Sit There and Shut Up

By Matthew C Wallace

PA Announcers, Broadcasters, Scorekeepers, and Spotters are the great observers of events and games.  We plop in a chair with our jobs to do.  We don’t pace sidelines, benches or dugouts.  We don’t argue with officials.  We don’t bounce off of walls on calls we disagree with.  We don’t kick up dust in frustration.  We don’t handle a ball, go to bat or run from one end to another.  We, as a rule, don’t bring any attention to ourselves.  We DO observe, though…and see a whole lot and I don’t mean just the game.   Despite the agglomeration of thought rounded up from our visual acuity, how often do we find ourselves having to sit there and shut-up though we’d like to grab that mic and let someone have it over the sound system?

We watch the plays, scoring, substitutions, fouls, errors, penalties and other things such as officials’ signals.  This is the obvious.  What so few realize is, on top of all that (…and that’s quite a lot…), we espy much of the nonsense, particularly, the bad behavior.  Oh yes, a surprise to no one that social misconduct runs amok at sporting events or events, in general, for that matter.

Public Address Announcer Binoculars

We are, so often, witness to so many naughty activities that we cannot begin to enumerate it all (or in my case, remember everything).  We see fights.  …not just the run of the mill hockey-type fights.  We see the embarrassing kinds of fights between parents, players and heckling fans, coaches and opposing players, etc.  We see nasty and immature gestures and comments out of all kinds of folks including young kids.  We see littering.  I, myself, have seen some sexual misconduct by a couple in the stands one time.  We see all kinds of stuff folks don’t realize we see.  How many times has it been utterly obvious to us that plenty of imbibing has taken place beforehand?  If we were reporters for a tabloid, we’d be simply hazardous to the general public.  We ARE the great observers of the event as well as the periphery of the event.

Public Address Announcer Anthropology Archaeology

Some things we bear witness too, however, we would like to fly out of our chair and deploy pointed derision into the microphone toward the offenders.  There are moments we so badly wish to admonish those who display such a lack of self-restraint that they actually ruin the enjoyment and remove the focus of the event for many if not all.  Much of the inexplicable conduct bubbles up questions regarding the extent of our evolutionary distance from Australopithecus.  Maybe based upon the actions of a few, we truly ARE only a barleycorn away from gathering berries and scrounging for dead carcasses.  Frankly, there’s many a thing we wish we didn’t see.

Public Address Announcer Smile

Let’s focus on just us PA Announcers.  What to do…  What to do…  It’s awful.  We can’t stand what’s going on.  We are in an emotional swirl.  We feel ourselves a degree point two from exploding inside.  What to do…  What to do…

We sit there and shut-up.

As bad as we might like to call out the rotten apples, we sit there and shut-up.  We say zero on that microphone.  We move not a muscle regarding whatever it is.  We take no actions.  We watch for the next play, batter or signal then, professionally provide the appropriate information over the PA.  Silence is not golden.  It’s oxygen.  It’s obligatory.

Public Address Announcer Rotten Apples

This is where the job gets hard on occasion .  I’ve met my share of announcers in my life.  They’re, generally, a good lot of moral and decent people, men and women alike.  Bad behavior disturbs them as much as it irks me.  Still, irrespective of its occurrence, we set our personal feelings aside and focus on the contest at hand.  We don’t make one comment over that PA.  We have to let the rotten apples take care of themselves.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  We are not members of the reckless so, not a peep from the PA Announcers.

Why?  Not our job.  This zone belongs to the officials and administrators.  Our job?  We read the sportsmanship statements, no artificial noisemaker lines, no flash photography sentence, no smoking clause and all the rules and regulations supplied by administration, responsible drinking remarks, much of which is either supported or mandated by organizations such as the NCAA or NFHS.  These reads encourage proper behavior across the board.  It’s our role.  There are plenty of other sporting rules not announced that programs and teams are well educated on, which govern team, player and coach conduct from these very same types of organizations.  It’s all there.  It’s good.  How well all these things are enforced is subject to mixed opinion and review.  The point is…it’s there.

But not everything is a fight or clear-cut broken rule.  Not everything crosses the line of sportsmanship or good conduct.  Although based on my observations and my humble view, some occurences should have been.  Simply, not everything gets folks tossed as we might be convicted it should.  I see it.  You’ve witnessed it.  You know you have.  And even with this awfulness in deportment, we sit and shut-up.  It’s not our job.  If the refs or admin take care of it, kudos to them!  Hooray!  If not, oh well.  Better luck next time.

Here’s a couple recent situations.  I was announcing a Girls High School Basketball playoff game of late and not a close one.  Team A was trouncing Team B by 30 plus.  The game was kinda sorta over by halftime.  Nothing really improved in the second half.  Team A knew they were trouncing.  Team B were quite clear they were getting trounced.  The players, in my assessment, handled it quite nicely.  They played.  They sat down.  They went back in.  They ran up and down.  They shot.  They blocked.  They stole.  The scored.  They fouled and so on.  In spite of the blowout, there was no mouthing off.  There was no laughing at Team B.  No pushing and shoving in frustration occurred.  Good sports marched the floor.  Good job, ladies!

Alright, I’m sitting there when Team A fouls and Team B is going for their 1-and-1.  They’re down by 35 at this point.  Those Team B hearts were on their sleeves.  It was quite easy to see.  Their school classmates, parents and fans were being very supportive from the sideline by celebrating every good thing they did on the court.  Actually, I was quite impressed with how classy these people handled themselves.  Their manners were quite perfect.  Obviously, these folks set a higher standard for themselves.

Public Address Announcer Womens Basketball

Now…the fouled player was setting her feet for her free throw when I heard annoying noises from the Team A side of the stands.  A teenage boy from Team A’s school was up there making loud barking sounds and his fellow classmates around him were laughing.  Sure, the crowd always screams to disrupt a free throw shooter.  This is nothing new.  But, barking?  This was something else.  It was clear to us all, in the table crew, he was barking at her to infer she was unattractive as a means to disrupt her.  Her team was only down by 35.  Really?!  Ugh.

Public Address Announcer Gentleman Aristocrat

Barking?  Publicly, inferring a young lady is a dog or unattractive as a means to disrupt her free throw???  Was it not bad enough that she and her teammates were being destroyed in the game?  He felt he had demoralize her with sexually harassing comments?  Like she even needs to be disrupted down by 35?  It was a 36 point free throw?  LOL.  It was beyond lacking class and character.  It was just plain mean.  And the Team A school’s administration, who was present (oh, yes, they were there), did such a good job of controlling it that he did it a couple more times on a couple more players!!!  It would have served that kid right if a couple of students from Team B’s school ganged up on him in the parking lot after the game.  Uh, quoting William Horman, “Manners maketh the man.”  I’m gonna say it so, don’t bother stopping me.  That kid was a despicable punk.

Public Address Announcer University College Private School

Really?!  REALLY?!  This is where we are at???  This is what we have learned through all these years of education and special school seminars on treating each other with dignity and acceptance?  Denigrating girl basketball players as dogs?  Really?!  I even noticed the female official at the game furrow her eyebrows toward the stands for the slightest of moments in disapproval.  Here’s the worst part.  It was a private school.  A place which postures itself to promoting higher character standards.  I was horrified and put off.  As an announcer, I did my job.  I sat there and shut-up but, I will be honest, it was killing me inside.  I felt pretty terrible for that team.

And so I ask myself, “Did he not cross those sportsmanship lines?  Why did his school admins not toss him out the door?”  Yes and they should have.  Barking at female or male athletes has NO place in events at any damn level.  We are all supposed to know better than this by now.  Evidently for some, NOT.

Public Address Announcer Blue Bird

Ladies, Ladies, Ladies.  I have beheld that girls can be no better.  I was at a women’s volleyball playoff game, which was so close, you could not have inserted a sheet of paper between the scores.  In the end, one team won.  One team lost.  This is how the volleyball bounces.  The teams shook hands at the net.  On the way back to the benches, a few ladies from the losing squad turned and flipped the winning team the ugly birdie.  OMG!!!  Seriously?!  Again, this is where we are at?!  Did no one teach them that when you win, you win and when you lose, you lose?  Has society defenestrated class entirely?  Are we truly members of an anything goes world?  The complex socio-cultural overtones in those last 2 questions drive up the blood pressure.  Goodness.

Public Address Announcer Luck

As an announcers, we see a lot.  Some of what we observe can be pretty shameful and detracts from the event.  Regardless, we must sit there.  we cannot even say anything to the officials unless, whatever it is, is being done directly to us by teams, coaches or spectators.  Knock on wood, no one has ever made a problem for me, which at the moment of writing this, kind of surprises me that it’s never happened.  If there is bad behavior, the officials and admins must be left to do their jobs of judging and deciding on these things.  As painful as it has been sometimes, I make myself overlook it all and move on with the game/event at hand.

Barking at female free throw shooters?   Young, women volleyball players flipping off the winning team of a close playoff game?  Man oh man.  It can compel an announcer to hang up his microphone and never attend another event.

Public Address Announcer Hot Wheels Track

How about that coaching leadership?  From Little League on up, all of us announcers have seen the profanity roll off the tongues of coaches like marbles down a Hot Wheels track.  Hmmmmmm.  And, what might our players and spectators learn from such comportment?  One wonders.  As your Public Address Announcer, I sit and shut-up.  When I see the ol’ “T” from the referee at center court, I can take bit of internal pleasure in announcing, “Team XYZ, Technical Foul…”

Public Address Announcer Monkey See Monkey Do

On coaching expletives which accompany their ranting and raving, does it not become monkey see, monkey do with their players and fans?  Possibly.  Likely.  LOL.  As an observer, I ponder and, often, get disappointed but, I end up alone in my pensiveness.  All the good and bad arrive at a sporting event.  Again, I sit and shut-up.

Public Address Announcer Dog

No, I ain’t tellin’ you nothin’ you don’t already got down to a personal science.  But, barking inspired me.  LMAO.  The least I can do is jump up and down in an article.  Forgive me.  I figure if express myself here, it might educate others and create thoughtfulness within my own efforts.  Ha!

Now for me, it’s a gig to be announced.  I was asked once about my feelings on the winner and loser.  I said I didn’t care.  Those that asked were taken aback.  I told them I enjoyed observing and announcing the game regardless of outcome.  Worrying about the results is for the coaches, teams and spectators, not me.  I’m, essentially, another official at these things.  I collect information and report it to the crowd.  It’s my job.  Now if I do that wrong, this is another discussion but, getting involved with scores, calls, winners, losers and all the interleaved emotions is, truly, outside of my scope.

So…dirty rotten apples acting badly at a ballgame…  What to do.  What to do.  Well, nothing.  It’s OK to feel disappointment in those that should know how to behave better.  Most importantly, I strive to keep myself in check.  Part of this is knowing 100% of the time to sit and shut-up in spite of what I’ve seen people do.  This is the realm of administration and officiating…not announcing.

Public Address Announcer Raised Hands

Of course if I witness a crime during an event, I raise my hand to the administrator or even security if nearby.  If I am ever directly addressed in a very negative way by coaches and players, I will raise my hand to the officials.  Similar actions by spectators toward me, I raise my hand to administration but, by no means, will I get on that microphone and remark.  This is PA Announcer heresy.

“Sit and Shut-up” is the correct path on 100% of witnessed nonsense and pathetic behavior.  This does not make it an easy path for your kindly, virtuous game announcer.  It is NOT easy at all.  Alas, observing it all, the good and bad, the pleasant and ugly, the commendable and egregious,  is the burden announcers bear to sit in that chair and announce events.  We are, undoubtedly, a thick-skinned bunch who are awesome at speaking and even better at keeping our mouths shut.

Tell me, tell me.  What things have you observed, as an announcer, that simply make sparks start flying out of your head and compel you to clamp your lips together?  Others’ experiences are how I learn.

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.

More Announcer Reading

Public Address Announcer Amplifier Magazine Cover

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *