Area radio stations do a great job of providing play-by-play of their local high school football, basketball and, occasionally, volleyball games.
I don't actually know that from first-hand observation because I'm usually at athletic events of my own when these broadcasts are taking place, so I rely on the feedback of fans who comment on how much they like to follow games that they are not able to attend in person.
Last week, however, I had the rare opportunity to both see and hear a game and it wasn't because I was in the broadcast booth myself.
It happened like this: Don Shields was handling the play-by-play of Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Thursday night home volleyball match against neighboring rival Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. The varsity contest started shortly after 7 p.m., but his radio station, WPXN-FM (104.9), had an obligation to broadcast the Ron Zook Show until 8 o'clock.
Shields' commentary was taped and replayed, starting shortly after 8 p.m. As fate would have it, the varsity match ended after two games (with PBL winning) and my postmatch interviews went quickly, so I turned on my car radio as I prepared to leave PBL.
My arrival in my car happened to coincide with the first serve of the match. As I made the trip back to my downtown Champaign office, I listened intently to Shields' broadcast of the match I had just watched. I was able to hear all but the final few points of Game 2.
Heck, if I'd known he was going to do such a good job, I could have stayed home and listened and still had enough of an idea what was transpiring to write a story. (Just kidding, Boss.)
What I found impressive was how well Shields was able to keep up with the pace of the fast-moving sport, remembering to give the score frequently and commending players from both sides for spectacular plays, not just being a "homer" and taking notice only of the noteworthy PBL plays.
Considering that he doesn't do volleyball matches on a regular basis made his analysis and commentary even more satisfying. Most of all, I felt like I was reliving the match I'd just seen. I didn't listen and wonder, "What in the world is he talking about?"
It was a tremendous job and I'm certain WPXN-FM is not the only station around these parts with a qualified sports announcer. The next time you're home for the night, check out some of the options in your particular area. Television truly doesn't have a monopoly on the good sports broadcasters.
This time, I can speak from experience.