PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — You think it’s a strange basketball season for players and coaches?
Try being a radio broadcaster in a pandemic.
“It’s hard not being able to do pregame shows in person,” said veteran Bradley basketball play-by-play man Dave Snell. “We rely on apps on our phones.”
Snell has called Bradley games on WMBD for 43 years. He typically does in-person interviews with coaches before and after games.
That’s not happening this year. He’s not alone.
“There’s almost no contact with players,” said Dick Luedke, who’s been calling Illinois State men’s basketball games for 35 years on WJBC. “We don’t do a player interview after the game.”
Luedke, like Snell, is limited on how much access he has to the team he’s covering due to health and safety restrictions. They both admit they really haven’t met any of the new players on their teams.
Neither has Ed Hammond.
“I have to have a mic on a tripod so I have to keep distance from her,” the Bradley women’s basketball announcer said of his postgame interviews with Coach Andrea Gorski. “That’s different.”
Hammond has called BU women’s games for 21 years, first on WTVP-TV in 1999 and now on WIRL radio.
Nearly two months into the college basketball season, these veteran radio announcers are still getting used to the new rules of how they broadcast games. They’re not traveling with their teams, they have very few pre-and-postgame interviews with team personnel in person and they are working games in empty arenas.
But there is a silver lining. It might mean more people at home are listening.
“I guess if I’m looking for one good thing about this crazy and horrible pandemic, I enjoy the fact people do listen to us,” Luedke said. “So it’s good that maybe a few people who don’t normally listen to us are now listening to us.”
Luedke works the home games at Redbird Arena but is calling ISU’s road Missouri Valley Conference games from the press box at Hancock Stadium where he watches a video feed of the game. The only road game he and broadcast partner Mike Matthews will travel to this conference season is Bradley.
Snell and partner Chad Kleine are calling all of Bradley’s MVC games, home and away, on location. And Snell feels like the broadcasts take on a little added importance with fans not allowed to attend games at Peoria’s Carver Arena.
“The people who are really tuned into (the TV schedule), will find a place to watch it,” Snell said of Bradley’s games that are televised or streamed on the internet. “But for the most part, radio is theatre of the mind.”
The broadcasters say once the game starts, they really don’t think about working games in arenas without fans. However, initially Hammond had a concern.
“I’m a wrestling fan. I’ll watch the WWE and for a while they had no fans. You could hear the echo of the announcers,” Hammond said. “I was afraid I would call a big basket and the echo of my voice would be all heard all over (Renaissance Coliseum).”
There’s no echo.
Just a nice sound Missouri Valley basketball all over the radio in a season when fans in central Illinois can’t attend games.