Sunday, November 26, 2006

Week 12 – Can You Hear Me Now?

Baltimore, MD – 11/26/06

It was a day just like any other day. Except that it wasn’t.

The Ravens were playing the defending Super Bowl Champions, and their fiercest division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

By the time the game would come to an end, the Ravens would break a Steelers all-time record and set a franchise mark of their own.

And for the first time in my RaveTV career, we would not have a player wired during the game.

We did not have any coaches wired either, but we did set out to focus on the Special Teams units and their coordinator, Frank Gansz Jr. But how would we be able to record what was being said on the bench and in the huddle without actually taping a mic to any of the players you might ask? That’s easy, or as Jeff described it, ‘brainless’. All we had to do, or should I say I had to do, was stick a long pole with a microphone secured on the end, called a 'boom mic', in the face of anybody who happened to be talking about the Special Teams.

I was being promoted to the Audio Engineers Club for the day and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Sure, sticking a pole in the face of a 250-lb professional football player sounds easy, but try sticking a pole in the face of a 250-lb professional football player and see what happens. Than I was informed that not only did I have to wear a kangaroo pouch with a mixing board tucked inside, but I actually had to learn what the damn thing did. All I saw was a random array of knobs, meters, switches and pulsating lights. It was like staring at the controls inside the cockpit after being told that you might need to fill in as a flight attendant.

We did have some other options. As I mentioned, we were going to try and cover Coach Gansz as much as possible and we thought that maybe we could just film him talking to the players and then dub his voice later, sort of like Mystery Science Theatre meets Inside the NFL. We could even make it a comedic episode of Ravens Wired with sound bites like, “Who wants to make a Starbucks’ run?” or “How many push-ups do you think I could do?”

Alas, we stuck with the pole and I was stuck, well, with the pole. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t complaining because the pole served as my all access pass to just about any conversation being had on the field, including the pre-game huddle. You know the one where Ray Lewis is surrounded by all 52 teammates and the entire NFL films crew. The one where Ray barks at his troops and leads them in song, “We Read-y. We Read-y. All my dogs in the house. Woo Woo Woo Woo! All my dogs in the house Woo Woo Woo Woo!” Now it might have only been three ‘Woo’s’ but either way, I was in the house, on the field, and smack dab in the middle of the huddle recording every word. An audio engineer's dream come true, or at least a sports-fan-trying-to-be-an-audio-engineer's dream come true.

Ray’s huddle wasn’t the only gathering we were invited to on Sunday. Right before each kickoff, Gansz would bring his unit together on the field and I sprinted out there with them to make sure we could hear what Coach wanted. Sometimes he wanted to give our kicker, Matt Stover, some instruction on which way to angle the ball. Sometimes he wanted to give a few key players direction on how he expected the Steelers to try and block them. But most of the time, I think he just wanted to get the guys focused and fired up.

Overall the ‘boom experiment’ did not go exactly as planned. I routinely found myself in the wrong place, sticking the pole in the face of the wrong guy, holding the boom too high, even holding it too low to give the shot that authentic b-movie feel. There were even times that I had to battle other booms for position in a A/V Club style duel. But I was learning every minute. I had become extremely proficient in carrying the tripod throughout the first 10 games of the season, but this audio gig was tough work. Remember those knobs and lights, they actually meant something. They serve as a way to adjust how much sound the boom picks up. So I kept looking back at Jeff and Lauryn to see if they could hear okay. Most of the time they couldn’t. I kept expecting the Verizon guy to come out of the stands to mock me.

I finally got the hang of things and we recorded some of our best sound bites as the players shook hands after the game. Again I was allowed to storm the field and stick my nose, and the boom, into any conversation that looked interesting. Ovie Mughelli left the field smiling and talking about teamwork. Stover left the field blowing kisses to his family in the stands. And Ray left the field with the NFL films crew still following faithfully behind him.

The statistics will show that Baltimore finished the game with 9 sacks – the most in franchise history and the most ever allowed by the Steelers. The tapes will show that I successfully recorded at least 9 good sound bites that Lauryn will have to extend into a 5-minute feature. But most importantly, no matter what you listen to, at 9-2, the Ravens are being heard loud and clear around the NFL. Woo Woo Woo Woo!

Editor’s Note: The next Ravens’ game will be this Thursday night against the Bengals. Due to the fact that I actually have a fairly successful career as an advertising executive at Exit10, I will not be traveling to Ohio this week. In my place, RaveTV will be sending one of their own, Jay ‘Oh what a rough night’ O’Brien. Jay has assured me that he will take note of all the excitement a Wednesday night in Cincinnati has to offer and will report back on what could be a division clinching night. However, I won’t be silenced completely as I plan on documenting my Thursday night experience back home in the Charm City. Whose coming with me?!


Anonymous said...

Hi Josh. In addition to doing a great job on the blog, you did a great job Sunday as my emergency "Sound Tech". I appreciate the "can do" attitude. You took the whole thing very gracefully, which was much appreciated. Thank you for not panicking (there was enough of that from Lauryn and I)

I'll miss ya on the road Thursday, both chillen in Cincinnati and running the game. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

PS: Stop shooting my ass!