When TV cable purveyor Mediacom advertised its "Sports Announcer Wannabe Contest" last fall, SAU junior Chris Hassel thought he could be a contender. Especially if winning meant calling a handful of plays during a University of Iowa football game.
Sure, this double major in radio/TV and journalism was already an experienced SAU sports announcer and a sports reporter and weekend anchor for KLJB-Fox 18. He'd even go on to snag multiple 2006 Iowa Broadcast News Association awards. But did he have the chops to go voz a voz with 60 other guys chasing the same dream?
The contest consisted of calling a past U of I game, so Chris had the Hawkeye roster down cold before showing up at the West Des Moines mall where the competition was being held. Once there, he found out the opponent was Iowa archrival Iowa State University, and he quickly set about memorizing the Cyclone roster.
That was far from the biggest challenge for this life-long UI football fan from Muscatine. "We had to announce plays from the replay of a taped game," Chris explains. "You can only call what the camera's aimed at and not what's happening on the whole field," which, in sports announcing, is what separates big show from bush league performers.
Not that it cramped Chris' style much: The judges scored him at 56 points out of 60, making him a shoo-in for the final round.
Voice of the Hawkeyes, Meet the Voice of the Fighting Bees
One judge was Gary Dolphin, the "Voice of the Hawkeyes," and as he and the other judges conferred about who would be the Sports Announcer Wannabe after the final round, Chris started to get excited-and worried. "I realized how much I wanted to live the dream of calling plays at an Iowa game," he says.
His girlfriend's hand held tight in one of his, Chris waited...
He grins. "Then they called my name."
November 15 found Chris in the press box at the last regular season Hawkeye game. With a crowd 70,000 strong and a listening audience of who knew how many more, plus the old hands in the press box, "I didn't expect I'd feel so calm," Chris says.
He got his turn on Iowa's third possession of the game. "I put on the headset and called it like any SAU game." Six plays later he called the touchdown.
At the break, he turned to find the entire press box clapping. Dolphin and Ed Podolak, with decades of sports announcing, muttered about needing a new job as Chris called two more TDs and an interception.
"I don't think they were expecting something so professional," he says modestly.
But he's just telling it like it is.