To me, two things stand out as to why I became enamored with being a Public Address Announcer: Inspiration and Opportunity. I believe this is largely true for anyone in any field. Something has to whet your appetite, and then you seek to satisfy that appetite. If you are lucky, it tastes so good you can never fully satisfy it!
Inspiration #1 – Dave Zinkoff
Let’s start with inspiration. Maybe for you, it came the first time you entered a major league ballpark or some rustic arena. Maybe, it was more local, say at a high school stadium or gym with tiny speakers that grabbed your attention. Growing up in Philadelphia, there have been many venues with many legendary voices that have influenced me, but there were two men and two venues that proved inspirational.
The Spectrum, one of the nation’s first modern indoor arenas, opened in Philadelphia in 1967. Home to the, then NHL expansion, Philadelphia Flyers and soon to the NBA’s 76ers. It was the latter’s P.A. man who grabbed my attention.
Older with a nasally yet deep voice, he had a theatrical flair and a wry sense of humor. His pronouncements proved epic and his introductions dynamic. So revered was he that when the Spectrum closed their doors long after the 76ers moved across the street, the team arranged one final game there and hired a talented voice impressionist to imitate the legendary voice. The voice talent was comedian Joe Conklin and, the man he mimicked was his inspiration as well: the late great Dave Zinkoff. His “twooooo minutes remaining!” call seemed to heighten activity in every game. His intro of the great “Julius ERRRRRRRRR-Ving” electrified every crowd. His ebb and flow seemed to energize the home team. I would imitate him into my tape recorder many a time until I felt I got it right. He was my first inspirational Public Address Announcer.
Inspiration #2 – John McAdams
My second role model I first saw at the antiquated but rustic Philadelphia Civic Center, announcing minor league hockey. A rather large man, he did not look like anyone you would typically see with a microphone but, his clarity was outstanding. His voice projected steady with bass with an appropriate sense of the dramatic as well. I started wondering why he was doing minor league hockey and not major league teams. I would later learn he was doing so much more than just minor league hockey: NFL football, minor league baseball, college and high school basketball, a music venue and more. When I was in my mid-thirties, I got to meet him. His kindness exceeded his considerable skill on the mic that first impressed a 13-year-old me. He, too, has passed but, he made an ever-lasting impression that stipulated if you love something, you can find a way to make it yours. For this, I am indebted to him: the great John McAdams.
Inspired by these two men, it was up to me to be ready for the second part of my story: Opportunity. This came as a teenager working a summer job at my local playground. As a summer basketball league, where I worked, was coming to an end, the playground director (another mentor of mine, Stu Greenberg) gave out championship game assignments: score keeping, timing, keeping the court clean and safe. To me, he said, “…and you will announce the game…” He had heard me imitate Dave Zinkoff and now, he was calling me on it! Well, I must have done a decent job because he soon made that part of the winter league program. Not long after, I was backup P.A. Announcer at my high school to Joe Conklin, a classmate of mine who went on to be a very successful sports comedian In Philadelphia.
Never Forget Your Inspiration
I would later follow my mentor, Stu Greenberg, into a long career in Parks and Recreation and along the way, I announced many events for the City of Philadelphia. In fact, I just finished my 30th year as finish announcer for the famed Broad Street Run. I never gave up on doing P.A. work on a more full-time basis and, I never have forgotten my inspirations or that first opportunity. Don’t forget yours! Share that story whenever you can. Hopefully, you can inspire someone yourself or give them that special opportunity where you can one day say for them, “And NOW, starting on the mic…“
About John McBride
John McBride is a voice over artist, narrator, commercial spokesperson and public address announcer. He owns John McBride PA/VO in Philadelphia and, his list of successful projects and athletic events is extensive. For more on John, visit www.jmcbpavo.com.
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