How glad is Gary Dolphin to be doing the radio play-by-play of Iowa’s football season-opener at Purdue Saturday?
“If they had asked me to ride a bicycle to West Lafayette, I would probably have left Monday,” he said. “I would have had UPS bring my gear, my backpack and my suitcase.”
The voice of the Hawkeyes not only speaks to Iowa fans, but for them. Especially this:
“I’m just so delighted and happy. I can just be drenched in football for the better part of six hours counting the pregame and postgame shows, and hopefully we can get a run going with nine consecutive weeks and get to that December 19th championship game. It would be great to see the Hawks in Indianapolis.”
Seeing them 73 miles from Indy Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium is how it starts.
“I was wondering if October 24th would get here,” Dolphin said, “with the season off, then on, then off, then back on again. When the Big Ten announced (on Sept. 16) they were going to have football, I wasn’t convinced. I figured something else would happen in this crazy year to push it back further or just eliminate it.
“This is my 49th year on radio, and I’ve never had a fall when I didn’t have football, whether it was high school, the Iowa Conference, or the Big Ten. And I was fearful that string was going to be interrupted. So I’m fired up about this weekend.”
He may have to work a little harder than usual. Fans in the stands help radio broadcasters tell the stories of the moments and the day with their reactions. Outside of players’ family members, spectators won’t be present in Big Ten stadiums this season.
“I’m the first to admit I’m a huge crowd-noise guy,” said Dolphin, “so I’m very concerned about the manufactured crowd noise pumped into the headset.”
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Yes, Big Ten games will have that stuff. The conference is providing its schools what it calls crowd noise audio tracks. The volume will go no higher than 70 decibels during play, but can be upped to 85 or 90 decibels during celebration moments like scores or turnovers.
Yecch. A snowblower or a passing diesel truck is 85 decibels.
The authentic sounds you’ll hear on Hawkeye radio broadcasts will be the reactions of Dolphin and Ed Podolak.
“I’ve still got Podolak to lean on,” Dolphin said. “There’s nobody better for comic relief or for great analysis than Ed Podolak. So I think the broadcast will be fun. But it’s going to be a weird Twilight Zone kind of atmosphere with no fans in the stands.
“The bottom line is with or without fans, which I’ll dearly miss, there is going to be Big Ten football and I don’t have to sit here on Saturday bunkered into my house watching other leagues play.”
“Very fidgety” is how Dolphin describes his Saturdays of this football season up until this one.
“I was in and out of the recliner,” he said. “In fact, I would jump in my SUV and drive around the countryside listening to (Iowa State play-by-play announcer) John Walters, who I’m a big fan of. I heard his worst and best — not his, literally — but their loss against Louisiana in the first game, and then their win over Oklahoma that Saturday night.
“With XM, I’d listen to games around the country. Just listening to other play-by-play folks was soothing to me, a tonic. Because OK, my day is going to come back.”
Now, for Hawkeyes and Big Ten fans, their favorite diversion has returned. If ever an autumn could use diversions, this is the one.
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“I’m an eternal optimist,” Dolphin said. “I tell people ‘Stay positive, we’ll get through this.’ Despite all the tragedy that’s been caused this year not only by COVID but by world events, we’ll get through it and we’ll be stronger for it going forward.
“A little bit of Americana, that’s what football is in the Midwest. I plan to shield all negative events out and just call a football game. It’s going to be so relaxing and refreshing.”
Iowa football for Dolph and Eddie to describe. It didn’t seem all that likely back in the spring, and it looked kaput in August. This season has already been a wild ride, but at least Dolphin won’t have to navigate it on his bicycle.
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