Pete Taylor calls for changes to benefit field-event calls
Readers of this blog know that masters announcer Pete Taylor is held in high-esteem — with comments appended to various posts being testatment to this. But runners make up the bulk of these voices. Jumpers and throwers have a right to think: “What’s the big deal? When have I heard MY name announced?” Well, it’s not because Pete doesn’t care. It’s mostly about sight lines — and the fact field events are outside his field of vision.
In Hawaii last summer, I was schmoozing with the high jumpers, and an incredible jump-off began. I ran to the middle of the field, where Pete’s tent was situated, and informed him of the situation. He immediately announced the drama of two former Ivy League rivals again going head-to-head.
But Pete isn’t content with the status quo — of little being said about field events during a meet. So he’s contributed a little essay on how the problem might be fixed. If nothing else, it’s his way of saying sorry to the jumpers and throwers who escape the Taylor treatment — an honor of real-time recognition.
For fielders’ sake, here’s Pete’s take:
How can we better incorporate field events into our announcing? Here is my tale:
In the spring of 1963 (I was an underaged freshman at the time), some of us from Haverford College drove down to the Penn Relays to see our favorite, Stu Levitt (a senior at Haverford), take on “the big boys” in the javelin. It was a Saturday, and the place was rocking.
Hard to believe for those who have been to the Relays in recent years, but the javelin took place right down the middle of the infield. One of us, Harold “Stubby” Walker even got down onto the field to take photos. Wow, there’s Harold !!
Classmate C.C. “Chevy” Chase did not go along (his sport was basketball). Actually, Chevy’s main sport was women (he might have been called by the old-fashioned term of “ladies’ man” at the time; in today’s terms he might have been called “a player.”) None of us dreamed he would be a success in TV or movies.
Anyway, Stu Levitt was off his form a bit but still won the gold over all the big boys with a throw of 225 feet, 8.5 inches. The crowd probably oohed and aahed a bit at the flight of the javelin. Brian Sternberg won the pole vault with 16 feet, 5 inches, and that probably sparked a big reaction, as the visual effect was spectacular.
Gary Gubner won the shot with 59 feet, 7.75 inches (probably drew little response). Morgan State (track was still cinders, I am sure, and thus much slower than now) won the 4 x 440 in 3:12.4, and I guarantee the noise was deafening. Al Ammerman won the high jump in a pedestrian 6 feet, 6 inches. Women’s events? Are you kidding? What women’s events?
In recent years (to protect lives), the javelin, discus, etc., at Penn have been outside the stadium, and as far as I know the announcer never says a word about those events until (and unless) the winner is brought into the stadium for an awards ceremony.
In other words, one person (or none) gets announced. They don’t say a word generally about who is pole vaulting, nor is there usually a peep about who is high jumping. If you want to watch pole vault closely you get a ticket in South stands, the high jump a ticket in East stands.
Triple jump and long jump enthusiasts sit in North stands. Occasionally one will hear the announcer (they have three principal announcers at Penn) say the name of a specific jumper, perhaps once a day. Incidentally, for those who care, I have applied and been rejected for announcing at Penn.
What does this say for masters field events?
Essentially, the announcing should proceed from the display of the event, not vice versa. At Boston I announced Bruce McBarnette, Johnnye Valien, Kathy Bergen, and others in the high jump, because I could see them and so could the crowd. The crowd could not (or at least I could not) see the long jump and triple jump very well (seemed to be more people on the infield than ever), and I ended up not announcing them.
Would be hard to do this in real time, anyway. Again, it is best to proceed from the event. Going back to the Penn Relays in 1963, just after the crowd roared at Brian Sternberg’s successful clearance of 16′, 5″, the announcer could say “Brian Sternberg.” Similarly, after the javelin was thrown the announcer could have announced the thrower, but I doubt that happened.
The main problem with the Reggie Lewis Center in terms of announcing field events is the layout. With spectators only on the home straightaway there are no field events for them to “ooh” and “aah” about except for the high jump and the pole vault (I announced a few pole vaulters on Friday).
They will never respond to shotputters and weight throwers (and we have an abundance of good ones), because they can’t see them. But the masters program is different from high school or college (or open); one of the joys of participating is hearing one’s name over the PA system.
Thus, considerations of equity must be introduced into the picture; how can people be recognized who are essentially unseen? Going back to Penn, throwers who come from as far away as Arizona State or as close as the University of Pennsylvania go unannounced, as the announcers will not respond to what they can’t see.
But masters throwers (and jumpers) need recognition. I can offer three suggestions, not one of which may prove feasible:
(1) Have awards ceremonies in infield for 1-2-3 finishers in field events but have no ceremonies for track events (on the grounds that runners and walkers are announced).
(2) Open up the stands on the backstretch so that there will be spectators to “ooh” and “aah” at the jumpers (and thus provide a basis for the announcer to react to their enthusiasm by announcing the jumper; this would require a spotter).
(3) Have an announcer based in the throwing events area only. Note that there is also the problem of measurement. At Boston, Myrle Mensey won the W55 shot with a throw of 11.35 meters/37 feet, 3 inches. This must be known (more or less) to appreciate her throw; otherwise it just looks like a good throw (or put) that appears to have traveled 10-13 meters (if one can see it).
In contrast, I did not know the time of Bill Collins in the 200 (he won the M55 in a breathtaking 23.43 seconds), but I knew he was flying and that he has essentially perfect form. All I needed was the visual.
To match this we must provide distances for the throwers, but they are hard to get in real time. Again, this is a challenge, but I believe that meet management can come up with something for future years.
There will be a field events announcer at Charlotte. Those interested can contact the meet director, Dr. Gordon Edwards. Go to carolinastrackandfield.org for instructions on how to e-mail Dr. Edwards.