Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No. 485 – Behind the Lines / Duchess / Guide Vocal

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Duke
Year: 1980
Definitive Version: None

When it came time to leave Wabash, I was ready to go—excited to move on to the next thing. But a few things I was leaving behind I wasn’t excited to move on from.

My radio gig with WNDY had been a life changer. Before I responded to the notice outside the dean’s office my sophomore year, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. Two years later, I was on my way to Northwestern to start my training to be the next great American sportswriter. All that was because of my stint as play-by-play announcer for Wabash football and basketball. (Actually, what I wanted was to be the next great sportscaster, but my adviser said I should get a writing background first, because I could do anything with that.)

Of course, I didn’t want to leave the radio station high and dry when I left, so I passed the baton the same way that Mike Ricci had passed it to me two years before—at the first home basketball game of the season.

It was a little bit different situation in that, unlike Mike, my heir apparent was already lined up long before that broadcast. I met Steve my junior year when he was a freshman. He had done radio—high-school games—in his hometown of Columbus, Ind., (now there’s a coincidence) and wanted to continue doing that work at Wabash.

I, of course, wasn’t going to give up the gig, and I already had an analyst—a senior who used to play football but gave it up for his studies a year before—lined up for the football games. I promised Steve first shot at the basketball season.

So we get to the final football game of the 1984 season—the Big One, the Monon Bell Game, against DePauw, at home. It’s my first DePauw game, and I want it to go well—not only because it’s THE GAME but also because Dad was going to be there, listening on the radio. My analyst was a no-show. He called in sick, and to this day, I don’t know whether he got blasted the night before and couldn’t do it, or just blew it off because he didn’t want to do it. Either way, I was ticked (and I’m not sure I ever saw him again after that).

I remembered Steve from earlier that fall and gave him a call. At a moment’s notice, he was at the stadium as ready to go as he could get with about 15 minutes of prep time. The game went off without a hitch—Wabash won 41-26 to reclaim the Bell—and Steve was now unquestionably the No. 2 guy.

The basketball season was a blast, and the next football season, Steve was my analyst. Naturally, he was going to be the guy when I left, and I told him that when I turned over the reins to him, he was then in charge. I’d be out, and he could choose whomever he wanted to be his analyst, etc.

We made the transition the same way I had had it done with me years before. I called the first half—my final WNDY broadcast—and Steve took over in the second half with me doing the analysis. Steve was a natural—much further along with his abilities than I was at the same point, and I knew I had accomplished what any caretaker hopes to when he hands over his charge: I left the position in better hands than when I found it.

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