is in the bonus or the double bonus, even after it has been announced.
* Number of team time outs or number remaining. Not a big deal; basketball’s the only sport I announced this info anyway.
* Time remaining in the quarter/game (such as saying “one minute left”). Again, not necessarily that big of a deal. This is likely restricted due to the fact that the guys that feel they have to do “play-by-play” over the mic state the time on the clock after every. Single. Made. Basket.
* Type of foul or violation. I never have announced “hack”, “hand check” etc. or the specific type of foul, but can we now not announce traveling, 3-second, etc.? Not everyone can see the official’s signal and some are left wondering why there was a turnover.
* Emphatic 2- or 3-point goal. The excuse is that the announcer could be wrong about the location from which a shot was taken, but the real reason seems to be to ban calls of “It’s a three!”, etc. for the sake of being neutral.
The justification given by the NFHS article is that the announcer’s information is not official – the announcer could make a mistake. As if the announcer is the only person at a game that makes mistakes? How often has a scorekeeper accidentally given points to the wrong team? How often has a referee, who IS an official, blown a call (and then owned up to it?) You’re meaning to tell me that because the announcer might make a mistake, he cannot communicate basic game information to the fans.
I can see this going one of two ways this season: stories breaking of announcers getting thrown out of games left and right (and I’m sure I’ll be the first to go), or announcers banding together and pushing the UIL, other state organizations, or the NFHS as a whole to reconsider this ruling. I hope it’s the second. I may be a rule-follower, but I can smell a bureaucratic move from ten miles away and I can tell you that I will not simply just roll over and conform to this. I get wanting to ensure that we are good sports and courteous hosts to visiting teams. But we can support our school while showing respect to the opponents. When I go somewhere else to watch a game, I expect the announcer to favor his team, I usually pick up a thing or two listening to him, and whenever possible I try to meet particularly good announcers and network with them. I cannot tell you the number of times opposing coaches, fans, etc. have come up to me thanking me for the job I do (I state this not to toot my own horn, but to show that in my own experiences, I have not come across many opponents that have been offended, and it is humbling that they would take the time to come say something). In my opinion, the NFHS paints us with a broad brush, punishes the many for the actions of a few (no doubt someone will say “It’s people like YOU that this is designed to stop”), and unfair to those of us who have a passion for what we do and would like to indeed announce at a higher level in the future. I can no longer just roll over and say “whatever you say”. I hope my announcing colleagues, even those on opposing teams in our district, will stand with me against this.
Read more at announcing guru Jarrod Wronski’s blog: http://www.sportsannouncing.com/understanding-the-nfhs-basketball-rules/