Venturing Outside the Square

By Matthew C Wallace

I hate platitudes.  “It’s ALL good.”  “Everything happens for a reason.” “It is what it is.”  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I wonder sometimes if folks spew these hackneyed expressions about, more as a reflex when they really don’t know how to respond to something or whether they honestly believe they’re embellishing my life with what they have convinced themselves of is a pithy wisdom I honest and truly need.  Who knows.  However, we can agree (I hope) that our world is flooded with aphorisms which, much to my own chagrin, we invariably end up using ourselves…probably, all the time…and involuntarily.  Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Public Address Announcer Outside the Box

For instance, people use the term, “Thinking Outside the Box“, as improvidently as flipping on the kitchen faucet for the sake of rinsing off their hands and wasting water.  I don’t think I have been in one business environment in the past 25 years where I haven’t heard “Think Outside the Box” about everyday.  Seriously, most people toss the words out there to masquerade originality or <<gasps>> innovativeness.  Alas, they are neither.  In fact, most could not think differently if their life depended on it.   There’s nothing wrong with that, though.  The world does not have to be creative and innovative.  Just like 99% of people are not leaders and, they don’t have to be.  Needing to be creative, innovative and a leader is just Corporate America balderdash to get you to work harder and longer in a job and company which bring you no personal meaning.  Be yourself I say and who cares what they think.  And so to poke at the side of institutionalized hogwash, I used the Australian version of the aforementioned term, “Thinking Outside the Square“, to title this post.

Public Address Announcer Winding Road

I’m going to head down a pike about announcing in places some may not expect.  Announcing words on a mic is what we do.  It’s common sense a bat, ball or hoop doesn’t have to be involved, right?  Or not.  Well, who was behind that voice at Union Station?  Wasn’t that the voice of the guy on the Redhawks in that baby food commercial?  What was that voice at the festival at the park?  Announcing: so many types, so many ways, so many places.

It seems to me PA Announcing gravitates really quickly towards sports.  Why not?!  Sports are fun.  I tell people that I announce.  They ask which sports.  One day for laughs, I’m going to answer, “Ambulances“, just to see the reaction.  To pigeon-hole it even further, PA Announcing appears to revolve, foremost, around the Big 4: Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey.  Basketball and Football are so close to the sun that it’s indiscernible which might be closer.  Baseball moves a bit further out and, Hockey is more distant.  Of course, I am jabbering about sports in the good ol’ USA.  In the UK, South America or other global areas, I would be way, way, way, wayyyyyyyyyyy off.  If you are from one of these places, rearrange in your mind as you understand it in your country.  For me, I will go with what I know: the United States.

Public Address Announcer Solar System

For fun (by perpetuating my ridiculous USA sports solar system paradigm), it could be argued that Basketball is Mercury.  Football is Venus.  Baseball might be Earth.  Potentially, Hockey is Mars.  But, let’s go further out into the solar system.  Soccer and Volleyball likely choose between Jupiter and Saturn.  Softball might contend for Uranus.  Swimming & Diving and Tennis could be doing battle over Neptune or Pluto.  It would be remiss to leave out Track&Field which we could have riding Haley’s Comet to go along with the quickness.  And…I digress.
Public Address Announcer Popping Spring

NO POPPING SPRINGS PLEASE:  I don’t want anybody busting any of their clock parts about how I got the planet order wrong…or how I am overestimating the size and value of one sport over another.  The order, size and value between sports doesn’t matter as much, as I explain below, as the potential hidden treasures in places less explored.

However, what I am interested in chatting about is the Kuiper Belt of my little model.  Oh yes, the Kuiper Belt.  If you look at the Kuiper Belt in an actual solar system diagram, you observe a thick ring wrapping around the outside of our solar system with millions of unidentifiable dots.  I’m all agog about these little dots.  I am gonna reach way out on a limb and denominate these little specs, “Kuiper Announcing Possibilities” or KAPs.

Public Address Announcer Kuiper Belt

A BRIEF NARRATIVE.  An AAD (Assistant Athletic Director) from a D1 school reached out to me not too long ago and asked, “Would you be interested in some Rugby?”  He indicated I would not even need to know the game of Rugby.  Without thinking, I agreed to do it.  Why?  Because the 4 sides of that square are labelled: Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey.  If you make the square into a box, the additional 2 sides would possibly bear the monikers: Soccer and Volleyball.  If this is the limit to the spice of the PA Announcer world (a square or a box) then, forget it for me.

Public Address Announcer Spices

Now, we all know that  ain’t the limit to that Announcing world.  There’s a lot more than 6 spices…again, no popping springs, people.

So there I was, watching match after match on my desktop and studying the rules.  They told me I didn’t need to know the rules due to having a spotter but, that just isn’t me.  I have to study, study, study (Personally, I find rugby quite fascinating).  I don’t want to announce an event with total blinders on.  It’s just not professional.  I even spoke to a PA fellow in the London, who happened to be a Pro Rugby Announcer.  He gave me extremely useful insight and advice on the sport.  Plus, he became a terrific addition to my network!

Public Address Announcer Scrum

On match day, I had an awesome spotter and terrific crew around me.  The match was amazing to watch and fantastic to announce.  THE POINT???  “Continuous Improvement” should be part of the mantra of an Announcer.  What might be one way to do that, you ask?  How about taking a leap and announcing a brand new sport or event you have absolutely zero experience in performing.  Adding breadth and depth grows the character of a person.  And, oh yah, “Continuous Improvement” is another one of those overstated and misused corporate terms which amounts to nothing if you are not enthusiastic about your job.  But, I’m zealous about mine.  The more diversity in events, the better for me.  Interesting sports.  Interesting events.  Interesting rules.  Interesting terms.  Interesting people.  I feel stronger after each new thing I get to work on.

Think about it.  Maybe, you’re the kind of person who is content with doing the Big 4 sports.  It could be that’s all you have time for.  Possibly, it is a steady full-time gig for you.   Maybe, you are happy integrating just Soccer and Volleyball into your Big 4 regular duties.  Conceivably, you truly love only 1 or 2 sports.  I dunno.   I’m a huge fan of everyone’s prerogative to their proclivities.  You do what makes you right and happy.   But, I like variety.  I sure do.  You got something weird and unusual for me to announce?  Bring it on!

Public Address Announcer Polygon

I’ve been highly suspicious for a very long time that the categorically best Announcers are the folks administrators can call on for any damn thing because they can count on them for getting any damn thing done with little worry.  Look at great play-by-play guys.  Jim Nantz and Leigh Diffey show up again and again in all types of broadcasts and the job gets done pretty darn well.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the most multifariously adept people win out in the end.  For me, I don’t want to be a square or a cube.  I, also, don’t necessarily like this whole stepping “outside the box or square” hackneyed nonsense.  I’m quite attracted to continuing to add facets of my shape such that I ultimately might emerge as a Great Icosicosidodecahedron.  hehehehehehehehe.  Silly but, what a magnificent polyhedron that is above left.  Having a entire spectrum of event types notched on the belt buckle is much better  (I humbly appeal to you) than being cut straight down the center.  I don’t like being limited and, frankly, neither should you.  Alas, that’s your decision, not mine.

CHALLENGE:  I challenge Announcer readers to say Icosicosidodecahedron 5 times quick.  Ha!

To start adding all these facets to make such an amazing shape, though, means heading into the Kuiper Belt and looking for chances in the myriad little dots.  Along my own journey, I’ve just found rugby.  It’s neither the first interesting sport/event I’ve received a chance at, nor will it be the last.  In truth, there’s all kinds of stuff to find like lacrosse, field hockey, track, golf, etc., etc. and tantamount, non-athletic announcing possibilities.

For example, I, recently, came across a PA Announcer spot open for the New York City Transit system that paid nearly $100K!!!  I’m too far away to try for it but, some lucky bloke will be puttin’ his pipes to use soon for Gotham City.  I’ve run into gigs for Announcers of ice skating shows and theme parks as well.  Frankly, I’m starting to discover there’s so much stuff of all crazy shapes and sizes that I’m overwhelmed.  Actually, I have been making the effort to drop jobs I find and can’t do into LinkedIn to help out the community of PA Announcers.  Also, I’m finding out that event people DO need Announcers all the time and end up struggling to find one because they don’t know where to start looking as they land in geographic locations where they have no network.  How crazy!!!  

Public Address Announcer Subway
Public Address Announcer Diamonds

How can you find some of these things?  Look, find, then reach out!  An email or phone call works quite fabulously believe it or not.  You’d be amazed how many folks have replied to my email and said, “Wow.  I’m glad you reached out.  I’ve been thinking about this announcing thing and what to do about it…”  Start digging people.  There’s diamonds in that Kuiper Belt!…maybe even the surprising ruby…

I’ve, actually, done some work for the American Cancer Society before as one example.  A LinkedIn contact told me he’d been doing a fair amount of non-athletic announcing in recent times.  The good part about folks like the ACS is NOW, I’m helping out a good community with a great purpose.  Community is good for anyone’s resume.  On top of it, you’re adding spice to that Announcing repertoire.  Believe me, everyone in creation in the biz is performing the Big 4.  In fact, most will raise their hand to anything that calls and pays.  Of course!!!  Me, too!  I DON’T STICK MY NOSE UP TO NOTHIN’!  For me, all the work smellsreal good.

Circling back to rugby, there are over 50 D1 schools with programs.  I announced for the National Men’s team.  They’re called the Eagles.  Pure pro leagues exist, too (especially overseas).  And Rugby is just ONE sport not in the Big 4.  There’s a ton of sports from youth to pros that pay which are not the Big 4.  The ACS is just ONE non-athletic organization with events.  This means they’re are potential chances all over the place in other sports and non-athletics.  The issue is making the effort to look in different spots.

Public Address Announcer Money

In my Kuiper Belt analogy, the dots are far and wide and in all shapes, colors and sizes.  The Kuiper Announcing Possibilities (KAPs) are definitely different and maybe not as flashy to some as the Big 4.  So what?!  Absolutely, we ALL want to land gigs with great big organizations doing the Big 4 sports but, does not COPPER become NICKEL become SILVER become GOLD become GREEN when we diligently keep chipping away at our work with an open mind to other types and classes of  work???  You bet it does.

Public Address Announcer Fox Hunt

My advice, if you are on the fox hunt for more announcing possibilities, is to go beyond the USA Announcing Solar System and into the KAPs.  I know for a fact there’s a cornucopia of copper, nickel, silver, gold and green in that Kuiper Belt of Announcing Possibilities.  The great fox hunters know you can’t always look in the same old woods for the good foxes (Also, helps to have a good dog).

I look all the time for new chances.  Some treasures end up being much too far for me to get to.  However, little serendipitous troves keep uncovering themselves to me bits and bits at a time, primarily, because I’m spending well-invested earnestness looking in less familiar places.  Try it!  Rugby was awesome.  ACS is amazing.  Why be a run-of-the-mill square or box when you could be crafting yourself into a Great Icosicosidodecahedron, thus, emerging more valuable to administrators and event managers through continual learning, skill-building and diversification while having a ball in the process!!!

Don’t keep it to yourself.  Share all the different kinds of sports and events you do.  I love to hear about new directions and concepts.

On a funnier note, feel free to share platitudes you hate hearing and saying.

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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