On a blistering hot August day in 1997, I walked out of the concourse, through the entrance tunnel into Floyd Casey Stadium and saw at that time the prettiest sight I’d seen in my life. Even a six-year old could appreciate the shiny gold helmets, sounds of brass instruments, and roaring crowd as Baylor took the field against the Miami Hurricanes. The final score wasn’t pretty, but the pageantry of it all sealed my fate as a Baylor fan, and from that moment on I became fixated with anything Baylor football.
There were a few logistical problems that came with my newfound fandom. Though relatively closer to Waco than other college towns, all the other kids in my hometown were focused on Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, and thus I had no one to share my Baylor obsession. Possibly worse, for a period of time we lived out in the country without access to a local cable provider and had limited channels. And since, back then Baylor was, let’s say bad, I never really got to watch them on the major networks.
My solution was simple. Each and every Saturday morning during football season I would look at the bottom tracker on ABC and see what time Baylor played that day. When it was time for the Baylor game, I would borrow my dad’s old dial tone radio and shut myself in my room to listen to the game. Till this day I am not quite sure what station it was, but with just the right amount of tilting of the radio and placing it next to my bedroom window, I too could follow my Bears every fall. Probably 85% of the sound was flatline buzzing and static that all AM stations make, but John Morris, Walter Abercrombie, JJ Joe, and Ricky Thompson made up the other 15% so I couldn’t care less. I did this for years all throughout adolescence. Sometimes a brother or one of my parents would look into my room to check on me, quietly laugh and shake their heads. Other times I would hear the rest of the family cheering and run to the living room to see what had just happened, only to quickly to return to my radio. Needless to say, I listened to several lopsided losses, but every time I tuned in, I could envision the play as if I was back in Floyd Casey Stadium.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t just Baylor sports radio that held my fascination. Anybody that grows up in rural Texas knows that you spend a great amount of time traveling lowly Texas highways. Drives to little league tackle football games in San Angelo, groceries in Brownwood, shopping sprees in Abilene, and visits to my brother who attended Angelo State were common. However, even though we weren’t watching from home, we were never deprived of football. I looked forward to the ride home from all these places because I loved to listen to all the legendary college football broadcasters in Texas. Craig Way was as polished as they come and I thoroughly enjoyed his broadcast of Texas football. His words could paint a picture of what was happening on the field. There was a comfort in hearing Texas A&M announcer Dave South’s voice and his entertaining and unique way of calling a game. And because my hometown is an affiliate for Texas Tech, hearing their play by play guys still reminds me of home. Sometimes while driving home in the later parts of the football season on a pitch black 2-lane highway where you might not see another set of headlights for miles at a time, my dad would finally find a good station that carried a game, and my mom would pass around Taco Bell tacos. I would lay back completely at peace in our spacious Jeep Grand Cherokee listening to college football, as it transported me to a green field striped in white with two sets of colorful helmeted teams lined up for a battle.
Not that much has changed with my radio fascination except for these days it’s my wife rather than my family that I puzzle with my habit. During football season, whether running errands, on our way to eat out, or out of town travel, I still tune into the radio. It still has to be an AM station too, not FM--it’s just too clean; the buzz and static is part of life. So, with the regular season wrapping up, I would like to give a sincere thank you to all the football radio announcers in this great Republic. And, if you’re ever driving on a lowly West Texas highway, on a chilly pitch-black fall evening, tune-in to these unsung heroes that allow us to never be far away from the games we love.