The NUmbers Guy: Behind the Broadcast

WNUR’s Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes you behind the scenes of WNUR Sports’ broadcast in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend, showing the travel schedule, broadcast set-up, and faces behind the microphones.

My legs were numb. My mouth involuntarily hung slightly agape. I just stared at the field in total disbelief. After Nebraska’s game-winning Hail Mary, the next ten minutes were a total blur. As we looked down on the field from our perch high atop Memorial Stadium, my broadcast partner John Castellanos (@JJCast15) and I didn’t say much. Not a lot needed to be said. It was just a complete microcosm of the entire season: hope and optimism violently transforming into mind-crushing disappointment.

Yet it was one of the most memorable weekends of my life, and not for the reasons listed above. Below, I’ll try to give you a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes of a WNUR Sports broadcast. Even though the prep for the game started back in August when we found out our play-by-play assignments for the year, our journey will start on Friday.

Buses to NebraskaFriday

10:15 am: We load the buses to head to the airport. The WNUR Sports crew is on the same bus as President Morton Schapiro (MOOOOOORTYYYYY), Athletic Director Dr. Jim Phillips, a bunch of donors, and the cheer squad. We get to carry around our roughly 15 bajillion bags of equipment and try not to look like we’re smuggling non-corn-based foods across the Nebraskan border. They take that seriously there.

Team Plane12:00 pm: Time to load the plane and get up outchea. On-board, each person gets a bag that is filled with more food than a single human should ever consume in one sitting. God bless the athletic department for letting us fly with the team. Otherwise, we’d have to drive through the entirety of Iowa and sing showtunes for about eight hours. While I’m sure our sideline reporter Jeffrey Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) has a lovely vibrato, I think I’ll take the plane ride.

1:30 pm: Touchdown in Lincoln! Shockingly, it is flat and vacant of pretty much everything generally associated with industrialized society.

What Nebraska lacks in entertainment, it makes up for in kindness. Seriously, this place is amazing. I can’t even remember how many people I saw holding doors open or smiling at strangers. I grew up in the land of “Minnesota-Nice,” and I felt like a degenerate, puppy-hating Ohio State fan compared to the Nebraskans. Hats off to you, Lincoln.

2013-11-01 18.16.376:30 pm: After settling into the hotel we decide to head to campus and explore a little. Once again, Nebraskans come through in the clutch as the hotel front desk attendant offers to drive us in herself. Take notes, Evanston.

We got to campus, and holy corn, Batman. As you can see to the right, Huskers fans could not care less about your gosh durn stereotypes. They embrace the whole “America Needs Farmers” thing and wear cobs of the yellow stuff on their noggins.  These things go for $24.95 a pop in the campus bookstore. I don’t know what the Northwestern equivalent of this would be (perhaps a foam organic chemistry textbook?), but we need something like this. Get on it, ‘Cats fans.


7:30 am: Gaaaaaaaaamedaaaaaaaaay. Time to get up and cram in some last minute studying on the Huskers so we don’t sound totally dumb on the air. I do that a lot (as in I once attempted an Elmo voice on the SportsVoice).

John Castellanos and Jeff Eisenband9:15 am: Back on the bus as it heads over to the team hotel to pick up all the other peeps on the trip. As you can tell from the picture, Jeff is #SoFocused.

12:00 pm: We arrive at the stadium and hermuhfreakinggursh is it big. The announced attendance was over 91,000, or basically two times the capacity of Ryan Field. The player’s families greet the buses at the gate. John is forced to stiff arm desperate autograph seekers. Student radio groupies are out of hand, man.

Memorial Stadium12:20 pm: We get up to our broadcast location in the camera well above the stadium. Huge thanks to the peeps at KRNU, Nebraska’s student radio station, for showing us the ropes.

Our broadcast spot is pretty awesome. Considering the guys were essentially in a concession stand last week, I think I can handle this view. That said, ever since I broke my collarbone when I was five by falling off a slide (easier than it may seem), heights and I do not get along. I asked John to hold my hand to combat the fear. He declined.

Radio Broadcast Equipment12:50 pm: Finished setting up all of the equipment you can see on the left. All. Of. The. Wires. The big hunk of beautiful in the middle is our Comrex box that sends our sound back to Evanston via an Ethernet cable. Beneath that is our sideline mic (with a WNUR Sports mic flag!!!!). We were able to purchase that and the rest of the sideline equipment (some of it is up and left from the Comrex) with the funds from the first Sportsathon because all y’all rock.

Radio Broadcast Preparation Notes1:30 pm: The pre-game show begins back in the Lakeside Studios of WNUR, meaning I get to hear Sports Director Sammy Levitt’s silky voice caress my ear buds for an hour. During this time, we set up our notes that we have prepared. There are a lot of them. Basically, it’s a depth chart for each position on both teams and 192 supplemental pieces of info (48 for each team’s offense and 48 for each defense). I love the actual broadcast part of football, but the prep is nearly as fun. Who knew that Treyvon Green has many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany??

2:25 pm: The pre-game from the studio ends and WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE here we go!

This game was basically a roller coaster that oscillated quickly between nearly every human emotion.






Memorial Stadium at NightBecause the game lasted four hours, we got to see Memorial Stadium at night. The atmosphere there was awe-inspiring. The overall experience was incredible and something I will never forget.

We filed back onto the bus to catch the team flight back to Evanston. We arrived back in town around 11:30 Saturday night and then basically crashed due to complete exhaustion. While the result may not have been ideal, this wasn’t a weekend I would want to trade for nearly anything.

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