Football game made memorable by a shaved head and foggy field

By Steve Willits

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One of the more interesting hours of my life occurred last Friday night at Edmonds Stadium thanks to two things that were completely out of the ordinary, one I knew was coming and the other was a total surprise. Both provided me with stories that I will be able to joke about for hopefully many years to come.

The night started out much like any other Fall Friday night over the past two years as I was standing in my usual spot in the broadcast booth, announcing the Mountlake Terrace vs Shorecrest football game for the Sound Live Sports Network. The first half of the game seemed to go by rather quickly on what was a beautiful clear night outside and Mountlake Terrace headed (no pun intended for where this story is about to go) into the locker room with a 14-0 lead. That is when my story gets a little strange.

We usually interview a special guest at halftime of our broadcasts however we decided to go a different route on Friday, I lost a bet and it was time to pay up. I was about to get my head shaved live on the Internet.

Back in September during the week leading up to the MTHS football game with Edmonds Woodway, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I made a friendly wager with Edmonds Woodway Play by Play Announcer Keith Nealy. The bet was that the announcer for the losing team would have to shave their head at an upcoming fundraiser for the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation. It turned out to be a bad outcome for me as Edmonds Woodway won the game. This meant that for the first time in my life, I was required shave my head.

I was originally supposed to go bald on Oct. 5 at the fundraiser however the organizers of the event decided a couple of days earlier that it wouldn’t fit into their agenda and therefore cancelled it. I still lost the bet though and figured I needed to hold up my end of the bargain so we decided to move forward and make the head shaving an “entertainment element” of our broadcast for the game this past Friday. Keith Nealy joined us as he stood by and playfully gloated as my hair fell to the floor at halftime compliments of Gail Myring Sarvis, the owner of Salon 512 in downtown Edmonds and a proud Edmonds High School alumnae. It ended up being a fun experience and hopefully we brought some positive publicity to the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation in the process. It also turns out that my bald head isn’t as ugly as I thought it would be. I might even decide to keep the look for a while.

I figured the head shaving activity was going to be the strangest event of the evening, that was about to change rather quickly. The clear evening skies of the first half were suddenly a thing of the past and in rolled the thick fog.

I’ve attended numerous sporting events over the course of my life and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Sports and the climate surrounding them have a tendency to be unpredictable and you never know what you are going to witness at any given moment. The thing that will be talked about for years to come from this past Friday wasn’t something that was witnessed, but rather what folks attending and watching on the internet couldn’t witness, the second half of the Terrace vs Shorecrest football game. I found out rather quickly that fog is not a good thing when trying to do play by play during a broadcast.

The first play of the third quarter was a Mountlake Terrace kickoff and I announced that Terrace Sophomore Mikey Jenson was the kicker however I couldn’t see him. Mikey has been the kicker on every kickoff this season so it was an educated assumption, I even mentioned that to our audience. That was an easy guess for me, I knew that calling the remainder of the game would be much more difficult unless the fog lifted and unfortunately it did not.

Do not adjust your dial. The fog took over the game in the second half against Shorecrest.

Do not adjust your dial. The fog took over the game in the second half against Shorecrest.

The color commentator for the broadcast was my good friend and fellow MTHS alum Dave Kosciuk, a former Terrace player who happens to be a very witty guy and had plenty of comical material thanks to the fog covering the field. Dave pointed out immediately that he would be using pronouns (such as “he” “they” “him”) to describe players since we couldn’t see jersey numbers. This was a joke at first but that is exactly what ended up happening. Rather than saying “Malcolm Johnson runs right” or “Brett Potter on the tackle” we resorted to saying things like “one of the Terrace players runs right” or “A linebacker makes the tackle”. The lack of visibility was unbelievable.

Dave had a few other interesting observations/suggestions throughout the night. At one point he wondered aloud how well it would work if Mountlake Terrace brought two footballs onto the field to try and confuse the Shorecrest defense. For all we know that might have happened but from our viewpoint, we aren’t sure. Another brilliant thought out of Dave’s mind was the suggestion of putting 16 defensive players on the field at one time (football teams are only allowed 11 players on the field at one time) and see if the referees noticed.

The fog was so thick that we could see player helmets moving around on the field but really couldn’t see their jerseys unless they were running toward our sideline. The 2013 Terrace home jerseys are great looking, however the dark red numbers on black are already hard enough to read from the booth on a clear night, having to try to read digits through the foggy sky was impossible. I watched the game on demand (www.soundlivesportsnetwork.com) and had to laugh as on one of the plays I said to the audience “I would love to tell you who is running the ball but I can’t see a thing.” Not something a play by play announcer says very often.

The only time that the camera lenses were able to get clear action shots were when they were pointed away from the playing field and either showing the student section in the bleachers or when the cheer squad and mascot Hurkey were performing on the track.

We tried a few different things up in the press box to see if we couldn’t help our visibility but nothing really worked. I tried watching the game through binoculars but that didn’t help at all. We also came up with the idea of shutting off the light in our press box to see if cutting down on the glare of light would be beneficial and it actually was a little bit, however the fog was still winning the overall battle.

One of the most surreal and strange plays of the night was the final play of the third quarter when Shorecrest running back Matt Brennan scored a 71 yard touchdown. Shorecrest was going from our right to our left at the time and Brennan took a handoff and started running diagonally toward the sideline closest to us which enabled us to see the action easier, but then he changed direction. Brennan than cut to his right and ran all the way across the field toward the opposing sideline and into the fog before he then made a cut upfield and ran down the sideline for a touchdown. Watching his white helmet move down the field off in the distance in the fog was somewhat eerie. You couldn’t see his body at all and it looked as though a body-less figure was sprinting the final 50 yards with all of these other white and black helmets chasing behind him. It had a spooky Halloween feel to it.

Watching the game on-line afterward made me feel as though I was watching a game from 40 years ago. A few weeks earlier I watched a YouTube clip of a Meadowdale game from 1972 as I prepared to interview some of their former players during a broadcast. It was recorded on black and white film and that that grey and grainy look to it. I thought about that 1972 clip as I watched our broadcast. There were moments in which our video looked similar.

Mountlake Terrace came away from the night victorious with a 28-14 win and Chance Ragsdale rushed for over 280 yards and four touchdowns. All positive things for a football team that needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m happy that we won but the stories that I will tell in the future will have more to do with a shaved head on a very foggy night.

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