Before this swim season, the last time I did any play-by-play commentary of a swimming event was the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Yes, I was the one screaming into the headset with every close race! I must have missed the memo that read, “The audience is as close to you as the microphone is to your mouth, they CAN hear you, you don’t need to yell.”
Yes, I've covered swimming, recapping events and doing interviews, but Jan 25, 2013 was the first time I was back calling a meet! Let me tell you, there's nothing like hopping right back into it after a good 17 year break. I guess it’s good for me that it is just like riding a bike. I put that head set on, and for the first time in a long time, I got to chat about a sport I love so much. After 10 years with the NBA, calling athletes players and the playing venue a court, I was finally back to referring to the atheltes as MY PEOPLE -- swimmers -- and their chlorinated field, the swim pool. Just saying those words put a huge smile on my face.
Although I haven’t been around a pool a ton over the past 2 decades, I have never stopped loving and appreciating my sport. Whenever I was covering the Olympic Games, I would always push to get a fellow swimmer on the show for an interview or a feature. I would always try to celebrate everything these young athletes were doing and help the world understand the sport that is so much more than staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool. I wanted people to have the opportunity to meet the personality behind the face that is covered by a swim cap and goggles.
And let me tell you, it is never more clear how amazing swimming is than when you are a spectator at a collegiate meet. It may seem like an individual sport, but when you wear your school’s colors and step foot on the blocks, you have a few dozen equally charged men and women cheering their heads off to let you know “they have your back”. Trust me, you don’t mess with 30 women on a mission! I was a better swimmer because of my Stanford teammates, and I am a better person because of my experience as a collegiate athlete. It's as simple as that.
My second meet for the Pac-12 Network was at CAL, and it just happened to be parents weekend. The stands were packed with proud parents wearing their blue and yellow. There I saw the girl that I think will feel exactly the same way I felt about collegiate sports, Missy Franklin. She signed her intent to go to CAL next fall, and was there with her parents to soak it all up. She was beaming with excitement. I asked her if she could hardly wait to be a part of the team, and with her megawatt smiled she replied, “I CAN NOT WAIT!” You can’t put a price tag on that feeling and all of the amazing experiences she will have as a Golden Bear. I truly believe that.
Missy’s smile made my day and made me think. As much as my commentary is imperfect (I obviously still need to brush up on the changes in the sport), the swim pool is my home. So as I called the Pac 12 Championships, I just enjoyed being back where I belong. I can smell chlorine a mile away. And, it is good to be back!