Are you ready for some football?
You can be assured that Atascadero High School Athletic Director Sam DeRose is ready. Every fall, he is the organizational maestro who orchestrates the city’s most popular venue for a three-month run. Dozens of dedicated Hound fans either volunteer or are paid minimum wages to seamlessly provide us with the small-town American extravaganza we call Friday Night Football. The Orange and Grey faithful will religiously congregate on The Hill to root for their latest edition of Greyhound Footballers, confident that Atascadero High’s version of the gridiron celebration is second to none.
The night may be either balmy in September and October or crisp in the months of November and December, and even the feature horizontal rains we experienced in last year’s state championship game, but it always brings a cacophony of familiar sounds. From the entrance of the Greyhound Marching Band and Color Guard to the ringing cowbell announcing the arrival of the varsity squad to the lusty cheers of parents, students, and supporters, the bowl reverberates with welcoming sounds.
This year shall have a unique feel to it as the local squad defends the state football championship it earned last year in a memorable campaign. The coaches remind their charges they will have a target on their collective back as opposing squads try to take the champs down. This year’s team will have to earn its own identity on the field as last year is safely in the record books and is now history.
Mary Corey and I are privileged to return to provide some of those sounds for our 18th season as partners in the announcing booth. Our tenure reflects one of the secrets of the success of the football program: continuity. The program is populated throughout the ranks with longtime coaches, like head coach Vic Cooper, who often boast a local pedigree. We are also blessed with graduates like Nate Conrad, who leads the band, or parents whose sons and daughters have long since graduated. The consistency in the program ensures that players will learn how to play the game the Greyhound Way.
What is the Greyhound Way? Like many worthwhile philosophies, it is difficult to explain in any short fashion, so I will try to represent it in the way we conduct business in the announcing booth.
We must remember that we are working with young athletes.
Keeping this in mind, we never announce a team’s failure to score. We may say if one of the teams is scoreless, “After a quarter of play, the score is Atascadero 14 and Clovis will be returning the next kickoff,” but we will never say zero or nothing. In doing so, we recognize obvious efforts that may not necessarily result in success. With this thought in mind, we also never announce the name of a defensive back covering on a touchdown catch or any player missing a tackle. In doing so, we reflect the sentiments of most of our fans who appreciate that the athletes on the field are not professionals and can often be heard cheering a touchdown by an outmatched opponent late in a one-sided game.
We respect the opponent.
We try to emphasize the achievement of an opponent’s success in the same way we trumpet our own. This is a difficult and, sometimes, an unpopular promise to deliver because we are fans as well and find it hard to hide the disappointment in our voices, but we are also teachers and are trained to celebrate any student’s success. In the same vein, we love the Atascadero tradition of announcing both starting lineups at the beginning of the game. Win or lose, we traditionally thank the opponent for a game well played and wish them safe travels at the end of a contest. A little-known secret is that Atascadero High School athletes regularly receive league awards for their sportsmanship.
Every athlete has a parent or a friend in the stands.
Like any good small-time newspaper, we endeavor to include as many names in our editions as we can. We also go to great pains to announce the names of players on opposing teams correctly by making a connection with their representatives. We can also count on our own fans to correct us, often immediately, when we stumble over the names of our own athletes.
Even though players claim to be deaf to us, hearing names announced after a tackle, catch, or run still quickens the pace of the teenage heart. More importantly, the mention of a name brings out the parental pride in the stands and often triggers an explosion of high fives. Of late, we try hard to remember to announce the names of offensive linemen after a score. They are prime architects of success, but because they never touch the ball, they never receive enough recognition. We also take note of clean uniforms in the latter stages of a game to salute those support players who put in the same hours as more experienced players for less acclaim. On the other hand, we keep our silence during an injury on the field in respect to the possible anxiety and anguish a parent or friend may be enduring. They don’t need to hear us prattle on about the fare in a snack bar or tonight’s dance after the game while they suffer.
We include all the members of the Greyhound Family.
Well-deserved recognition is given to our band members. They also begin practicing in the summer and undergo the pressures of performing before a live audience (and often must rise early the next morning for a Saturday parade). Our cheerleaders are announced every game to remind fans that they also are athletes worthy of praise and appreciation. Lately, we include scores and salute individual standouts in the other fall sports.
We do want to apologize in advance for any names that we mispronounce and any obvious errors we make concerning the action on the field ( again, we are sure that you will quickly correct us). As a rule, we do not provide color commentary, although we inject our own personality from time to time, as in Mary’s customary, “You’d better call the Maytag Man ‘cuz there is laundry on the field.” Also, if you look in vain in your program for the players called Fescue or Bermuda that we give credit for a tackle on a play, we are simply saying that the runner has tripped on the grass with no other player nearby. We also salute former players, from time to time, by interjecting their names as phantom tacklers. We try to have some fun while not spoiling the integrity of the competition.
Can’t wait to sit with the most loyal fans in the county. See you on Friday.