Workin’ the mouth

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I’ve always maintained that industrial park crit racing is really boring for spectators. A huge mass of people go round and round, they’re harder to distinguish than fall warblers, then someone shoots out at the end, throws her hands up, and the race is over.

Who’d want to watch that for fifty minutes, or even fifteen?

But then I thought about America’s most popular sport, throwball. The players are indistinguishable if you’re a neophyte. What they are doing is incomprehensible. Some umpire dude is constantly blowing a whistle and throwing a flag. Everyone suddenly decides to give the throwball to the other team. Someone runs across the finish line. Another dude kicks the throwball through the fork tines. Weird point combinations of six, three, one, sometimes two, appear at random. WTF?

And for all that, people go ape-fuggin-shit and hundreds of millions of dollars change hands online.

What do they got that we don’t got?

Then it hit me. Announcers. They got announcers. Some of them are great. Some of them are awful. All of them have mountains of crap to say. One dude talks about how four seasons ago one throwball dude dragged down another throwball dude. Another talks about somebody’s fifth knee operation. Some other dude compares one throwball team to the Pittsburgh Flintstones’ Stone Curtain from the 70s. It may be drivel, but it’s informative drivel.

But bike races? Crits have four types of announcers:

  1. This is my playlist. Hope you like the 70s.
  2. Nathan Newbie. “Hey everbody!! (Is this mic live)?”
  3. Jaded Fuddy Duddy. (“Looks like you all missed the break. Hahahaha.”)
  4. Awesome Announcer (“You’re not paying me? See ya.”)

Numbers one and two are self-explanatory and common. And guess what? Spectators don’t have to come to your industrial park crit to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Number three is some dude who’s been around forever, is sarcastic and cynical, and when he pays attention, if at all, it’s for the pro race. Men’s.

This year the CBR Crit took a different approach. It got Rahsaan Bahati, David Worthington, and David Wells to create an actual commentating crew.

AND IT PAID THEM.

These three guys are all smart, glib, and experienced announcers, but most importantly they know the racers and they know how to race. Whether it’s the Cat 5 Crit or the Masters 55+, they call out names, real names. None of that “Here comes number 69 leading the pack!”

It makes all the difference to a mom, dad, brother, girlfriend, sister, or boyfriend to hear a name called out. And it makes all the difference to all the spectators to hear experienced racers break down what’s going on, lap by lap. Analyzing riders’ strengths, speculating about weaknesses, commenting on strategy, filling the time with anecdotes and explanations makes these races become for the spectator what they are for the racer: Fun.

It’s easy to get great bike race announcers, but after a day or two spent in the hot sun shouting yourself hoarse for eight hours it transitions from “fun” and “helping the community” to “work.” Professionalizing it by paying the announcers for what they bring to the event is one of the best investments a promoter can make.

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