Some sad news today outside of the drag racing world, and that was the passing of “Mean” Gene Okerland. He was an announcer icon for all of us that grew up enjoying wrestling in the 80’s and 90’s.
This got me to thinking about how important and integral a part of our industry the title of announcer really is, the hype man if you will. It is his or her job to not only make sure that it isn’t dead air on the PA system, but to keep all the fans, racers, and everyone else at the track informed and entertained. They are the ones that get the crowd jacked up.
Whether it is Brian Lohnes giving us the play by play in Pro Mod, or Hugo Umpierre going crazy in a language I don’t understand, or Lee TEC Sebring bringing you Outlaw 10.5 action, or maybe it’s the Rockstar that is Al Tucci telling you everything you could ever imagine because the man has forgotten more about drag racing than most will ever learn, or maybe, just maybe it’s Willie Dog yelling “Grudge Race” over the mic and getting everyone hyped up.
The men and women that spend countless hours honing their craft, losing their voices, and very rarely getting to leave the booth for a drink, much less a bathroom break. This are the men and women that keep the show moving. They are the ones getting the drivers to the lane, and telling the fans everything that they need to know about the class, the sponsors, the cars, the drivers, etc. We need to do a better job at appreciating more than just the cars and stars at the race track. We need to make sure that we are thanking and appreciating those that are calling the action for us all. I don’t care if you are John Force or the guy cleaning stalls at the track, you are important! It takes a lot of people to make any race work.
You really don’t know what you have until you don’t have it when it comes to announcers. I have had the privilege of being able to listen to some many different announcers over the years though. Whether it be Al, Brian, Hugo, Lee, Higgins, Crossnoe, Reynolds, etc. I will say that when an announcer steps away though, it can be like losing a family member. Growing up and being involved as a part time racer in NMRA almost 20 years ago, I had the honor of being able to listen to one of my favorite announcers, and that was Dr. Jamie Meyer. The man that could make you stand on your feet and jump up and down for the 10” tire freak show. Ever since he left and pursued other endeavors, including a seat on the SEMA board, things just haven’t been the same. That doesn’t mean that the men who have sat in the booth don’t do an amazing job, it just means it’s not the same.
With all of that said, I just want to take a moment to thank each and every announcer in the industry for everything that you do. You really are the backbone of the events we cover!!