Tall enough to be the visiting team’s starting center and carrying a large piece of luggage, Dan Gerard lumbered into the Isle High School gymnasium and hung around watching the Isle-Pierz B-team game, inhaling a bag of popcorn in the process.
Between games, he opened the suitcase and pulled out this gizmo with a telephone dial and bunch of lights and switches and a couple of clocks. He plugged in a pair of headphones with an attached microphone into the back of the gizmo, then plugged a wire from the gizmo into a telephone jack in the gym wall.
Dan donned the headset, flipped a couple of the switches, used the dial on the gizmo to call a long-distance number, waited a moment for his signal from a voice on the other end, then went to work.
“Good evening and welcome to Isle,” Dan said as he shuffled through the papers on his lap and looked up now and then to scan the gym floor and bleachers. While players worked through their warm-up drills and spectators filled the lobby for a pre-game soda and smoke, Dan was beginning his evening’s work as a play-by-play basketball announcer for WYRQ, an FM radio station in Little Falls.
The pre-game show, the commercial spots, the teams’ line-ups and more commercial spots are routine for Dan, who, as a one-man news and sports staff at a small station, will broadcast nearly 40 basketball games during the regular season.
“It really is a challenge. Each game is new and different, and my job sure isn’t monotonous,” he said during a commercial pause.
Sports programming is a major reason the station has been well-received by communities in the Little Falls area since it went on the air for the first time in May. (WYRQ’s 3000-watt signal at 92.1 MHz doesn’t reach Mille Lacs area listeners because WCMP, Princeton, has a signal that overrides it.) Dan regularly covers road games for Little Falls, Royalton, Upsala, Pierz and Swansville High Schools. He broadcasts two to five games each week during the season, in addition to his regular morning shifts of news and sportscasts six days a week.
Keeping up with the pace of his schedule is much more difficult than having to memorize player rosters of the all the schools, he said.
“Last week, I did the Little Falls-Crosby hockey game at Brainerd at 4 in the afternoon, jumped in my car and drove 60 miles to do Royalton’s basketball game at Grey Eagle at 8 that night. Then I had to be at the station at 5:30 the next morning to do the news,” said Dan.
It’s tough to sound chipper at 5:30 in the morning after a day like that, but you just do it.”
Sports announcing is a profession Dan has been interested in since his high school days in Foley. A star athlete in his high school, Dan started on the football and basketball teams at Inver Hills Community College, then pursued radio as a mass communications major at St. Cloud St. University.
His first broadcasting was on the college 10-watt station, where he eventually became sports director.
Upon graduation, Dan worked as a newscaster at KCLD in St. Cloud before joining the WYRQ staff in May.
While each game is different, the broadcast remains about the same each time. After talking with the studio announcer at the station to be certain his signal over the telephone line sounds clear, Dan begins with short introduction from the court side, then introduces his interview with the coaches, which he has prerecorded at the studio. Next, Dan offers a short preview of the game, noting the teams’ last outings, key players, and other factors. There’s the introduction of the starting line-ups, the he switches into his play-by-play.
During the games, Dan, by necessity, keeps his own statistics. This not only helps him on the action totally; he has a ready set of facts and figures to recap during half-time and immediately after the game.
In addition to keeping score, he must follow the commercial log for the evening’s broadcast, making certain he gets all the spots on the air sometime during the game. While the spots play, Dan can talk with the studio announcer to compare notes or troubleshoot minor problems, but more often they just joke with each other.
The easygoing announcer has also developed a rapport with the “regulars,” parents of players who attend every game and have come to know him. He’s a familiar face with the coaches, who, Dan says, usually aren’t as talkative after a loss.
Once a week, Dan tape records his broadcast so he can later listen and critique himself, trying to improve and weed out tired phrases. His goal is to move to a larger market and do college play-by-play. But at least for a while yet, Dan will continue.
“That’s it from Isle High School. I’m Dan Gerard, saying good night, everyone.”