Last weekend's Men's European Cup (2016) in Newcastle was a great success, not least because of the high quality stream, and the commentary provided. One of the MEC2016 announcers was Chasing Katy, co-host of the Talk Derby To Me podcast, and independent announcer; she's graciously written up her experience for the blog here. (Comments in [ ] are editorial)
To be honest, I hadn't initially applied to announce at this year's Men's European Cup. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because I hadn't thought I was ready for that big an event. But after some cajoling (thanks, Mags Payne!) and some reassurance (thanks [fellow Talk Derby To Me Podcast Hosts] sMACk and King), I submitted my application.
Part of the application was an announcer CV, something I'd never done before. It was interesting to go back throughout my time in roller derby and try and remember all the games I'd announced (the first being waaaaay back in September 2011 when the Fair City Rollers took on the Wakey Wheeled Cats). Doing that slightly reassured me that I'd been doing it long enough that I should know what I'm doing.
A couple of weeks later I got the news...I was on the crew and we were given access to the super-secret MEC 2016 Announcers' Facebook group, where I got to see who I would be announcing with. There were some familiar names and faces, but the great thing was I'd only announced with two people before (Archie [Bairn City Rollers' man of many names] and sMACk) so it was going to be a good way to meet other announcers and learn some new things.
I know that I'm portraying an image of me being cool, calm and collected about this whole process. That's intentional, because I can't spell the noise my brain was making the entire time. It was something between a whimper, a scream and a panic attack. It involves lots of vowels, that much I know.
Then, about a week before the tournament, we got the schedule for day 1 and I learned I would be doing feed announcing as well as in house. I'd never done feed prior to MEC, but made a point of listening to the WFTDA Champs announcers the weekend before. I was also down to do house announcing for Tyne and Fear (the hosts) against Panam Squad with Helliverance, who I'd known for years but never announced with. Then, for the final game of the day, I was back on feed.
As MEC got closer, my nerve-citement increased and on Friday, myself, sMACk, [Granite City's] Krusty and [Auld Reekie's Terrifying] Tink headed to Newcastle.
We had to be at the Walker Activity Dome for 7.30am on Saturday, so I was extremely bleary-eyed and in need of coffee when I met Sven and Malice, our THAs for the weekend. We were shown the workings of the feed, where everything was (loos, coffee, all the essentials) and given the chance to get sorted. I had prepped with some notes on the teams, so I read over the ones I needed for my first call, got a coffee and spoke to some other very tired people. Coffee, I soon realised, is the elixir of life for people involved in roller derby tournaments.
Thankfully, my first time on the feed (10am on Saturday for De Ronnys vs the Mad Riders) was with sMACk. Given the many hours we have spent talking on microphones to each other, that definitely made it a bit less scary (I tried to ignore the fact that, unlike the Talk Derby To Me podcasts, this was live and we were actually sitting in the same place) and I enjoyed it. Beforehand, a lot of seasoned announcers were telling me that they preferred feed to house and after doing that game, I can see why.
For me, the main difference was that I could say more. When you do in-house announcing, there's a risk that the teams will hear something that could give them an advantage in the game (for example, the cardinal rule, never announce a jammer getting released from the penalty box or approaching the back of the pack) but that risk is reduced on feed. I could happily chat about why a team was doing certain things tactically or how I feel they could make changes to improve.
Another thing I also found fun was interacting with people watching the feed. There were tweets and YouTube comments coming in throughout and it was cool to get tidbits of information about the teams or just a “good job, guys”. I did not agree with King Crazy and StatMan that sMACk and I needed subtitles, however. (Haggis, haggis, Irn Bru to you too!!)
The house game went well, but as it was the home team in action, the crowd got loud and I soon began to realise that I needed to take care of my voice. This wasn't like a single or double header, after which I could go home and rest. I had a whole other day to get through and I wanted to be able to speak by the end of it.
The rest of the day went well. I ate a Hippo burger and got to watch some fantastic roller derby, and speak to a whole bunch of people I hadn't met before or hadn't seen in ages. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of dancing! But it was about 10pm before we got back to the hotel and I was ready to just chill.
The next morning we didn't need to be at the venue until 8.30 – a long lie going by the previous day! First up, I got to do house announcing with the fantastic Archie, whose enthusiasm and showmanship really got me in the mood for another day of announcing, then I was back on feed later with Roller Polar Bear and finally I closed out my day house announcing the third place game between Lincolnshire Rollin' Thunder and South Wales Silures.
I've got to admit, by the end of my last call, I was ready to not speak again for a while and I really wanted to go home to my own bed. Six amazing games of roller derby, out of a total of 13 played over the weekend, that I got to blether on about. The Hall's Soothers and hot water with lemon have been flowing ever since (and I even managed to pick up a bit of lurgy at some point over the weekend).
But all in all, it was a fantastic experience, during which I learned a lot, met some great people, saw the best of European Men's Roller Derby and got the chance to grow as an announcer.
Hopefully, they will have me back next year!