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Special shout-out to the public address announcers

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 5:33 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 9:39 a.m. CDT

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Park that bicycle along Kirk Road, and kindly remove your headgear.

If not an authentic “Special shout-out,” the men and women of our gymnasium microphones at least deserve some reverence.

Who else but a public address announcer can calmly call a crowd’s attention to the national anthem within moments of assailing its eardrums? Who else but a PA announcer – apart from the athletes, that is – can leave fans talking long after that drive home?

Basketball arguably lends itself best to the emotional whims of the medium. Between the pace, scoring and sporadic stoppages, there always are opportunities to make one’s voice heard. That, of course, is the idea, and Chronicle-area PA practitioners recently shed light on their backgrounds and strategies. Perk up your ears if you want in; several ascended to the position simply by being in the right place at the right time.

Rudy Dubis, the man who welcomes Batavians and visitors alike to the “HOME OF THE BATTLIN’ BULLDOGS!,” does not demand lunch or announce his arrivals home so boisterously. Raising his voice to his wife wouldn’t be advisable, not after the weekend-heavy announcing schedule Dubis has kept for more than four decades.

Dubis “can pretty much count on one hand” the number of boys basketball games he has missed at his alma mater in 42 years, and one, in fact, conflicted with a wedding. His own.

Other than that, Dubis traditionally has delivered on a vow of novelty after then-Batavia athletic director Bob Tober asked for a favor shortly after Dubis’ 1970 graduation. Dubis’ signature greeting actually was an ad-lib, as he later incorporated “Battlin’ “ when inspired by a “Home of the Bulldogs” sign that was painted across a gym wall. No one fought the phrasing, which since has landed on the wall and a city water tower, not to mention many football and basketball fans’ psyches.

“Pretty much everybody knows who I am,” Dubis said. “Anybody who’s ever seen a Batavia High School basketball game. My voice is pretty ... I don’t know. It’s hard to cover it up, I guess.”

Distinction is a vital quality to PA announcing, along with familiarity. Dubis exhibits both despite working outside the high school building. By day, he’s part of the printing industry and owns a DJ service, Big R Productions, on the side.

Elsewhere, school faculty handle most of the announcing assignments, gaining stipends either through seniority or sign-up sheet. At St. Charles East, the football mic can be tough to wrangle if you’re not already entrenched in the press box rotation, but other sports aren’t as competitive.

At this point, Neil Currie’s colleagues wouldn’t dare lobby for anyone else. The bearded, occasionally over-alled and often offbeat East social studies teacher – alias “The Special Shout-out Guy” – recently completed his first football season after earlier experience announcing boys basketball and boys and girls soccer.

While Currie’s improvisational antics – namely the “Shout-out,”a matter-of-fact mention of someone in attendance or a passer by – have had their occasional detractors, would it surprise anyone steeped in the Saints’ scene that he once was a part-time carnival barker? At the behest of his parents, Currie helped hock goods during high school and college summers at Northbrook Days. Currie also played center-fullback for the Glenbrook North and Monmouth College soccer teams and worked in computer systems analysis before entering teaching.

It all adds up to an eclectic and entertaining experience at East games, although Currie is careful not to distract from the real show.

“You’ve got to have balance. You have to know people are there to watch the game; they’re not there to hear what you say,” Currie said. “The focus is on the kids. When I get a chance, I get to add to it and help it out. But it’s really all about the students, which is really cool.”

New Kaneland boys basketball announcer Andy Drendel once inspired the Knights’ student section as a player. As of Nov. 30, the 2005 Kaneland alumnus has helped ignite it with a microphone in his hand.

That morning, Kaneland athletic secretary Linda Kelley emailed Drendel, a physical education teacher at McDole Elementary in Montgomery, about filling in for Ryan Malo, who had a conflict with night courses he was taking.

Drendel spent much of his commute to Maple Park as well as the sophomore game mumbling to himself and fretting. He didn’t yet realize his father – longtime Kaneland teacher and coach Ralph Drendel – had been a former announcer, and was racking his brain for nuggets from the high school speech course he took from English faculty member and football announcer Kurt Green.

Close friend Ryan Gierke, a former teammate and Knights assistant, razzed his buddy and told him he’d be fine. Turns out Drendel did well enough to not only earn comparisons to his father, but receive the permanent announcing nod for the rest of the season.

“I know I don’t have that Kurt Green voice, you know, but I just try to make sure I say everything correctly,” Drendel said. “I don’t want to sound like I don’t know what I’m doing, basically.”

Drendel sometimes consults YouTube for ideas for standout “And-1” or 3-point calls. He realizes catchphrases come gradually and naturally, and might be wise to head to Geneva for inspiration if time allows.

There, faculty members Jason Santo and Matt Hahn are part of a rotation that sometimes includes longtime Vikings voice Kurt Wehrmeister, who recently stepped away from full-time announcing after about three decades of politely asking male fans to find another spot for their hats before the anthem. Santo’s “Two shotssssssss” and unique emphasis and pause between “time” and “out” quickly have gained fans’ attention. Hahn, meantime, excels at trumpeting short, punchy names that make announcers’ jobs even more enjoyable.

Consider “SAMIIIII PAWLAAAAK!” for instance, or that Wehrmeister staple of the late 2000s, “SCOTTYYYY WENNNNDT!”

“People even at the high school level come to expect a first-class, professional job, and fortunately we have two or three people capable of doing that,” Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer said. “And they all have their own distinct styles, as well.”

Things are a little less democratic at Rosary, but not by design. Athletic director Mary Lou Kunold has been calling Royals basketball, volleyball and softball “as long as we’ve had games,” sometime shortly after her 1973 hire to coordinate the PE program at the all-girls school.

“I keep asking people to do it and no one wants it,” Kunold said. “It’s fine. You’re doing the scorebook and it’s pretty easy. You just follow what’s going on.”

Eventually, Kunold knows someone will step in to follow her own act, a day she’s by no means dreading.

As Currie says, games are about the students. PA announcers only provide the soundtrack – the best with a shtick and a smile.

Currie enjoys a good shouting match

The anatomy of Neil Currie’s first “Special Shout-out” at St. Charles East began with a man in his mid-50s working on his fitness.

East assistant principal Bob Abraham was pedaling his bicycle along Kirk Road one day in the fall of 2009, and Currie was working as public address announcer during a boys soccer game.

Inspiration struck Currie and his admittedly quirky sense of humor. The result stirred Abraham, too.

“He waved at me and people started laughing, and the next day Dr. Abraham said, ‘ Hey, that was pretty cool, you know. You should do more of that,’ ” Currie said. “And I said, ‘OK. I can do that.’ ”

Currie took on the role of football announcer for the first time this fall after fellow social studies faculty member and assistant athletic director Lori Drumtra recommended him.

His trademark, deadpan delivery often greets the “Shout-out” subject, and also can be heard in his persistent plugs for the concession stand. Instead of simply alerting fans to its existence, Currie often spots a familiar face during a stoppage in play and purports to give his or her concession picks, even if he or she may not have a palate for Skittles or popcorn.

“That’s just me,” Currie said. “That’s who I am.”

Currie, who began as a fill-in when other announcers were sick, gives his own “Shout-out” to Jim Caine and Dave Kohlhagen of St. Charles for stressing the importance of getting pronunciations correct and emphasizing that “People like to hear their names.”

Neither man offered counsel about handling fame, but Currie has addressed that on his own.

“It’s nice,” he said, “but it also can sometimes be a pain. Kids will say, ‘ I want a Shout-out.’ I usually tell them, you know, that usually comes out of the thin of the air. I don’t take requests. But kids really enjoy the Shout-outs. Parents do, too. It’s funny.”

– Kevin Druley, kdruley@shawmedia.com

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