The Man Behind the Microphone
DALLAS, TEXAS (June 29, 2012)- In the background of every good sporting event is a person behind a microphone.
For the 2012 FIVB World League matches in Dallas that person is Rob Espero, a 25-year public address announcing veteran who mixes his passion and knowledge of the sport with his magnetic voice and colorful phrases to create an energetic atmosphere for fans.
Currently at UC Irvine as the audio and Internet technician, Espero has been announcing USA Volleyball events for four years and continues this weekend at the FIVB World League tournament at the Dallas Convention Center Arena in Texas. The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team leads Pool C and hosts Korea on June 29, France on June 30 and Italy on July 1.
And to think, his entire announcing career began as an accident.
“I was supposed to play volleyball at UC Irvine the first year the program became a [NCAA] Division I team, but an injury stopped me from doing that,” Espero said. “To make some money I ended up line-judging during matches. Before one of the matches an announcer did not show up. The sports information director of UC Irvine at the time said that I had to announce and I had never done it before."
That was the first day of his 25-year career.
The 2012 FIVB World League is on its last preliminary round leg before the Final Round in Bulgaria. Italy, France, Korea and the USA have come under one roof in the Dallas Convention Center Arena to send a team to the Final Round as the pool winner automatically advances to Bulgaria.
“This is the best volleyball in the world,” Espero said. “Though there isn’t an Olympic berth on the line this weekend the U.S. is hosting four of the greatest volleyball powerhouses in the world. I am going to focus on creating the same atmosphere there that came out in Long Beach.”
Espero reached what he calls, “the greatest two weekends of volleyball for himself,” earlier this summer announcing at the NCAA Division I-II Men’s Volleyball Championship match and at the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament in Long Beach, Calif.
“[Brian] Thornton came up to me before the final match of the qualifier and asked if I could really try and get the crowd into the match and that would be really important for the rest of the team so I did just that.”
The final match of the Olympic Qualifier was Team USA and Canada in front of a sold out crowd that showed the television viewers on NBC Universal that volleyball fans were loud and passionate about their team on the court.
“It motivates the guys to see that type of crowd behind them,” Espero said. “As an athlete you want to play for a purpose, you want to play for the people and that is what this team loves to do. They understand that they are entertainers and that event was proof of that. I am glad I could help with that. I added the color and music as an accessory for the outstanding play that was occurring in front of our eyes.”
USA Volleyball is focusing on getting as many major international events on American soil to continue to build the viewing audience, the sport and its fans and World League is another great example of that.
“In the beginning of my career I stayed in Irvine and started to just get more and more work as an announcer,” Espero said. “I announced state championships, I announced for the AVP and for all of the sports at UC Irvine. I have done soccer, basketball, and even some fundraisers.”
After meeting former USA Volleyball events director Mike Chandler, Espero started to work USA Volleyball events in conjunction with NORCECA. USA Volleyball Manager of Events Melissa Weymouth then got word of Espero’s talents and asked him to announce at World League.
Like they say, the rest is history.
Not only is Espero’s voice and presence known but his volleyball taglines are popular audio within the sports venues.
“Those taglines came to be one night around a coffee table with a few sports aficionados watching Sports Center,” Espero said.
Espero learned his passion from watching his idol Chick Hearn broadcast for the Lakers. In his 42-year career with the franchise, Hearn made “slam dunk” and “air ball” household terms.
“I would listen to Chick [Hearn] on the radio and just picture exactly what was happening on the court,” Espero said. [Chick Hearn] would said, ‘the refrigerator door is shut, the jelly is jiggling and the butter is hardening,’ to announce that a game was over. I just thought that was such a creative way to interact with an audience.”
It is the combination of simple phrases and technical volleyball terms that makes Espero such a success behind the microphone. Not only does he paint with his voice what is occurring within the white lines of the court, but he also educates the fans with specific descriptions of advanced terms.
“If I can get people to connect with the basic terms and then slowly introduce technical terms, they [the fans] start to appreciate the game more,” Espero said. “The more connected fans feel towards the players and the game, the more loyal they will be to the sport in the long term. That is my goal.”
Over the past decade Espero has watched USA Volleyball, its players, fans and coaches change and grow. What he says is 100 percent “for the better.”
“Seeing the transformation over the past 4-6 years has been overwhelmingly positive,” Espero said. “With what Hugh [McCutcheon] did in 2008 and then watching college guys enter into the program without a pro league in the United States speaks volumes for what wearing the red, white and blue means to these athletes. The best players in the U.S. want to play for their country and it shows in their humble personalities and appreciation for those that follow them even when they aren’t playing on American grounds.”
Espero will lend his voice again at the World League matches in Dallas from June 29 to July 1. Tickets are still available and people in the Dallas area aare asked to fill the arena to support Team USA before it heads off to London to defend its 2008 Olympic gold medal.
For more information about the FIVB World league Tournament, click here.