Ted Leonsis and the Wizards pick a new PA announcer in voice-off
Since becoming owner of the Washington Wizards in June, Ted Leonsis has been busy with another of his famous "to-do" lists. His newest: "101 positive changes in 101 days" -- suggestions from basketball fans who asked him to brighten up the garage at Verizon Center, paint the arena steps, spice up the music, introduce new videos, and...er, other amenities.
"Don't laugh: Men were complaining there was no place to put their beer when they used the urinal," he said. "So we put little shelves over all of them."
Monday night, Leonsis presided over the final auditions for the team's new PA announcer: you know, the voice who introduces the players, pumps up the crowd and keeps everything hopping at the 41 home games. The part-time job doesn't pay all that much -- a few hundred dollars a game -- but comes with a center-court seat.
"These are platform kind of jobs because they get exposure," explained Leonsis. "They become the 'Voice of God' and it leads to radio, advertising, promotion and corporate work."
More than 200 hopefuls applied for the gig; 50 were asked to try out and 16 made the final cut. Leonsis sat in one of the upper rows, eyes closed, listening for a voice that "wears well. I really do think fans can smell authenticity a mile away." Applicants read from a script introducing each player, ad-libbed the "kiss-cam" and other duties. The mood was pretty intense, except when forward Andray Blatche sauntered in and sat down at the mike. "I was just messing with you," he said with a grin. "I can't do it."
The Wizards brass expected one exceptional voice to dominate the competition. Instead, they narrowed the field to five men, and went into overtime: Each contestant had to man up for one final interview to gauge his basketball knowledge. On Tuesday, the team announced a winner, who was right under its nose the whole time: D.C. native Ralph Wesley, 26, the current PA announcer for the Washington Mystics. Yeah, he just made about a zillion new friends.
The Reliable Source
| September 15, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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