With another home slate in the books, we here at GBH wanted to get to know the voice we hear at every home football and basketball game. We reached out to Chace Murphy, who was more than willing to talk with us, and hit him with a number of different questions and topics. Enjoy!
Chace Murphy: My answers are mostly serious, but I hope my tongue-in-cheek responses come through. If I sound like an arrogant ass, I'm not going out of my way to do so. Although I'm sure some people already think I'm an arrogant ass and this just confirms it.
Either way, I want it known unequivocally: I am blessed to be able to do this little part at Kyle Field. I am passionate about Texas A&M University and Aggie sports. I'm sure I would be willing to do this for other universities, but it would just be a part-time job. In reality, I get paid to watch Aggie football and basketball. It never ceases to be one of the most rewarding parts of my life.
For those who think this is too long-winded, allow me to take a page from my friends at TexAgs. tl;dr version: Chace Murphy is kind of weird, thinks he's funny but isn't, and thinks it's cool to be the PA guy.
GBH: People of the internet noticed your dramatic pauses starting with the Vanderbilt game in announcing "It is......... third down." What's the story, and have you received any feedback on it?
CM: "People of the Internet". That's funny. Is that like People of Wal-Mart? Because I imagine a lot of "people of the Internet" looking like people of Wal-Mart. Back rolls, tramp stamps, and Hoverround scooters as far as the eye can see.
The genesis of "it is...third down" goes back to the Auburn game. Frankly, I felt like the 12th Man wasn't as engaged as they should have been for such a big game. It was then that I thought there should be some way to get the crowd going.
It may not be popular with everyone, but look: did you see the atmosphere at freaking Floyd Casey when Baylor played Oklahoma? They played House of Pain's "Jump Around" and all those Baylor Baptists started, well, jumping around. When the atmosphere in Waco feels more electric than Kyle Field, we have a major malfunction on our hands.
As for feedback, I've received mostly positive. There were some Internet critics early on, as well as some folks who follow me on Twitter who didn't like it. The most amusing criticism was from the person who said such catchphrases were unnecessary at Texas A&M. I tweeted back that - based on that logic - "Fightin' Texas Aggie first down" should go away too. But they responded that that was a nice touch. I'm thinking, "Come on, man, you can't have it both ways."
I caught the same Internet grief in 2001 when I started football and 2002 when I started the first down call. You learn to roll with it. Sometimes I wonder how critical some people would be if their job was anonymously criticized on the Internet. But I also understand that new things are often not received well initially. I'm always curious what the Internet folks are saying, so I check the boards quite a bit. It's some of the best free entertainment you can find.
GBH: What is the backup plan if you go hoarse or cannot otherwise perform your duties? Is there an understudy?
CM: There's really no safety valve...which is kind of a scary thought. I've only missed one game in 13 seasons; that was Oklahoma State in 2009. I was on my way back from India at the time and knew I would probably miss the game. We had enough time to prepare for someone to fill in. Incidentally, I haven't eaten Indian food since that trip and, God willing, I never will again.
If it's short notice, I just play through. I suppose the best example of that is Baylor in 2011 when I barely had a voice. That was the result of doing play-by-play for a high school game the night before and announcing for Maroon Madness (the basketball preview at Midnight Yell) later the same evening. The weather turned cool and I was outside for yell practice, so it all pretty much wrecked my voice.
GBH: What is the process you go through to learn how to enunciate opposing players' names? How long does it take?
CM: Most opponents make it pretty easy. Almost every team has game notes for each game and those notes almost always contain a pronunciation guide. I try to look at the guide before Saturday, but that doesn't always happen. I'm generally at Kyle inside three hours to kickoff, which gives me enough time to take a look at the rosters and get the pronunciations down.
The most difficult team was Utah State a few years back. It's no secret that Mormonism is huge in the South Pacific, meaning a lot of Samoan and/or Tongan guys come to Utah to play football at BYU, Utah, and Utah State. They are partial to vowels and apostrophes in their names. It was a challenge.
GBH: Was Jorvorskie Lane the best touchdown call to make?
CM: Man...trying to identify the best touchdown call is pretty much impossible. I've seen some amazing stuff over 13 seasons. And as much I loved watching the J-Train mow down defenders, the most electric player to watch would have to be a certain Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback we've been privileged to have for the last two seasons.
GBH: How difficult is it to not sound like a fan when you're announcing the big plays or to not sound overly disappointed when an opponent does something good?
CM: It's more difficult to hide disappointment than, shall we call it "homerism". I think there's an expectation, because I'm the home announcer, that there would be some level of excitement when there's a big play. Any excitement you hear is genuine and the explanation is simple: I'm an Aggie. There is no other team in any capacity that I want to win more than Texas A&M. I don't care if it's football or underwater basket weaving.
Hiding disappointment can be difficult sometimes, but you still have to do it. The last thing I want is fans or players or coaches thinking I was adding insult to injury when things don't go well.
GBH: What's the closest you've ever come to swearing?
CM: Before I answer that, you need some context, specifically as it relates to the mechanics of the job. I wear a headset identical to those you see many TV and radio play-by-play announcers using. The microphone is controlled by a foot pedal. Press the pedal and you're live to 86,000+ people. As long as I use my left foot wisely, there are no embarrassing incidents. But I can assure you (and I'm not saying this proudly), there have been many (probably way too many) times that a split second before or after you heard my voice at Kyle Field, there were words said in the booth that I wouldn't want my children repeating.
GBH: What's your pregame routine? What do you do to keep your voice sounding solid?
CM: I drink a fifth of bourbon during every game. OK, maybe not...but it would be a heckuva way to get fired.
Pregame routine is the same: I'll grab a bite of whatever the press box meal is and sit down with the roster card and three highlighters: orange, yellow, and pink. The roster card has an alphabetical roster and two-deep on one side, numerical on the other. I highlight all the two-deep players for both teams on the numerical roster. Yellow is offense, pink is defense, and orange is special teams. You'll see more pink than any other color because I only highlight the playmakers on offense, not the offensive line. Nothing personal, o-linemen, I'm a former center myself.
GBH: How did you get the job? Did you just apply to be the PA announcer?
CM: Back in 1998, I was working at Aggie 96 radio in B-CS. The station had recently secured the broadcasting rights for A&M football and Dave South came by to appear on-air. He and I struck up a conversation about what I wanted to do after college. At the time, I had a couple of semesters left at A&M. I basically I told him I wanted a job like his. He told me that if wanted to do that, I needed to do some public address.
A few weeks later, associate athletic director Mike Caruso called me. Dave had given him my name and Mike needed an announcer for volleyball. I knew very little about volleyball but gave it a shot anyway. I ended up doing five seasons of volleyball, during which time they asked me to do public address for women's basketball. In early spring 2001, Mike called me to say they had another sport for me, if I was interested. Turned out, it was football. I was shocked because I figured there were at least two people who would have gotten the chance before I did. My first game was the spring game in 2001.
GBH: Do you ever play NCAA '13 as A&M and start announcing to yourself?
CM: At one time, I played the NCAA games almost non-stop. The Aggies were so successful with me that Alabama offered to fire Nick Saban if I would come to Tuscaloosa. I told them I was flattered but spoken for.
I don't play as much anymore. It pains me to say that the game got too complicated for me because I enjoyed the game play...not all the other crap they make you do. To even read those words makes me sound like I need a walker with tennis balls. But, no, for all the times I played, I didn't announce. My wife already thinks I'm crazy. That would've made it certifiable.
GBH: Do you have a catchphrase? How about "and that [points to microphone] is Murphy's law"? (and what are the chances you can say that phrase at least once next season?)
CM: I suppose the aforementioned first and third down calls are the only two. To this day, if someone finds out what I do on Saturdays, many will ask me if I'm the guy who says "now forming at the north end of Kyle Field, the nationally famous, Fightin' Texas Aggie Band." I tell (band announcer) Col. (Jay) Brewer he's a cult hero. He just smiles and shakes his head.
The suggestion is an interesting one. I'm concerned most people wouldn't catch it, much less understand it, if I tried the Murphy's Law bit.
GBH: Is Chuck Niederman the greatest fictional football PA guy of all time?
CM: Absolutely, even though he commits a cardinal sin as a PA announcer. He pretty much does play-by-play over the public address system. That's a no-no. I'm sure someone in the Armadillo athletic department would discuss this with Chuck.
On a side note, for any burgeoning public address announcers out there: if you do something similar, i.e., think the PA system is your personal radio broadcast? Please stop. That isn't your job and it's annoying as hell. If you want to do play-by-play, call the radio station. Thanks and gig'em. (This would be a perfect spot for a NBC "The More You Know...")
GBH: It's basketball season. During the team intros, do you ever worry about running out of breath for "Fightin' Texaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas Aggies"?
CM: It's actually pretty taxing on my voice. Thankfully, there's just enough time between most home games that my voice isn't too strained. And to do something like that, you have to know your lungs' limitations. Otherwise you would run out of air.
GBH: How much would one have to pay to have you read them a bedtime story or record a voicemail greeting on their phone?
CM: I guess it depends on who it is. If some burly dude asked me to read him a bedtime story, that's probably going to cost him. Not saying I wouldn't do it. Everyone has their price...just as long as he understands "no means no". On the other hand, if Kate Beckinsale were to ask...I'd probably pay her to read her a bedtime story. But I'd have to clear it with my wife first.
As for voicemail, I'm open to suggestion. If you call the Bush Library, College Station Fire Department, or College Station City Hall, you'll hear my voice. I haven't called any of those three, but it would be weird to hear me answer my own phone call. I'd probably be afraid the universe would collapse on itself.
I like to write too. So maybe GBH wants the occasional guest column?
GBH: Do you think it's funny we are doing a written interview with someone known for their voice?
CM: It isn't odd as long as people hear my answers in my voice. If you weren't, you probably are now. The power of suggestion is amazing. Now, go back and read my answers hearing the voice of Mort Goldman from "Family Guy". You're welcome.
A huge thank you to Chace again for the time he took to answer our questions, and here's to a great basketball season. I'd also like to thank the entire GBH team for helping with the questions.