By R.V. Baugus

It has been an honor to serve the past nine years as the “voice” of Irving (TX) high school football for games. We have three high schools in Irving, and one of them always has a home game on Friday nights. You might know the book and movie Friday Night Lights. High school football in Texas is unlike any in America.

God’s hand opened the door for me to be the public address announcer in the fall of 2015. In January of that year, my beautiful wife, Tanya, died suddenly.  She was only 48, and we were four months shy of our 25th anniversary. We were not able to have children, so Tanya was my life. We enjoyed every minute together, and especially fall weekends just driving around this gorgeous state and loving each other’s company. 

That was now gone and I dreaded the upcoming fall until, through a series of “God things”, I applied for the public address position and was hired, replacing the current announcer who was retiring after 40 long years behind the mic.

I took to announcing immediately. I have always been an avid sports fan going back to my high school days as sports editor of our school newspaper. I was on the sports staff of The Daily Texan at the University of Texas and continued being involved in sports journalism in one facet or another.

When it came to sports broadcasting, I never saw myself doing that but was excited about the opportunity. Going to many sports events and watching on television, like many sports fans, I had my favorite announcers and would study their cadence, inflection, and how they drew their audience into the game.  

I mean, I was prepared for anything that was thrown at me.

Almost.

It was in 2022 that Irving High was playing in the school’s Homecoming game. I was given a script as I was for any other game to read before the game. In this instance, we announced to fans that Irving High School’s classes of 1972 and 1982 were both celebrating their reunion weekend in attendance at the game. 

I made the announcement with exuberance in my voice as fans gave a round of applause to those Tiger classes of yore. Part of the script also involved mentioning the names of some former class of 1982 football players who were standing on the 20-yard line so they could wave to the crowd. Further, changing my tone to a more solemn one, I was asked to share that one player who intended to be present had recently passed, so we paused for a moment of silence after I read his name.

After reading through the pre-game script, I felt it had come off as well as possible. It was now nearing time for kickoff and the game to commence. We kicked off and it was a typical fall night under the bright stadium lights. Life was good!

That is, until early in the second quarter when a distraught representative from the district athletic department entered our little broadcast booth to share with me that the player identified as deceased was not only still alive but standing on the sideline along with his former teammates. Further, he asked that I say something – anything! – to acknowledge the error. We had been given the wrong name of the deceased! 

Excuse me, but where in the announcing manual does it state how to handle this kind of situation?

Other than Jesus with Lazarus, how do you bring a dead man back to life? I truly do not remember what I said other than I am sure some humor was involved in the apology and mistake. Our clock operator and spotter who share the booth with me could not stop laughing. Even though it was not my fault, I felt like I was pulling egg off my face.

At halftime, I believed the right thing to do was to go to the sideline to find the gentleman and apologize for announcing his premature death. I found him looking fit and healthy. When I told him I was the beleaguered announcer who announced his death, he seemed to take it all in stride while his buddies were having a huge laugh at his expense. He did tell me when he heard his name announced as having passed, he touched his body parts to make sure he was in fact still intact and breathing. 

In announcing, you must always prepare for the unexpected.

While I don’t expect this to happen again, I would advise when announcing someone’s departure from earth, to “verify those who die!”