Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Wearing Stripes

By Matthew C Wallace
Public Address Announcer Officiating Team

I have announced multitudinous games and events in my life and, one thing very clear to me is that I have felt like I’ve always been an unofficial member of the officiating team at sporting events.  It’s certainly a funny thing to say considering I don’t officiate; meaning, I don’t make calls, assess penalties, manage clocks and the like.  Quite to the contrary, I sit in a booth or at a table behind a microphone providing information to a crowd of people.  Regardless, it’s all true.  An announcer is very much a unsanctioned member of the officiating crew.

As much as much as I have announced, I have spent many a day as a spectator soaking the good and bad of other announcers.  The bad ones sit up there trying to be funny, attempting play-by-play broadcasting over a PA or siding with their preferred team.  It’s simply bad, bad, bad, bad.  Mostly, it’s bad behavior and so distant from professionalism that it’s surprising some of these folks don’t get arrested by the announcing police.  These attempts at announcing completely undermine the event and the officiating team by creating an atmosphere that cannot be managed.

The best of the best simply provide well-pronounced game data, steady information and advertising copy.  They understand the game, have clarity on the rules and are well-connected with the officiating team as well as their event management.  Yes, there are opportunities to improvise or “ad lib”; however, this is not central to announcing.  Information is central to announcing.  If provided correctly and clearly, the game goes to a new level of experience for all involved.  Not only do you enjoy watching the game but as a spectator, you get all the information you need to enhance your experience: yards gained, personal fouls, pitching changes, safety policies, game sponsors and so much more.  Simply, you feel good being at the event.

Public Address Announcer Football Officials

Now, I say announcers are kinda sorta part of the officiating team at a game and, they are…kinda sorta.  Everything during game play requires an announcer to watch the officials for their signals as well as take some instruction which they may give you during the game.  In smaller venues where you might be responsible for the music, they will indicate cutting it off or cutting off announcing.  I have even had an official, on many occasions, request an announcement be made for some special circumstances.   Make no mistake, the officials manage the game and especially during game play, and you, the announcer, are reporting directly and only to the lead referee while that game is in progress.

Plus, much like the officiating team, an announcer is supposed to be STRICTLY unbiased.  I hate calling it orthodox announcing but, it’s so true.  Even if it is your alma mater on the field, you have to be completely impartial.  No one wants an announcer with no self-control…believe me.   Undeniably, it’s what is best for the game. 

Now having said the aforementioned, slightly raising the inflections in your voice for the home team is very common.  Going into “Let’s get ready to rumble!” mode is what gets everyone in a pickle.  Certainly surround by 80+% home fans, everyone last one wants to hear their team, players, sons, daughters and relations loud and enthusiastically.

Public Address Announcer Fans

At the high school level and lower, minimal inflections.  It’s best to leave the excitement to the crowd.  They are quite capable of getting all wound up all by themselves.  There is no place for inciting a high school audience in the PA Announcer’s world.  College, as each day goes by, is evolving to be more like the professional arenas.  College is definitely not the pros but, not high school either.  Administrators, alumni, students and fans are expecting, borderline demanding, leanings to the home team on the home turf.  Neutral venue games need no inflection or inflection for both.  Professional sports announcing is a whole other game (pardon the pun) and need not be addressed in this post.  Everything aside and not withstanding pro environments, public address announcers are truly there for information only.

Public Address Announcer High School

Hometown announcing gets pretty darn cagey.  Coaches, so often, know you, personally, and expect their announcer, especially if it is one of their own, to severely lean their way on their home turf.  Do not succumb to the pressure if this is a high school game or lower.  In that booth or at that table, behind that mic, you do not report to the school or the coaches during game play.  You report in to that officiating crew.  When the game is not in play, you report into event management who will likely have advertising, sponsor, school, organizational and/or official copy that requires your skills behind the mic.  Coaches, much to their chagrin, have zero say when it comes the announcer.  Actually in some types of games, a coach can be penalized for even approaching the scorer’s table or booth!

Public Address Announcer Trouble Ahead

For heaven’s sake, do not usurp the officials and begin your makeshift play-by-play routine.  Oh, what a nightmare it is when the PA tries doing his on Vin Scully act over the public address system.  Play-by-Play is a totally different job with a whole variety of requirements completely unrelated to public address sports announcing.  Play-by-play behavior on the mic will likely get you in big trouble and, certainly, not invited back. 

An announcer should NEVER EVER put themselves in the middle of game play.  Reiterating, the announcer provides information to the crowd.  We are all about the periphery of things: between plays, before serves, halftime, pre-game and etc. Going into a play-by-play mode makes the game about you and not the event.  There is no greater unprofessional conduct than play-by-play public address sports announcing.  There should be an announcer’s law against it.

Public Address Announcer Head Screwed On Straight

Stay extremely focused.  Watch the officials.  Keep your inflections managed and controlled.  Listen to referees and administrators.  Take direction better than anyone else.   Be an amazing team player across the board and, you will discover yourself well-respected and liked by quite a few.  Everyone loves an announcer with their head screwed on straight.

Be proud!  Wear your veritable stripes on the inside.  Be fair.  Be professional.  Take your leads from the officials and event management.  If you do, the experience for all involved, win or lose, will be considerably more enjoyable.  Folks will leave the ball game feeling they experienced a awesome well-informed game or event.  As the announcer, you will head home knowing you were part of a good team, did a professional job and, hopefully, left people with a desire to hear your voice at the ballpark, auditorium or stadium when they attend another program.

How do you make things work well for yourself?  How do you build rapport with the officiating team?  Do you feel like you wear stripes?  Let us know…we’re curious!

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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