If you've ever laid awake at night wondering what goes on behind the scenes of a Stanford football radio broadcast with Ted Robinson and Bob Murphy, well, then you need to get a life. But not only is that beside the point, but it's also okay, because I'm about to give you an idea of what goes into a broadcast. Call it my early Christmas present to you.
As most of you know, my day job is here at KTCT radio in San Francisco, the flagship station of Stanford football and men's hoops, working here and with Stanford has its perks. One of those perks is that I get to fill in for Lee Hammer (executive producer of the Stanford Football Radio Network) if he isn't available to produce the game broadcast. And if the game in question is a road game, I get to travel with the team.
I'll just say this right now…if you ever get a chance to travel with Stanford football, do it. It's a wonderful experience, and it probably deserves its own column later on. But I love going with the team. You get on the bus, you get on the plane, you land, you go to the hotel, you wake up the next morning, you get on the bus, you get to the game, then you head out of town. It's all business.
Since Lee had to be at a conference in Atlanta during the first weekend in September, that meant I had to produce Stanford's opening broadcast at Boston College. Needless to say, I was fired up. I'd never been to Boston before, and I was looking forward to see the team's debut with my own eyes. But road trips are not vacations. There would be plenty of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in, especially since this was the first game of the season.
The Thursday before the game is a whirlwind. Because the game is in Boston, we have to fly out that day instead of on Friday. And for some reason, an engineer (who sets up our equipment and troubleshoots any technical problems during the game for us) had not already been hired weeks in advance. That problem had been dumped in my lap late the week before, and as of Wednesday night I still had not found one, despite scouring radio stations all over New England to try to find one.
So on Thursday morning I get to the office in San Francisco at about 5:00a to try to tighten that loose end (with no success), then I head down to the campus for my 8:00a appointment with Coach Teevens. I tape that week's Teevens Show, then scoot next door to Maples Pavilion to feed it back to the studio. By the time that's all done, I have just enough time to head to the buses.
Our buses pull up to the security gate at SFO, then pull up directly to the plane. It's the America West plane painted with the Arizona Cardinals' logo and colors. I give America West credit…it's the wrong Cardinal, but still a nice touch nonetheless.
We take off. I make small talk with Ryan, the weight room assistant. I worry about the fact that we still don't have an engineer for the game. I sleep through most of "Spiderman," sleep through even more of "Changing Lanes." The flight attendants forget to give my row some Nestle Crunch ice cream bars. Inexcusable.
As we land in Boston at about 8:00p local time, one of the players yells out from the back, "Y'all ain't never seen me ball on the East Coast! We're in the belly of the beast! We're back in the East!" We all chuckle and get off the plane. I check my cell phone voicemail, and hear a message from Art, a chief engineer at a Boston radio station cluster. He's available to work the game Saturday. I call him back immediately, hire him, hang up, and sigh the ultimate sigh of relief.
We load up the buses while Massachusetts state troopers prepare to escort us to our hotel. We weave our way off the airport grounds and through East Boston, push our way through the jam-packed Sumner Tunnel, draw stares in the North End, skirt around downtown, veer onto the Massachusetts Turnpike, and eventually end up at the team hotel in Waltham.
Now, football coaches generally like for their hotels to be three things: nice, big, and out of the way. It has to be nice, to make everyone feel at home. It has to be big, big enough to house about 150 people and with enough convention rooms to house team meetings and meals. And, if possible, it has to be totally out of the way, so the players can avoid any "distractions." The Westin Waltham fit all three criteria to a tee.
When it comes to hotels, I'm down with big. Nice is also a plus. But Waltham is in suburban Boston, which is a nice way of saying "way the heck out in the sticks somewhere." And there was nothing, I mean nothing, around the Westin. Not a good situation to be in when you're bored and hungry. It was more remote than the hotel the team had stayed at when they traveled to Madison for the Wisconsin game a few years ago.
I wake up 8:00 Friday morning and catch the buses to the team's walkthrough at Alumni Stadium. While the team goes through their workout, I go to the visitors' radio booth in the press box to make sure everything is fine. I test our phone lines and connect with San Francisco. Everything works. The team finishes their workout and leaves to go take a lunch cruise on the Boston Harbor. I stay behind to meet up with some friends for lunch, a side trip to the New England Mobile Book Fair, and a Red Sox-Blue Jays game at Fenway.
Saturday. Gameday. Ted Robinson lets me drive his car from Waltham to Boston College, probably saving me a $60 cab ride in the process. I get to the stadium at about 11:00 a.m. Art the engineer arrives about 20 minutes later, lugging a humongous case of equipment with him. He sets up, then we go downstairs to the locker room to make sure the connection down there works. It does. We head back to the booth to connect with the station in San Francisco. Everything is fine. I cross my fingers to make sure it all stays that way. Everything is good to go by the time the team, Ted, and Murph arrive at 1:00 p.m.
Then I sit down to map out my pregame show, set to begin at 2:30 p.m. Right off the bat, I realize I have a dilemma. My pregame show runs 30 minutes, but up to 13 of those minutes are commercials, leaving me with just 17 minutes of content. For my Keys to the Game segment, I had taped a nine-minute interview with Matt Leonard, and for part of the Pac-10 Preview segment I had taped a six-minute chat with Bud Nameck of the Washington State Cougars radio network. There's absolutely no way I'll be able to air both interviews and still do an opening segment, scoreboard segment, and medical update segment, and still be done by exactly 3:00 p.m., when the Stanford Football Radio Network pregame show begins. I've got no choice. I start the show a couple minutes early, at 2:27 p.m., and I bump the Nameck interview completely.
Despite my misjudgment, my pregame show goes on without a hitch. Then, at precisely 3:00, the network pregame show begins with Bob Murphy's taped interview with Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien. After that comes Ted Robinson's taped interview with Teevens. And, at 3:22 p.m. local time, Ted and Murph sign on live from Alumni Stadium. Stanford assistant media relations director Kyle McRae comes by to be Ted's statistician and spotter (if you're wondering what a spotter is, refer to my October 9 column). Stanford athletic marketing director Bob Carruesco drops by the booth, grabs a chair, and sits down to watch the game with us. "We'll win by 14 today," he tells me. "I'm calling my shot right now." I like the way he thinks.
Kickoff. Finally. I can now relax a little bit. The game's on the air, and Stanford is playing well, despite opening the season on the road with a quarterback taking the first snaps of his collegiate career. On a third down play in the second quarter, Matter lofts one deep to The Big Nickel, who snares it, runs down the sideline, and nearly hurdles two defenders for an 80-yard gain. Carruesco and I high-five each other.
Halftime. So far, so good. Art's doing a great job. Shane, Robert, and Ernie are running the right commercials back in San Francisco. The game is tied, 17-17. Randy Vataha is the halftime guest, so Murph's happy. And lunch is served in the main press box upstairs, so I'm happy. Carruesco was raving about the clam chowder, but since it was 113 degrees on the field and quite warm upstairs as well, it didn't seem like chowder weather to me. Oh well…I grab a couple hot dogs instead and dash back downstairs.
BC holds off Stanford in the final moments to get the win. Murph heads downstairs to do his postgame interviews from the locker room, then Ted does a quick wrap-up of the game before signing off. I had been debating whether or not to do a postgame call-in show but decide against it, simply because none of us had any idea how quickly Buddy wanted to get out of town…and I can't miss the bus and be stuck in Boston! So, with Ted's signoff, that was it. Our work is done.
I grab my stuff, then headed down to the buses. I meet with my buddies for a bit, and soon it's time to go. The buses load up again and head for the airport, with the state troopers leading the way once more. When Buddy Teevens stood at the bottom of the stairs shaking our hands and greeting us all as we got on the plane at Logan Airport, I told coach that after what I had just seen, I felt that Stanford was capable of doing some great things this year. He smiled and said, "Well, I hope so. We've got a long ways to go, but I think we're on track."
So as I sat on the plane after finishing off dinner (filet mignon!) and nodding off to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," I felt very content. Given all the stuff that could have happened, from having to scramble to find an engineer and not actually hiring him until two days before the game, to having first-timers run the game back in San Francisco, to having all the commercials in the system at the last minute, and to everything and anything else that might have gone wrong, the broadcast was exceptionally smooth.
And the team not only played well, they actually looked good. I sensed that the players were a bit down because of the loss, yet they were still encouraged by how well they had played. We all felt that way. We all felt better about the defense, especially the secondary. And we all knew that the offense would really take off with Chris Lewis at the controls.
Yes, we had been delayed 90 minutes on the ground because the equipment was loaded incorrectly onto the plane (the distribution of weight is an important component of aerodynamics, you know). Yes, the other in-flight movie was originally supposed to be "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" before the players revolted and the flight attendants replaced it with "Rush Hour 2." And yes, we were in the midst of a brutal six-hour flight. But none of that mattered. For the 2002 Stanford football squad, literally at that moment, the sky was the limit.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
So I got in my car after the U$C game and started driving home. As I hit the Dumbarton Bridge, I realized that there wasn't really anything on the radio, but a cassette of my call of the U$C game in 1996 was somehow in my car. I popped it in and listened to the final four minutes. Pete Swanson with the improbable interception. Tim Smith intercepting the Hail Mary in the endzone to win the game. Had it really been six years ago to the night? Wow. Seems so long ago…
Big win for the Bears last weekend, withstanding Andrew Walter like that. 477 yards and four scores, and they still sneak out with a big win…
I still can't believe there was no Oregon-Washington game last year. Unreal. That's like Stanford missing U$C for a season. And it just wouldn't seem like a Stanford football season without a game against the Trojans, would it? This Saturday should be real interesting in Eugene…
For Arizona, the future is now. With the Wildcats' season down the tubes, redshirt freshman QB Nic Costa has seen increased playing time of late…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but there's only one man the NFL should even think about handing their Man of the Year award to: former Arizona State terror and, for now, former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman…
Oregon State @ Stanford. For what it's worth, I thought the Stanford offense put forth one of its better efforts execution-wise against U$C. But they still made plenty of critical mistakes, and they still didn't make any big plays downfield. I'm not a big Derek Anderson fan (yet), but I am a Steven Jackson fan. Although I could see Stanford winning this game, this could be like the Stanford-Arizona game, only the roles in reverse. I like Oregon State by 8.
Oregon @ Washington. The Huskies are off the ropes…for now. But the Ducks could put the knockout blow on UW's season. Onterrio Smith will be too much for the Huskies' poor defense. I like Oregon by 13.
Arizona State @ U$C. The onus here is on the U$C pass rush. They need to get to Andrew Walter before he has a chance to pick apart the Trojans' secondary. Troy Polamalu can't help cover both Shaun McDonald and Derek Lightfoot at the same time. But if Kyle Boller can slice up the Sun Devils' defense, what do you think Carson Palmer might be able to do? I like U$C by 7.
Arizona @ cal. Arizona is terrible and playing on the road. The Bears are decent. Poor John Mackovic. This shouldn't take long. I like cal by 18.
Last week (straight up): 3-2, (against the spread): 3-2.
This year (straight up): 20-10, (against the spread): 20-9.
Got a thought on Stanford sports? Have any random Pac-10 thoughts of your own? Wanna have your thoughts end up in next week's column? E-mail me!
Troy Clardy hosts Stanford football postgame call-in shows, as well as Stanford football road pregame shows, Stanford basketball pregame shows, the Buddy Teevens Show, the Mike Montgomery Show, and the Stanford Profile on Stanford radio network flagship station KTCT ("The Ticket 1050") in San Francisco. The Stanford Profile airs every Thursday evening at 7:00p and the Buddy Teevens Show airs every Friday morning at 7:20a on KTCT.