Digital Tombstones

By Matthew C Wallace

Recently announcing a homecoming ballgame, the scoreboard went out or, more pointedly, never really got going.  No score, no time, no down, no to go, no ball on, no quarter and no timeouts.  To top it off, not a soul was keeping an official book of any kind.  This led to the unenviable obligation of reporting a 31-0 score because the people needed the score information.  Yuk!  The place went blind….but not deaf.

Not that announcing lacks complexity as it is, one can triple it when the scoreboard is dead.  When the ‘ol big board is out, an announcer discovers they are a half-step short of play-by-play.  At least, it feels like almost play-by-play.  An announcer is suddenly announcing things he normally stays as far from as possible: outs, time on the clock, time outs, running scores, and etc.  Once, I was even coerced into balls and strikes (Good grief!!!).  In such circumstances, the announcer must provide a lot of  information which they normally need not provide…and they must be pinpoint accurate.

Public Address Announcer Scoreboard

Is it not challenging enough?  A typical outing of football will have any of us familiar with well over 100 names to be prepared to pronounce, pages upon pages of copy, scripting, sponsors and more.  This is coupled with the normal down, ball carrier, tacklers, gain/loss and penalties.  Adding a whole host of scoreboard data means a deluge of information to deliver to a cornucopia of easily agitated fans.  From my own experience, I’ve wondered if the crowd is as sick of hearing me talk as I am tired of talking by game end.  By game’s end (especially football), I need to gargle and have a nap.

Regardless, information is king.  If the scoreboard can’t deliver it, the announcer becomes the virtual audio scoreboard.  Announcers, after all, are in the information delivery business.  We just deliver more during a dilemma.  It’s what we do.  Give us data and we convey it.

If the announcer and the scoreboard are both out, the game might just stop until a remedy arrives.  Loss of the scoreboard, an announcer or both handicaps a contest.  I’ve even been there when the officiating crew will stop or delay a game until the scoreboard, at minimum, is functioning once more.  The game gets just too onerous to manage or the crowd gets extremely cranky, borderline unruly.  It presents a quandary to the officials and administration.

Public Address Announcer Woman

Scoreboards as well as announcers are big time components of the game.  We are NOT the game but, we serve as critical support functions which make the game not only smooth but also, more enjoyable.  YES, it is hard to believe but, information is enjoyable.  We don’t realize how enjoyable until we no longer have the information then suddenly, the situation vexes you, me and everybody else.  It’s like steak dinner without the knife and fork.  You can, certainly, still eat.  The steak will still taste good but, the experience will be burdensome.  This is because eating with your fingers is just not the same as having that knife and fork.  Likewise, the game is just not the same with the visual of the scoreboard and the audio of the announcer.

Every last person at a game needs the information scoreboards and announcers provide.  No, the announcer is not in the game and neither is the scoreboard.  These are truths.  And those of us with experience know better than to ever get in the middle of the game.  However, without question, the information announcers AND scoreboards  provide keeps everyone else engaged and up-to-date.

Great announcers step up!  We know the game is all important to quite a few.  If we have to supplement a broken scoreboard, if we are called upon for data support, if a pleading administration is in dire need to avert disaster, we step up!  We provide as much additional information as obliged to help things hobble along until, miracles upon miracles, the tech crew turns a screw, flips a switch or kicks the tires and, by magic pixie dust, the scoreboard comes back to life!!! 

Public Address Announcer Collaboration

The big picture?  The announcer is NOT just there to provide information.  He or she is there to help out in any way possible including supplementing data to the crowd which would normally show on a dead scoreboard.  It’s hard extra work but, the team in the press box must function like the teams on the field or …fail.  Everyone works together.  Everyone steps up when there’s a challenge.  Everyone collectively can make a big difference.  Collaboration truly works.  Collaboration makes fully functioning environments amazing and gets everyone through the challenged moments.  And so… if you have a digital tombstone in your stadium, step up for the team and lean on the team.  Everyone involved will be grateful you did.

Dead scoreboard yarn?  Collaboration tale to tell?  We learn more when we share.

About Matthew C Wallace

Matthew C. Wallace is the owner of He is a public address announcer, writer, webmaster, historian, author as well as a former executive and musician. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.

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