Randy Smth: My How Things Have Changed

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
I broadcast a high school football game last Friday night for the first time since 2009. That's eight years and, while things have changed technically since 2009, they have really changed since I started doing games on radio in 1970. Phone lines were the only way to get a game broadcast back to the radio station and on the air took several  cases of equipment as well. Mixers, microphones, headsets, plenty of cable, extra phone line just in case your phone line was placed in the wrong place. That doesn't count your game notes and spotting boards of course.

Once when carrying those heavy cases and bags of equipment to the media gate at a high school game I was doing in the 1970's, we didn't have any press passes and the guy on the gate said, "How do I know you're with the radio station?  

I replied, "Well, you caught us.
We've been hauling this heavy stuff around just so we can get in the games free," They let us in and we all had a good laugh.

Phone lines could also be pretty costly back then. Not only did you pay for the installation of the line, but on road games, we had to pay long distance charges too. That has been one of the big changes, because now with cell phones you can broadcast a prep football game for free; as long as your battery holds up. The biggest change of all, however, is in the audio equipment. In 2017, the mixer and many of the cables have been replaced by a small black box that you hook up to your headsets, then to your cell phone. That's all you need to get on the air. That small black box is only about four inches long and two inches wide. It's tiny compared to what we used years ago.Now big time college broadcasts still use that big heavy audio mixer but for local stations doing high school games, that little black box sounds really good.

The press boxes back then were mostly made of wood. They were drafty when the weather was cold, and they were about ten to fifteen degrees warmer on hot evenings. On many of them you had to climb rickety stairs to get to your broadcast position. 

One thing that hasn't changed at all is the excitement of Friday night football games. The fans, sold out crowds, and the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill just enhance the overall experience of attending high school football games. That hasn't changed in 50 years and I hope that it never does. The players may have gotten a bit bigger and a bit faster than they were 50 years ago but their excitement about being in the spotlight for about three hours on Friday nights is still as it was and that's a good thing. 

As I get ready for another game on WFLI this Friday night, I am appreciative of the technical advances that make my job so much easier. I am also appreciative of the modern press boxes we work in. One with air conditioning and windows that open so we can hear the crowd noise under our broadcast is also very helpful.

In all, the things that have changed are all positive. The things that have not changed through the years are also very positive, which leads to this assumption; high school football is in good condition. I encourage everyone to go see a couple of high school games this season. You'll be glad you did and so will those young people.

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.

He can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com

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