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Bob Barry Sr. calls the action - and sometimes takes the heat

By John Helsley Published: August 24, 2008
NORMAN — Bob Barry Sr.'s got it made.

Prime seat for Sooner football — home and away, in the Cotton Bowl for that classic Saturday in October and at locales like Miami and Phoenix and Pasadena and New Orleans for January escapes from the cold.

Oh, and rubbin' elbows with Bob Stoops and the boys.

Cush job, play-by-play voice of the Sooners.

C'mon, you've thought it. Think you can do it, too, don't you?

But wait. It's not as easy as it looks, or sounds.

There's the five guys in Barry's ear at any time. There's the ever-changing challenge of actually seeing the action, with press boxes moving skyward or toward end zones and odd angles.

Spread and no-huddle offenses hasten the pace, both on the field and on the air.

And critics await every slip or stutter, with greater avenues than ever — e-mail, talk radio, message boards — to sound off their complaints.

"Naturally, I make mistakes like we all do,” Barry said. "You talk for three hours you're going to make a few mistakes.”

Barry, also the voice of OU men's basketball, has piled up the hours verbally painting the action for decades.

Handpicked by Bud Wilkinson to call Sooner games in 1961, the 77-year-old Barry's familiar style has called OU and Oklahoma State games ever since.

One of his signatures, and a favorite among fans, is his countdown: "30, 25, 15, 10, 5, Touchdown, Oklahoma.”

"That just happened,” Barry said. "You try to make it live. That's what radio has, it can stir your imagination.”

If you imagine all the fun going on in the press box, forget it.

It's work up there.

"It's very intense,” Barry said. "There's no sitting back saying, ‘Hey, man, what a deal.' Everybody's got a job to do.”

While Barry's voice is prominent, it's a five-man work crew that makes the broadcast sing.

The producer/director runs the show. There's a spotter informing Barry of where the ball is and which players are involved. There's a statistician delivering all the key numbers.

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How I do what I do
Bob Barry Sr. explains what it's really like when you're working the dirty job of being a play-by-play man.

"My dad told me, ‘You can tell how much you like the job you're doing by how much you like doing the drudgery of that job.' Because every job has drudgery.

"The drudgery part of my job is the spotter boards and preparation. I make a card out for every player, every player at every position on a team. It takes about eight hours to get ready for a football game for me.

"Some people listen to me and don't like me. You're going to have that in this business of being in the public.

"I had a guy write to me the other day and said, ‘I think you ought to go out to pasture.'

"You're going to have this. People are going to like you and not like you. You don't like to get complaints and criticism.”

"What I do honestly is listen to what they say or write and try to analyze it. Sometimes, the criticism is warranted...

"In the (John) Blake era, when the team was so bad. When you're winning, your broadcasts sound a lot better than when you're losing.

"You have to keep your enthusiasm. You can't just point out all the negatives. And yet, you don't want to be too much of a homer.

"But announcing a team that's losing regularly is really hard to do. Because people are PO'd their team is losing and it's just a difficult thing.”


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