This Friday night, at about 7pm, the Orange & Black will be lining up for their season opening kickoff. The Hubber marching band will be settling into the bleachers as the final notes of the National Anthem fade away. Down on the track, the cheerleaders are anxiously waiting to start exhorting the crowd, many of them for their first time on the varsity squad!
As the referee blows his whistle signaling the beginning of the 2023 Hubber football season and both squads converge towards the ball, there will be one thing different, perhaps not even noticeably. For the first time in 30 years, I won’t be in the press box as the public address announcer. No, I wasn’t fired for some colorful, quasi-offensive comment behind the microphone. It was my own decision and one that was harder to make than I thought it would be.
Prior to my stint as “the voice of the Hubbers”, I video-taped the games for many years with the late, Clair Burdick, traveling all over Western Pennsylvania to document the games for the coaching staff and for a while, regular broadcasts on WCAT television. Then, in the summer of 1993 as my oldest son headed off to Penn State, I was asked if I thought I could help out and temporarily announce the games on Friday nights. I was a bit leery, but I thought, “what’s the worst that could happen?” They could fire me but since they were desperate enough to ask me, I figured they’d at least keep me around for the whole season.
Having been to all 30 of the Big 30 schools, I made it my job to keep “the cheerleader” out of my voice. It wasn’t always easy, but I kept thinking of Joe Friday from Dragnet. . . “just the facts!” Nothing is more obnoxious to visiting fans (and sometimes even home fans) than a PA announcer who cannot be impartial while trying to be “colorful”!
That began three decades of a labor of love. I got a front row seat for 30 years! When it rained, I kept dry. . . when it was freezing, I kept warm – all the while being front and center for many, many exciting, even historical wins . . . and a few disheartening losses! During that entire time, I was privileged to share the booth with the three Alfieri brothers; Jim on the scoreboard, Tommy on the 24 second clock, and Tony – my personal spotter. A regular unsanctioned visitor to the press box was Woody Woodring who started coming every week when he found out we always brought snacks with us to the booth!
It is somewhat ironic that the public address announcer I initially replaced was Scotty McGuire who had to give up the job in 1993 due to work constraints. He is also the person recently picked to replace me and the “circle goes round and round”. I hope he enjoys it half as much as I did!