From Bats to Rabbits, Broadcasting’s Always Got a Twist
I heard someone use a phrase a few weeks ago which I really enjoyed, but I didn’t realize at the time quite how soon it would come to affect me. The phrase was along the lines of:
Life is like a book–it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but we just never have the luxury of knowing which chapter we’re on.
My Saturday afternoon didn’t involve anything drastically life-changing, but it did bring about quite an unexpected turn of events that were pretty darn entertaining. Apparently I was on the chapter where a flying mammal at a sporting event makes national news.
I was in Milwaukee to broadcast the Marquette-Providence basketball game and things were as expected: the weather was frigid, the food was deliciously cheesy (I had Wisconsin mac and cheese for dinner on Friday night) , and through the first 20 minutes of the game it was basketball as usual. Marquette led Providence, 40-32, at the half.
But then, in the second half, things started to get a little crazy. A bat–yes, the live animal, started swooping around the arena. Keep in mind that the Bradley Center is a big building. It’s primarily home to the Milwaukee Bucks and it seats 19,000. This is where I’ll let the Associated Press pick things up for a bit:
The bat first appeared with about 11 minutes left, as it began flying near the court and circling over the crowd. At several points, it swooped near the court, sending referees and players scrambling — while the original “Batman” theme played on the loudspeaker.
The game resumed following an initial 4-minute delay, but play was stopped again seconds later as the bat nearly flew into the side of (Providence forward Sidiki)Johnson’s head, sending him to the court.
Well, I was certainly surprised to see that there was a bat in the building. At first I thought it was a bird, but then realized it wasn’t really flapping its wings and that it had to be a bat. Most people have an unusual fear of insects, and so when a bat starts flying around near your head, the instinct is to try and get out of the way. Oddly enough, bats not only don’t attack people, but they’re not carnivores. They eat mostly insects and fruits, so it’s always funny to see reactions to a dive-bombing bat. I should say that I wouldn’t have acted any different, though. When I was in college, I was at a friend’s house and a bat was in the living room but nobody wanted to get it. I happened to be the only guy in the house at the time and I was expected to take charge, so I took some meek attempts at getting it out and failed miserably. Don’t call me if you ever have a bat hanging around.
The bat continued to circle the court for the next few minutes. At one point, Providence coach Ed Cooley menacingly held up his clipboard waiting to swat it out of the air, and Marquette’s Jamil Wilson threw a towel in the air trying to trap it.
While the players were throwing towels into the air, my partner, Sean Kearney, and I took cover with some makeshift protection of our own. The show must go on!
The bat appeared several more times during the game. With 8:52 left, it flew toward a group of players near the Marquette bench, and they jumped out of the way. Then, to cheers from the crowd, players and coaches, game personnel tried throwing towels at it to bring it down, but to no avail.
With 7:36 left, arena officials turned off the lights to try and “get rid of the bat,” public address announcer Bob Brainerd told the crowd. The lights stayed out for several minutes, and hundreds in the crowd waved their lit mobile phones in air, like a concert, as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played over the sound system. The bat did not return.
Seriously, though, it was like a concert:
Here’s an intriguing Midwest League tie-in to this game: The above-listed public address announcer, Bob Brainerd, is the TV voice of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. We met back in September when the TinCaps traveled to Appleton, Wisconsin, for a few games in the championship series. Small world, huh?
So we finish the game and the story had started to circulate around the internet a little bit at that point, but I didn’t think it would really turn into anything huge. Boy, was I wrong. I got home from Milwaukee around 10:45, and around 11:30 was when I started to get a few text messages from people telling me that they’d seen me on SportsCenter. That was surprising.
It was even more surprising when the game was the lead story on the midnight edition of SportsCenter. It also was featured on ABC World News Sunday night:
Remember that whole thing about how you don’t know what chapter of life you’re currently living? This was a choose-your-own adventure that took some crazy twists.
Oddly enough it was the night of July 21st, 2012, in Daveport, Iowa, of all places, that probably prepared me most for this type of a situation.
The TinCaps were in the midst of a six-game road trip through the Western Division, and found themselves taking on the Quad Cities River Bandits that night. It was an unusual day to start because neither team took batting practice due to a game of vintage baseball that was played on the field beforehand. During the game, though, a little brown rabbit ran onto the field and stopped play a number of times. I wrote a blog post the next day about the game:
It was on four separate occasions, beginning in the sixth inning, that a rabbit made its way on to the field and held up play. The rabbit would emerge from a gate beyond the home bullpen down the left field line, and bounce around the outfield, skillfully eluding the Quad Cities grounds crew in remarkable fashion. Clearly, they were not going to catch the rabbit and their only chance was to try and guide it back from where it came.
Although it may have been mildly annoying to those on the field, it was thoroughly entertaining to me, if for no other reason than that I might never see a rabbit on a baseball field four times in one game ever again. Also, watching groundskeepers futilely chase after a rabbit does have a certain comedic value.
The rabbit, in its four trips onto the field, delayed the game for a few minutes each time as it would zig and zag around the outfield. All that was missing was the Benny Hill theme song. I was alone in the booth, as I am for all road games, so I just ended up doing rabbit play-by-play. I got a great laugh out of it as it was going on and certainly hope that folks who were listening back at home were able to do the same. At the time I thought I’d never see anything like that again. Little did I know that I’d encounter something equally as strange just 190 days later.
When it comes to broadcasting, baseball is such a great sport in which to work when it comes to handling bizarre situations. Whether it be a rain delay, rabbit delay, coaching visit to the mound, or your station being knocked off the air by a storm (that happened back in June), you learn to adapt in those times. There’s no studio to throw it back to, and you’ve just got to fill the time yourself. Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman famously takes calls on the “Banana Phone” to pass the time during rain delays. So I’d been in this type of situation before where ad-lib is the phrase-du-jour and rolling with the punches is all you can do. It was certainly a lot of fun, not to mention the game turned out to be pretty entertaining, too.
Don’t forget that we’re just 73 days away from Opening Day at Parkview Field, and 67 days away from the April 4th opener at Great Lakes. Baseball is right around the corner.
I’d love to hear from you at Couzens@TinCaps.com
If you tweet, you can find me @MikeCouzens.