What Exactly is a Rodeo Clown?
When you serve in the role of public address announcer, you do more than just say who is playing. You are the information center, the de facto cheerleader, the concierge controller for first time visitors (who else tells them where to buy a snack and where to find the restroom?), the greeter and “good-byer”…many good things wrapped up in one. However, on occasion, we must be the “Rodeo Clown”, and that is no joke.
Before moving forward, what exactly is a “Rodeo Clown“? Well if you’ve ever watched a rodeo, whenever something goes amiss for the cowboy riding the bull, roping the steer, or breaking in a bucking bronco, the rodeo clown enters the ring. While they look and dress comical, their job is to distract the angry animal and help the cowboy reach safety, sometimes with assistance, sometimes on his own, all while also keeping the crowd focused on themselves so as not to cause any panic or distress in the stands. Now, how does this apply to PA Announcers?
How PA Announcers become Radio Clowns
Unfortunately, recent years have shown that PA Announcers must be on their toes and ready to assume that mantle. The news each fall is peppered with stories of gunshot incidents outside high school football games. Less menacing but still perilous, fist fights break out sporadically in the stands of rival basketball teams. Baseball, in kind, has not been immune to incidents. In fact, most all athletics have fallen prey to danger in the stands.
In 2021, there was a shooting outside Nationals Ballpark in Washington, DC. Public Address Announcer, Jerome Hruska, was widely praised for his calm, reassuring announcements for people to remain in the stadium, which was the safest place. His voice was strong yet unruffled, never excited, reassuring and comforting as he repeated the message as often as necessary. No one in the stadium got hurt, largely due to his demeanor. Thus, he provided the same function as a Rodeo Clown.
Radio Clown Preparation
Jerome Hruska supplied a great template, but he has not been alone in performing these duties. There are stories abound on the internet and social media of unfortunate situations globally. On a number of occasions, the PA Announcer has had to put on his Radio Clown hat to temper an unsettled crowd.
As we are all under way with our fall seasons and will soon prepare for our indoor seasons, how can we prepare for a function that might be needed, but we hope not to ever perform? We can do the following:
- Confer now with your Athletic Director, S.I.D., Game Operations or Event Manager to see what the protocols are for you in an emergency situation.
- Have the following available for event day: pen, paper, the event manager’s cell phone number, knowledge of your venue’s exits and a safe spot for yourself.
- Before making any announcement for an occurrence, immediately contact the Administrator responsible for the event.
- If an incident occurs, pay attention. You may be debriefed afterwards, but by paying attention you will be better prepared if there is a next time.
If you observe security in the middle of trying to break up a melee, decide quickly if the best course is staying quiet or making some sort of announcement. The rule of thumb is to make no such announcement without authorization by Administration. Sometimes Admin is in the middle of the disturbance. This is when you must decide if your Rodeo Clown is needed in this moment. If so, ensure your announcement does not inflame the situation. For example – you might say:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we ask they everyone please remain in their seats as the situation is sorted out, please remain in your seats”
This as opposed to:
“SIT DOWN! WE NEED EVERYONE TO SIT DOWN NOW!”
This might be interpreted by the bad actors as a challenge and trigger an escalation.
I would suggest, too, making a set of “red papers” for each venue, covering how to address as many situations as you can think of, so you have templates ready should one occur. This, of course, goes back to meeting with your event or site manager, athletic director, etc. While these incidents are not the norm, they occur often enough that some forethought and preparation is warranted.
One More Hat
A PA Announcer wears many hats, and once in a great while, the chapeau of a “Rodeo Clown” is one of them. Do BOTH functions proud by being prepared and, you will exude the calmness and professionalism that make both the Public Address Announcer and the Rodeo Clown among the most trusted figures in arenas, stadiums, gymnasiums, parades and other events.
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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