Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Larry Longo Rocks

“J-School” is this thing folks once attended to learn how to write before people adopted such literary tools as “OMG” and “LOL” as a means of communicating. I went to one; I got a masters’ degree; I worked for 10 years as a reporter; I ran my own magazine (right into the ground, I should add) for 14 years.

A lot of people say nice things about my announcing, but they don't realize how much time I spent reading and writing. Those things come in handy when speaking.

While in journalism school I had to read a book entitled The Literary Journalist. One of the most coveted and dog-eared pieces on my shelf, this book was a collection of great magazine writing. Every author proved fantastic.

So in collecting the pieces they polled all of these all-star writers on who they believed to be the finest writer alive in our language. Several of them said without question Tom Wolfe. So then the interviewer decided to go ask Tom Wolfe who he considered to be the finest writer.

Without hesitation Wolfe responded: John McPhee.

So a lot of folks as of late have said really kind things to me about race announcing. This I find hard to believe because whenever I bark at a race I do nothing but chronicle all the mistakes I make. (Trust me, there are several.)

As one of the promoters of this month’s Providence Cyclo-cross Festival I knew one thing: I did not want to have to announce my own race.

You see, an announcer is like an obstetrician. We don’t do all the hard work; we don’t have the labor pains; we don’t conceive the thing in a fit of passion; and we certainly don’t have to pay for the bills after the thing is delivered. But when it is crunch time, we arrive relaxed, adjust a few things, respond to any emergencies, provide a bit of coaching, and hopefully deliver a cleaned up bundle of joy.

We’re relaxed; it’s not our baby.

So when I found out I had to go to Australia as the guest of the UCI, I had to find my own replacement for Gloucester and that helped me fund the selection of just about any announcer I wanted.

There are loads of great announcers. I like most of ‘em and consider several to be good friends. And I would hire several of them in a heartbeat.

But I chose California’s Larry Longo.

I could not figure out why I liked him so much until after I hired him. As I ran another feverish errand across the venue on Sunday at Providence I heard Larry's voice. (That I could hear him so well is a testament to the great Glenn Stillwell, but more on him and our secret at Providence later.)

“…..So we can call it Cyclocross Singles…..Bachelorette Number One, what’s your name?”

He had gone off the script, off the event schedule, and casually engaged other staffers and exhibitors and sponsors in this piquant dialogue that was fun. Larry keeps your ear. Few announcers do that.

Dave Chauner taught me when you promote a sporting event you are essentially building a stool that stands on four legs: spectators, sponsors, media, and participants. And an announcer has to inform, educate and entertain all four of those elements.

And most announcers do a good job of that. And let’s face it, we all have our own favorites based on our own selective criteria.

Larry Longo realizes there is a fifth leg to the stool: the staff.

He’s easy going, relaxed, and like a good obstetrician assures them all that the baby’s going to come out just fine. And when a staff relaxes, they perform better. Working alongside of Larry at crits, mountain bike events, road races, and now ‘cross events, I’ve never once seen Larry get the officials or the marshals or the medical staff or the organizers ruffled or aggravated.

He sands down everybody’s rough edges.

Only when serving as a promoter do you realize the importance of that element of the job. And know this, being laid back does not mean being lackadaisical. Larry’s as prepared and educated as he needs to be for every day’s work.

He can whip a crowd up, but he can also calm them down. And he keeps you listening all the time... for his jokes, his observations, his way of kindly mocking a staffer, or wishing Mitch Wippern happy birthday EVERY DAY that Mitch Wippern ever worked with Larry. All of it on the microphone.

If you get the chance; hire him. If you want to learn the craft, learn from him.
Thanks for reading.

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