The great Chris Williams and I mid-broadcast during last week's MAAC championship. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
Nearly a week has passed since I was thrust into the opportunity of a lifetime, getting to call Manhattan's second consecutive MAAC championship seven days ago. It's been a little crazy for me lately, so my apologies for not chronicling everything sooner.
As nearly all of you who follow this site well know, my first love is that of the broadcast side of the media, as I have spent eight years carving out a play-by-play career that, six months ago, seemed as though it would be on its last legs after St. Francis College and I had parted ways in the offseason. It was a mutual separation, though, with one side looking to go in another direction while I managed my football broadcast work with the Merchant Marine Academy on top of planning my 2014-15 coverage for this site.
Then, as I chronicled prior to the MAAC Tournament, my good friend Christian Heimall had fallen ill, and I was tapped to fill in for him as the voice of the Jaspers. It was my work with Manhattan that precluded me from covering the tournament in-depth as I had in each of the past two seasons, but it was a trade-off I would make a hundred times over if it all happened again.
When you're a broadcaster during a conference tournament, you look at each game from both sides of the spectrum. You're hopeful that your run will continue as long as possible, and thus prepare accordingly; but at the same time, you realize how quickly it could all be over. Having been on this stage in 2009 with WSJU, I remembered all too well how fast the roller coaster could drop from high (calling an emotionally charged win over Georgetown via a land line at Madison Square Garden because the station mixer crapped out right before dialing the studio) to low, (coming back the next day to watch St. John's lose by 29 to Marquette, even seeing a shot of Chris Mullin on the Garden jumbotron, holding his head in his hands) so I tried to keep myself from getting carried away.
Needless to say, that all changed last Sunday, after Manhattan defeated Saint Peter's in the semifinals and earned themselves another championship date with Iona. Instantly, it became the biggest broadcast of my career, and I would be lying to you if I didn't say my first reaction after signing off was "how the hell am I going to do this?"
That's where all of you come in. Seven days later, I am still floored by all the support I received in the hours leading up to the championship game, and have continued to receive even after Steve Masiello and the Jaspers cut down the nets in Albany. It was each and every one of you, who wished me luck, and/or reinforced your belief in me, that changed my outlook.
Following five hours of prep in the wee hours of Monday morning, I still had my doubts as to whether or not I would be able to last on the grand stage. Through the advice of my colleagues Jon Alba, Nick Guerriero, and Bill Schweizer, each of whom advised me to just call it as though it were a regular game and let the action tell the story; and especially my color analyst Chris Williams, whose contagious positive energy not only kept me sane and under wraps, but also served as a tangible reminder of my potential, not to mention each continued contribution to the outpouring of support for me, I became more confident in the hours leading up to the tip. Finally, at about 8:30 Monday night, maybe fifteen minutes before signing on for my pregame show, I felt like I had it under control.
The reality of everything that happened is still somewhat surreal to me, but the faith everyone had in me made me feel vindicated in regard to whether or not I still had it in me. The continued buzz surrounding my final call, which was a totally unscripted account filled with natural emotion, has only reinforced the fact that maybe, just maybe, I am good at this thing. I have all of you to thank for that, because as I always say when I post my retrospective every April to commemorate the site's anniversary; without you, there is no me. I probably reached out to all of you individually via text, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else, but I need to do it again just to show my gratitude.
Sadly, I will not be making the trip to Dayton with Manhattan, because of the NCAA's broadcast rights contract and Westwood One serving as the exclusive audio streaming home of the NCAA Tournament, but in a way, it's for the best. I get to celebrate my last basketball broadcast of the year being a conference championship win. As Norm Roberts once said, "you can either define the moment, or let the moment define you." I cited that quote when promoting my broadcast Monday, and I am proud to say that I was able to do the former.
Again, I thank you all for listening, and offering your support along the way. I could not have done it without you, and I want you all to know that. And if you didn't hear it yet, (it's only been played on 1010 WINS, CBS Sports Network, and Bruce Beck's "Sports Final" on NBC) here is the magic moment I was able to capture a week ago tonight:
Thanks again, my friends. Your support means more than any of you will ever know.