By John Fanta ‘13
Listening to Tom Hamilton, Jimmy Donovan, and Joe Tait every night in my childhood, I loved what they did. I wanted to be them. I would even turn them down and look back at the TV. I’d start to call the game, pretending to be them. I didn’t know what that would end up translating into in my life, but I really liked it early on, so much so that I told family that being a broadcaster was what I wanted to do with my life.
I showed up on a hot afternoon in the end of July of 2009 looking for a new chapter to begin in my life. I took to Kyle Field to play freshman football. Meeting new people and getting to know the coaches, I had no idea what was going to happen to me four years later. Playing freshman football was an exciting experience, but I was still trying to find my niche. I did not feel like I was fully observing the grasp of being open to growth until I walked into Athletic Director Mr. Rory Fitzpatrick’s office and said, “Mr. Fitzpatrick, is it true that there’s a Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network and Sports Info Department?”
From that day forward, my life had turned to a new passion. I walked into SIBN and SSID moderator Mr. Jeff McCormick’s office in Advancement and immediately went into conversation. We talked for an hour and a half. We touched on Saint Ignatius athletics, Cleveland sports, and about a possibility of me being in the club. I had my audition scheduled, so I kept the hopes that I could become a part of something that I had always loved, but I thought that every fairytale does not always happen in this real world.
Already a member of Chorus and Student Senate, I was looking to really make a full plate for myself (and as a freshman). I tried out for the SIBN, and was told that I would not be receiving any major role, but that I could be cameraman and JV basketball halftime analyst. At the time, that got me hopeful because I was the first freshman member ever in the then two-year old club. Midway through the JV basketball season, the JV color analyst role for basketball opened up. As my Dad has always said, “It starts with commitment.” I had seen where commitment pays off, as my passion got me that role on the SIBN. I finished off the season with some JV basketball play-by-play and I stayed involved in the operations of the club. That spring, I did a few baseball games in a season of rough weather and rainouts. I still had not done all that much though as a broadcaster and writer at Saint Ignatius.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I played for Coach Ryan Franzinger and the Wildcat JV football team. I was an offensive lineman, but let’s face it, I spent more time talking to Eddie Dwyer than I did play. I had the other passion in the back of my head, and that was to get on the air. We talked when Tim McVey ran 70 yards, and we talked when Mike LaManna found Rocky Zingale for a touchdown. I was still trying to find a real bond, as my role in the SIBN did increase with a role in the middle of my JV season. I was asked to do the Saint Ignatius – Lancaster varsity football contest with senior Mike Watts. Although nervous, I took on the color role and went from there. That was my big break, and although it was not my greatest material, I was still putting my foot in the door. In the winter, I stuck to JV basketball and then called another baseball season that did not offer many broadcast opportunities.
Two years into the club, I was not making a ton of improvements, but seniors did rule over me, until I started to not give the door a tap, but give it a bang!
In my conference with 301-game winner Coach Kyle, we talked about my football career. He may have very well saved me that day. He turned to me and said, “If broadcasting is there, and that is your passion, go for it.” I knew I would have to compete for the job, but I took the shot. After not getting many opportunities to make a name in any way, I went after the football play-by-play role. At the Canton football jamboree that Saint Ignatius and McKinley play every year, we had our test on the air to see who could be the voice of the ‘Cats the following week for the 2011 Week 1 encounter with Cody (Michigan). Walking out of Fawcett Stadium that night, I did not know if we would be back there in the winter or if I would be in the booth.
The following week, Jeff McCormick called me into his office, turned to me and said, “You got the job.” Immediately, I ran out of his office and jumped for joy. To think that I was going to be the voice of the one of the great high school football programs in all the country was unreal. I talked to my family, the coaches, and media. Just as I grew, the 2011 team grew too. Getting people walking up to me and interest in my thoughts on the team was aweing. I was dazzled by the thought that I was calling Coach Chuck Kyle and the ‘Cats, after I was a Byers Field regular in my early childhood. That 2011 team gave me some unbelievable material, as the countless week-after-week magical moments had my voice getting heard more and more all over the world because Saint Ignatius football was making a run, and people wanted to get to follow on the SIBN. And on December 3rd of 2011, on a brisk night in Canton, I stepped back into Fawcett Stadium to finish the job. With the Wildcats on the field, I called a state championship game to the best of my abilities and delivered the best content I possibly could. Tears of joy flowed through me on that December night, as one of the greatest achievements of my life was happening live on the Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network, and I was the one with the duties of delivering play by play. Everything has taken off from there, and I don’t know where the ride has gone. That season inspired me and offered a bigger role in the club, as I stepped up somewhere in all sports and got better and better.
A rush comes through me every time I go on the air, which is a sign of my passion. Calling Tim McVey’s seven touchdowns in a half against North Royalton to break the record for touchdowns by a player in a game, single-season record, and so many more records is only one of many memories that I have loved to share. Being on the air for a basketball sweep of St. Edward in the 2012-2013 season, a great amount of soccer games, which are truly inspiring to watch because of our great coaches, are just a couple other few. Being the voice of Wildcat baseball, a color commentator for Wildcat hockey, and an analyst for Wildcat lacrosse have all been special. Updating the website and my Twitter page have been very important. But throughout all the moments, what gets me every time is two words. “Thank you” is what I hear almost every time I walk out of a place after a broadcast. On Senior night for the Wildcat basketball team, tears drew down my eyes when I heard those chants. It was a moment of unbelievable brothership coming from a packed student section. I could not handle the appreciation from guys that I admired for their athletic efforts. Whether it’s a parent, athlete, or fan, those two words “Thank you” inspire me. When I see that people take pleasure in listening to my words, I truly believe that that is God’s way of saying that he has given me a gift.
You see, I don’t do it for me. I love what I do and I want to keep doing it until I die, but that is not the point. You are the point. The Saint Ignatius community has been there for me at every step of the way in my long ride. The PEOPLE are who make the difference, not the broadcasts. It’s our first-class coaches and athletes, who truly appreciate me. That’s what I have come to love these past four years.
I walked into a scholarship interview last month and I talked to five media members around Cleveland about what I do at Saint Ignatius. They asked me if I had ever dealt with a difficult player or coach there, and I honestly told them that Saint Ignatius does not produce that. That’s not how we operate. They were looking for my low’s, and I told them about some of my toughness to get up the ladder. I did not receive that scholarship, but that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What I experienced when I drove to do Ohio Jesuit Tournament baseball coverage later that day, the first thing players said to me after their walk-off win was “How did it go?”
I conclude with this. Every night I’ve spent up on the air and our school athletic pages, I’ve done it for you because of moments like that one. It has been something that I have had to do, it is something that I have had the privilege and honor to perform. Every time I get on the air in my future endeavors, the blue and gold will always be in my heart. I do not have enough words to describe what this ride has been like. As the end draws near, I say “Thank You” to each and every one of you. You have shown me respect unlike anyone else ever has and I will never forget that. Never take an opportunity for granted, because it could be the greatest of your life. Every time I put on that microphone, I always think to myself, “I could call an unbelievable moment tonight, or I could call a game that doesn’t have that much life to it. But, if one thing is for sure, I’ll give the same amount of effort either way because I love what I do, and I love being a Wildcat.”
The ride is slowing, but my memories will always be in my heart. You and I have seen so many achievements, and I feel as if even better days will come. That’s the art of a place that never shuts down, 1911 West 30th and Lorain, a place that has become a second family. And as the ride closes down, know that I’ll always remember the nights on the Saint Ignatius Broadcasting Network we spent watching the moment after moment. And I wouldn’t have it any other way…