Zero plays, One Penalty

The group of guys I play basketball with are all around my age. Today, however, I got stuck trying to guard a homeschooled high school kid who was quite a bit quicker than I was. He was also in better shape, which he exploited by running me all over the court. At the end, while I was huffing and puffing, I told him, “Don’t turn 40, kid.” He said, “I got 24 years before that happens!”

If you’re reading this, Enrique, you’re a punk. (Just kidding). Enrique said he went to Westmoore earlier this year before he switched to home schooling. That got me thinking about what I was doing when I was his age, being a smart aleck like Enrique while attending WHS.

I was a pretty quiet kid at Westmoore. Tried not to be noticed. Mainly just hung out in the newspaper room or with Kevin and Chad. But this one particular incident put me in the spotlight for 15 minutes. I wrote about it on my old blog a few years back but figured it was worth a re-run.

I’ve pretty much been doing journalism my whole life. My first job, when I was 16, was doing sports stories for the old Moore American newspaper. It was a free weekly paper that was choc full of errors and probably not worth lining your bird cage with, but they paid me $10/hour and it was a pretty good experience for an aspiring sportswriter.
When I was 17, based on my clear mastery of the English language and complete grasp of the Westmoore High School sports universe, I got hired to do public address announcing for junior high and junior varsity football games in Moore.
It was a fun job, and I was basically just flying by the seat of my pants. It’s not like they gave me any training or instruction whatsoever. They just handed me a mic and told me to announce the down, distance, and whatever happened on the previous play.
Sometimes my friend Kevin would go to the games with me and help me spot who made the tackle and what yard-line the ball was on, etc. The first few weeks I tried to be professional and whatnot, but a junior high game we did one night changed everything.
As always, we went down on the field before the game to get the rosters for both teams. Well, this night, one coach said, “I didn’t bring one. Just make up the names. I don’t care.”
Of course, Kev and I went to town. We made up names for everyone on the team and used them over the PA throughout the game. We used a wide array of names, from celebrities (this was the 1990s, so I think Vanilla Ice was playing QB), to NFL players (Barry Sanders at RB), to the classic adolescent laugh-getters (starting at receiver, Ceymour Butts).
Nobody complained, and it was a heckuva a lot more fun than doing the job right.
My favorite games to work were the Westmoore JV games, because I was a junior at Westmoore and the team consisted of all my friends. Also, we had a really good JV football team which I think went undefeated.
One night, I was doing a JV game and we were beating the tar out of another hapless foe. I started taking a few liberties with the mic.

“That’s yet another touchdown for the mighty Jaguars.”

“Matt Fallwell slices through the defense like they’re not even there.”

“Incomplete pass for Del City. What a shame.” And so forth.

Late in the game, we scored to make it 49-0. This touchdown was punctuated by another obnoxious call from the PA announcer. On the ensuing kickoff, Del City returned it for a touchdown but there was a penalty which negated the score. This was the call from the booth.
“Ohhhhh! The 15 Del City fans still in attendance are in a state of shock as their only chance to score has been wiped out by an illegal block in the back.”
Then the ref threw another flag. I said, “It looks like there’s another penalty on the play,” and the ref starts pointing up at the press box, right at me actually. He signaled unsportsmanlike conduct on us and marked off 15 yards. I got a penalty from the press box!
On cue, one of our principals stormed into the booth and literally ripped the microphone plug from the wall, leaving me holding the useless stub. I was a little relieved to see our coaches in the next booth cracking up.
Fortunately, all my friends on the football team thought it was hilarious too. I was worried they might not be too pleased that a guy who never played a down of football in his life cost them 15 yards, but I guess the 49-0 score mitigated that.
To this day, I like to think that I’m the only person who’s ever gotten a penalty from the press box in a sport I never played.
Somehow, my shenanigans didn’t even end up costing me my job. I got lectured in the principal’s office at school the next day and forced to sit in the booth at a varsity game so I could learn from the old fart who did the PA at those. (Bo-ring!) I cleaned up my act after that, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

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