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'Ready, You're on the Air'

Silly Putty

By Jonathan Putnam

I was on the radio the other day.

I was in Worcester Saturday to cover the Harvard-Holy Cross football game, just minding my own business, basically, when suddenly my Warholian 15 minutes of fame arrived.

It happened like this: My pressbox seat was right next to the announcers from the Holy Cross radio station--WCHC, 89.1 FM, a new music station covering all of Worcester. The station's often-played promo intones, "WCHC--Listen...or Don't." In a moment, you'll see why.

Anyway, the game started, and I noticed that only one WCHC announcer had arrived--the "color man" was missing. This one guy was having a devil of a time by himself, spouting play-by-play a mile a minute at the same time he tried to give some background on the game.

To make matters worse, he didn't know who any of the Harvard players (or most of the Holy Cross players) were. His play-by-play went something like this: "Okay, there's a hand-off to a Harvard back, he cuts, gets a couple yards, and is brought down by a host of Cross tacklers. Okay, second down and a bunch now, there's a pitch wide right to...and so, no, he's met by a gang of tacklers, and loses a few yards."

Soon, however, the guy noticed that I was from Harvard, and started using my help. He'd say, "Okay, there's a hand-off to--" and nod at me, and I'd say, "Dave Bunning" or "Bob Glatz" or whomever, and he'd say, "--Dave Bunning, and he makes a cut and bulls ahead for seven."

We went on like this for several minutes, with me acting as a spotter for the Harvard side. Soon I saw an extra microphone headset lying on the counter, and with a nod of agreement from the WCHC guy, I put it on.

"Okay," the announcer said smoothly, "at this time I'd like to welcome a special guest into the WCHC booth,--" and stuck out his hand, because of course he didn't know my name, either.

"Jon Putnam, from The Harvard Crimson," I said crisply, shaking his hand.

"Shaun Putnam?"

"No, Jon. Jon Putnam."

"Okay, great. Well, Jon's here to give us a little expert commentary on the Harvard side. Jon, what'd you think--" but then he interrupted himself with a play description. He had missed a number while trying to get my microphone plugged in correctly.

I did eventually get to make comments on two plays ("Ohhh, he should have caught that one", and "Oooooh", as I recall), but unfortunately the regular color man finally showed up, and I had to relinquish my microphone.

My short-lived career on the WCHC airways was over, but the regular announcers, it turned out, were just getting warmed up.

They began by saying, "Well, we have a packed stadium here; 50,000 seat Fitton Field is nearly sold out." Fitton holds about 25,000 people, and Saturday's attendance was actually 17,000. Anyway, in the fourth quarter the same guy reported, "We of course have another sell-out crowd here at Fitton Field, all 75,695 seats are occupied."

Then there was the case of Crimson middle-guard Tom McConnell. Because of a typo, McConnell was listed on the Holy Cross press notes at 2345 pounds. Thus, when McConnell made a tackle late in the first half, the WCHC guy said, "...and that hit is made by 2345-pound Tom McConnell. Man, that lineman out there is big. He must really have been hitting the weights this summer--imagine that, Harvard has a defensive lineman who actually weighs more than one ton. What do you think?" he said, turning to his color man.

"I dunno--I guess it's no surprise that Harvard's off to such a great start this year. That McConnell kid really takes up a lot of room in the middle of the line."

At one point in the broadcast, the announcers repeated a stat from the Harvard radio announcers who were sitting on the other side of them. "That statistic comes from the Harvard radio team," the WCHC guy said. "They knew it because they came to this game well-prepared, and we didn't know it because, well, we didn't." WCHC--Listen... or Don't.

WCHC's crowning moment came late in the game, after Crimson cornerback Jim Smith made his second interception of the day. The announcers had had trouble all day confusing Smith (number 14) with Harvard receiver Neil Phillips (number 15). Phillips had been credited with a number of pass deflections, and Smith with a number of receptions. The announcers credited Phillips with Smith's first pick-off.

Anyway, the WCHC call went something like this on Smith's second interception: "Okay, there's a pass downfield and... it's picked off by Phillips. Phillips with the ball, and now he's running back downfield."

But at this point the guy realized his error, and with perfect aplomb he said, "Oh, and Phillips laterals to Smith, and now he's running downfield..."

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