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A Man In Search of a Walk-Off

I shall ruminate on Chan Ho Park at another time, but I have a personal matter I've been wanting to write about lately, so hopefully you'll indulge my perspective on that.

Those who know me know that one of the passions that keeps me going through the winter months is broadcasting small-college basketball. It's something I've been doing for the past decade, since my college days and I get great enjoyment from it. I have broadcast baseball, football, soccer, field hockey, ice hockey, softball, and lacrosse as well, and have enjoyed my experience in those, though for whatever reason it seems that basketball is the best fit for my skill-set.

I've had the pleasure of calling the game-winning field goal in a national championship, a home run to cap a six-run ninth inning rally on Opening Day, and a winner-take-all overtime goal in an ice hockey regional final. But I've never called a walk-off shot in a basketball game.

As a connoisseur of fine broadcasting, I have a great appreciation for walk-off moments. I've built up a nice collection of audio tape of others, in all sports. I've been known, at work, to break into the best of Jack Buck or Vin Scully at a moments notice. I have a few of my own, that I like to rattle off, in the privacy of my home, but I'm at the point where I could really use another. It may sound a little selfish to say that, but if you know me, you know how much I appreciate this stuff.

I like having a team to work for. I'd never want to be the voice of a national network, though I have dabbled in calling some small-college championships and have a fun time doing so. I live vicariously through the season, a little bit, with their successes and struggles being mine, albeit on a much lesser scale.

There have been close calls, near-misses, and sort-ofs along my journey through what must be 200 games or so over the last 10+ years.

My alma mater once trailed its arch rival by one point in women's hoops, and an inbounds play led to an open layup attempt at the buzzer, but alas, it fell short. You can hear the despair in my voice pretty clearly. "(name of kid) had a layup at the buzzer, and it FELL SHORT!"

A few years ago, I got pulled in for pinch-hitting duty on games for another team. The PR person for the school requested that I include one of his assistants on the broadcast, and since they were footing the bill, I said sure.

The home team staged a nifty late-game rally, tying the game on a 3-point shot at the regulation buzzer (the call of that would be on my resume tape, if I chose to update it). In overtime, it trailed by a point in the closing seconds and a series of quick passes off a scramble led to a game-ending layup as the horn sounded.

Unfortunately for me, my broadcast partner, who had been fairly reserved throughout the contest, chose that moment to go Dickie V on me. If you listen to the tape, you can hear me sort of mumbling my way through the final play, almost equivalent to a whisper, while this dude shrieks with excitement. You can't even tell what I said. I don't even know how I called it. Needless to say, I haven't worked with that guy since.

That brings me to this season and my work at the moment, which by the end of the season will be 30 games of men's and women's basketball to a particularly grateful audience of players family and friends. It has been a rewarding experience, except for one thing. No walk-offs.

There have been plenty of opportunities. Both teams have specialized in playing close games. The women have pulled out a few, but usually those have come in OT, after a missed walk-off chance fails. The men have suffered a series of heartbreaking defeats, with each having a similarly torturous ending. The team gets a shot in the final seconds to tie or win- and misses. The other night, they went for the victory, down by two points, and a three-point try was unsuccessful.

I was telling a parent of one of the other players that one of these times, the team is going to make a buzzer-beater, and when they do, it will make all the near-misses, almosts and sort-ofs pale in comparison. And I believe that it will. Both for them, and for me.

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