There I Was at the Basketball Game

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I love your articles about things that happen during remotes (“There I Was at the Greek Festival,” Feb. 1).

It was high school basketball season. Halfway through, the two toughest teams and biggest rivals were set to play. Our station was in fierce competition with another, and both stations were scheduled to carry the game live.

Our competitor was using phone lines; I used a Marti. This was in the days before cell phones.

I arrived at the gym early in the afternoon to have time to work with the janitor and place the Marti antenna on the roof for a 25-mile hop. Once the antenna was planted, I used a pay phone to call in and check the signal.

To my horror there was no signal back at the station. Worse, the problem was on their end. I didn’t have time to drive back, fix things and return to the game.

As I sat alone in the gym, it occurred to me I’d heard several stations broadcasting from this venue in the past. The phone company must have more than one line available. But was the additional line hot? Or did they disconnect it when not in use?

With the help of a headset I was able to find the telco terminal, hidden under the bleachers. Sure enough, clearly marked was my competitor’s line, the school’s business office line and — voilà — a third line with dial tone!

I quickly hooked to it and, breathing a sigh of relief, went to dinner.

When I returned the gym was packed. As I made my way to the bench, I discovered that my competitor had been placed shoulder to shoulder with me. Anything I would say, he’d hear, and vice versa.

I picked up the phone line and to my surprise found a conversation on it. Glancing around in confusion, I happened to look out the gym door and realized I had hooked into a pay station visible in the hall.

When the phone was free, I tore off a piece of paper, wrote “Out of Order” and placed it in the phone booth. But because the phone company glues down the covers of its microphones, I was not able to defeat the mic.

I returned to my seat and called the board op. I couldn’t tell him I’d tapped a line; if my competitor heard there’d be hell to pay.

During the first half of the game I noticed people enter the phone booth, read my note and leave. But at halftime some kids decided to take down the receiver and see if the note was true.

Their voices went right on the air.

I immediately cranked my amplifier as high as possible to override them and make our listeners think the new voices were just fans in the bleachers.

Trouble was, when I threw it back to the station for a break, the board op would engage in a heated conversation with the kids, telling them to get off the line, to which they answered, “Go to h***” and worse four-letter words.

I listened to all this with a passive look on my face lest my competitor get wind that something was wrong.

Fortunately, as the second half started, the kids became bored with the whole thing and went back to their seats.

I ended up pulling the remote off without anyone knowing — and made a mental note to order a line in future.

Bob Ladd
Naples, Fla.

Radio World would like to hear your first-person recollections about early or unusual radio remote broadcasting. E-mail yours to radioworld@nbmedia.com.

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