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Opinion

Announcer reflects on experience

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April 26, 2007

Looking at my picture, most of you probably don’t recognize who I am. However, if you were hearing these words instead of reading them, most likely my voice would be familiar to you.

For the past four years, I’ve traveled the state of Wisconsin and even delved into some other parts of the country announcing UWRF sports for the campus radio station, WRFW 88.7 FM. This past month, I signed off for the final time from the station, ending my run as the play-by-play announcer for the Falcons football and Falcons men’s basketball teams.

Announcing these sports, along with men’s hockey and women’s basketball has made my college career a time I will never forget, and as I move out into the real world the memories I hold from UWRF will certainly include a lot of my announcing endeavors. You better believe that some pretty good stories come out of traveling with the Falcons sports teams for four years.

Like the time WRFW Sports Director Paul Winkels and I made our first trip to Green Bay, Wis., decked out in Vikings purple while checking into the Comfort Inn within one block of Lambeau Field. Or even better, later that night when we walked around the stadium for a self-directed tour, checking out the hallowed statues while leaving behind some souvenirs for the green and gold icons that Packers fans would consider unspeakable.

Announcing sports for WRFW has also given me the opportunity to visit Seattle, where I was able to witness a Falcons football changing of the guard from the wishbone to the zone offense. The passing of the torch took only a matter of seconds, leaving the hand of Jeremy Wolff and landing beautifully in the hands of Josh Grover for a 77-yard touchdown bomb.

Speaking of the Seattle trip, if you’ve never had the chance to have lunch at an Old Country Buffet with the Falcons football offensive and defensive linemen (which would be kind of odd if you have, actually), let me tell you, it is quite a sight.

While announcing these sports, I’ve had the chance to break down some of the boundaries that normally separate the players from the announcers. I’ll never forget the night I was able to show off Garrett Larson’s patented goal celebration to the man himself after bowling a strike on the lane next to him, or the hand-tingling high fives I received before each half of every road game from Tim Pearson, the basketball team’s emotional leader. I’ve even had the chance to watch a couple of River Falls High School kids grow their wings to transform from Wildcats into Falcons, with Jake Voeltz joining the basketball team and Jake Jenson now catching passes as a member of the football squad.

Between the wrong turns leading to bonus hours of travel time and the killing of state vehicle batteries while leaving the headlights on, I’ve had an amazing time announcing for sports teams led by fantastic coaches. I’m a better person for getting to know Rick Bowen, Steve Freeman, John O’Grady, Jeff Berkhof and Cindy Hovet through their coaching and their classes, and each of them has helped make me a better announcer than I was before meeting them.

I’ve witnessed rivalries, heartbreaks, comebacks, and been a part of both emotional playoff wins and devastating season-ending losses. And at some point during my college career, I even found an original sign-off. With my days in River Falls nearly behind me, I leave the Student Voice with the same words I left every one of my radio broadcasts with: Have a fun day.

Mark Haley is a student at UW-River Falls.