The public address announcer sits in the background, yet courtside. He goes relatively unknown, but he’s kind of a big deal. He is what Ron Burgundy is to parties, bringing life to the arena. This is dedicated to the under-appreciated PA announcer guy.
When Ted Leonsis holds open tryouts for the voice that could be bellowing John Wall’s name for the next 10 years, cuing mad cheering and perhaps some tea-kettle dancing, it’s more than worth taking the stroll from work to the Verizon Center to check it out.
Over 200 applied but only 50 were invited to boom their pipes alongside the freshly painted (cured) Georgetown and Wizards basketball floors. As I arrived for the main event, that number had been narrowed done to 16. The mic was then cut on and the sound system turned up. The audition provided a good sample of general game announcements (fouls, scoring plays and PSAs), an ad-lib to Kiss Cam B-roll, and finally, lineup introductions.
The original plan was to pick a single winner from the 16 performances, but it was clearly much too hard to distinguish one voice from the crowd. Five stood out to Leonsis and his decision makers, so they were asked to do the lineup again … but with more energy, more uniqueness. Below you’ll find a brief profile of each, along with video of their final lineup announcement and an interview.
I’m refusing to compare this to American Idol, way too easy, but surely someone will. However, I am giving you, the reader, the option to vote on your favorite (which is also evidently what they do on that show). But this is in no way affiliated with the Wizards and their decision-making, it’s just for S&Gs (curse word that rhymes with mitt, and giggles). Also, as outlined, because this is potentially a very long-term gig, it’s likely requires more due diligence than simple public opinion.
The team has said they will release the results on Tuesday, which will also include who might serve as backup.
Without further ado, the Final Five:
– D.C. born and bred, Northeast to be exact, where he still lives. Ralph attended Archbishop Carroll and calls himself a “homer,” as in a fan of all the local sports teams. He attended Delaware State and still does announcing for their football and basketball games. Ralph just finished his first full season as the Washington Mystics PA announcer after serving as their backup for the previous couple of years.
– another D.C. product who, believe it or not, at one point lived in a Southeast Washington affordable housing complex developed by Abe Pollin and named after his late daughter Linda. Harvey currently lives in Anapolis and is a lifelong fan of the franchise going back prior to the championship days. He has sports radio experience from his time served in the Air Force, experience announcing at the Special Olympics, and says he’s patterned some of his style off D.C. sports announcing legend Frank Herzog.
– hails from Kensington, Maryland. He started announcing high school football games at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, got some of the same experience while attending the University of Richmond, and got his big break calling the 1998 BB&T Classic, a local D.C. basketball tournament. Hudtloff said a recommendation from Wes Unseld via the BB&T landed him fill-in work with the Capitals and Wizards, once including the opportunity to announce Michael Jordan when he played in D.C. Byron also does George Washington women’s basketball announcing and fills in for the men’s team.
– traveled all the way from the Buckeye state for this contest. You think this guy wants it bad? He’s willing to travel and do whatever Mr. Leonsis would want him to do in terms of commitment. Clapper has done some fill-in work for his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers and is perfectly willing to come into the territory of the former (I guess) enemy. In addition to finishing as bridesmaid twice for NBA gigs, once with the Cavs, Mike said he announced 64 basketball high school and college games last year. He got his start with the campus radio station at Bowling Green. And about that LeBron fella? Mike says “no hard feelings.” Nice man, that Mike.
– a PG County product who went to Oxon Hill High, which was when he started as PA for the boy’s basketball team. He attended Florida A&M and did the PA work for men’s and women’s basketball and track. Charles then worked in television at ESPN for several years, but not so much for his voice. He, however, said he did some voice-overs for features and other one-liners for teasers because co-workers liked his voice. Charles has also served as a teacher in Baltimore City for six years. He grew up a fan of the local teams, especially the Caps, and said he once met Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes back when he was a “knee high” kid.