Thursday, February 23, 2012

Behind the scenes with

Timberwolves announcer

Audition tapes for the job of public address announcer for the professional basketball team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, had to be in by the end of the day.

Rod Johnson of Cannon Falls had just found out about this opportunity and took his lunch break to make up the tape. His wife, Bernie, “hand delivered” it to the team’s offices in downtown Minneapolis.

Over the following weeks, Rod went through more competitions and intermittent periods of waiting to finally hear that he had been chosen. Later he found out that the other finalist had been none other than Jesse Ventura - who went on to be governor of Minnesota.

This was about 16 years ago.

Rod presently is also director of the Shepherd’s Center where he organizes senior citizen volunteers and trips. Not surprisingly, one event was to attend a Timberwolves game with the added attraction of using three luxury suites to view the game.

It was a Wednesday night when over 15,000 came to see the Charlotte Bobcats play the Timberwolves at Target Center. It seemed to me that it would be fun to find out just what a public address announcer does - so I asked to follow Rod around.

Rod gets to Target Center about 3 p.m. to get ready for a 7 p.m. game. I needed credentials to be able to follow him down into the “bowels” of the auditorium to get to the media room where he starts the process rolling. This is where he gets information like: how to pronounce some of the visiting players names.

Then they have the game operations session, which hadn’t allowed a reporter before. (I promised to cut out the audio on my video camera.)

We went through so many passageways that I’m not sure how I would get out if left alone. Yes, I saw the team’s locker rooms but we didn’t go in.

Midway through the process, Rod took a lunch break. Following this he continued at a fast pace getting his equipment set up at court side. About 6:20 p.m. he starts making pre-game announcements. When the teams come out he confirms starters, the national anthem is sung and he gives the starting lineups.

Rod has many stories to tell about some of the famous sports figures he has seen from his vantage point. Like when Kevin Garnett played here and 12 severely handicapped kids in wheelchairs were on the sidelines during a practice session. Garnet went over and hugged every one of them. And tears of joy cascaded down their faces. There were no cameras but this is the kind of quality character that so many of the athletes have, Rod recalled.

And they know their game. Like Michael Jordan. When in a practice session before the game, he came off the court after taking a couple of shots and explained that the basket was one inch off. Rod called maintenance and sure enough... it was. They fixed it.

Over 50 people from Cannon Falls took advantage of the opportunity to see the game from the suites. Although high above the court, you had a great view and could easily move around and enjoy the food and beverages. Even had your own bathroom.

I was leaving the suites to get back down to courtside when I noticed none of the escalators were going DOWN! All were bringing people upstairs. This would change later on but now it meant I had to run all the way to get to back to court side before the start of the game!

So where do I end up? Being a reporter I was given a place on the media platform. Sid Hartman from the Star Tribune/WCCO radio was right in front of me.

And so were a lot of other guys. All bigger than me. I could barely see the court... much less follow any action. But each one of us had a video monitor to get close-up views. Although... if I’m going to be watching it on a TV screen I might as well be back home!

Besides, it’s not cool to cheer from the media post!

So I moved out.

And yes, the Wolves won.

For video go to:

or excerpts on Youtube:


Friday, February 10, 2012

Competition... more than

just winning!

Why is everyone stopping to watch one competitor?

She’s not the fastest one...

In fact, she’s coming in last.

But watch how the other athletes stop... and wait... and cheer... as she finishes her race!

This was the action at a high school swim meet recently. It took place in Ohio but I have heard of similar situations in other places. It just happened that I caught this one on video.

I was visiting our grandkids and going to their various sports activities. So I’ve got video of basketball games... soccer games... concerts, etc.

But it was when I was videoing a swim meet that my attention was drawn to a particular scenario. It was not only the competitor that fascinated me but the reaction of the surrounding athletes and folks in the stands.


First we had been holding our breath as the divers leaped up off the board and executed their form in the air to slice into the water below. One broke the school’s record that day.

Then we were mesmerized by the swimmers as they dove into the pool and were streamlining through the blue water. We watched as they made their turns and were racing back to the wall.

And then...

Except for one.

She was coming... although much more slowly. And with more splashing.

It was obvious she couldn’t keep up with the others. And then you noticed she apparently had Down Syndrome. And so you were even more in awe of her even attempting the race.

But you also noticed that the busy commotion of all the other athletes had stopped.

They were focused on watching this one young girl in the pool.

The audience in the stands quieted to watch her final push in the race.

The girl’s arms splashed the water as she headed to her goal. And when she finally touched the wall... cheers and clapping exploded as the young people and adults congratulated her on her struggle.


So if you ever get downhearted about some of the antics of youthful indulgence (along with adult ones)... just know that you can find these wonderfully touching moments of compassion - and this they will carry into their future and ours.

I put a short video on Youtube. I didn’t know anyones’ names. But because of the internet, it was sent to many and also the family of the young girl. And they expressed their appreciation. They want to show it at their annual awards banquet.

How awesome to share in one of these special moments that catches your heart.

See the video on or YouTube - Competition at its best! (look for: alongthewaybyrosie) or go to: