Missouri sports fans probably know Chris Abernathy's voice well. It fills Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena with up-to-date statistics and information, keeping the fans in tune to the competition.
But fans might not know the man behind the voice. Abernathy is the public address announcer at all home MU volleyball and women's basketball games. A native of Cape Girardeau, Abernathy worked in commercial radio to lose his southern accent. In 2005, he began his position as the announcer for the volleyball team. It was the same season the Tigers made their Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament.
Colorado Buffaloes (12-13, 3-9 Big 12)
at Missouri Tigers (12-15, 4-9 Big 12)
WHEN: 4 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Where did you get your voice?
"I guess I wish there was an announcer shop, but ultimately you get what you're born with. Working commercial radio during and shortly after college gave me a chance to work on a so-called announcer voice, if there is such a thing."
Where have you gotten inspiration from?
"I grew up listing to a lot of the (St. Louis) Cardinals on the radio. I always naturally gravitated towards Jack Buck. I always admired the local weatherman on a TV station in Cape Girardeau as a kid growing up. One thing I've tried to do as an announcer, I've tried to minimize the southern accent that I probably grew up with."
Why did you decide to try out for this job?
"I started doing this because I have a co-worker at Shelter Insurance who has worked on the various cable crews for score keeping for volleyball and basketball over the years. He knew of my background and told me they had an opening and were looking for a PA announcer to do volleyball. I knew very little other than what I had seen as a spectator, but it was worth a shot."
How were you affiliated with MU before trying out for this position?
"I had no affiliation whatsoever. I frankly was just looking for a change of scenery. My wife was my girlfriend at the time. She was going to school at Mizzou, so I thought I'd get out of southeast Missouri and move to Columbia. The rest as they say is history. It's rather cliche, but that's how it worked out."
What's your favorite phrase?
"Sometimes it's a lot of fun to be able to say the final score and celebrate a Mizzou victory, whatever the sport may be."
What challenges have you faced in your career?
"Just balancing work and family time. I did one season of baseball, and while that was a lot of fun, it really was just too many games and too much time away from family. The nice thing about women's volleyball and women's basketball is that the schedule is spread out enough that it doesn't pose as big of a problem as some of the other sports might."
Who has the hardest name to pronounce?
"There was once a visiting volleyball team that had a preponderance of eastern European players, and some of those names were challenging. One of the more musical names I've ever pronounced was Christelle N'Garsanet when she was a starter the first year that I did women's basketball. Her home town was a little challenging. She's from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, or Ivory Coast. It took a little bit of learning to make sure I got it right."
What is preparation like for games at Mizzou Arena?
"I just make sure that I get the starting lineups from the official scorer. I check with the visiting team's media relations contact to make sure I have correct pronunciations for their players. Other than that, the sports marketing folks have all of the leads, the announcements and script for the game. Dave Bartlett and his crew at Mizzou Arena that handle the sound system, they do the hard work. I just have to read it, and they make me sound a lot better than I sound in real life."
How does play-by-play announcing work?
"Typically, I'm getting that information directly from the official scorekeeper. They have a system where the game official calls the foul on the floor. I can obviously hear it and see who it's supposed to be on. As soon as I identify that individual, I can look down to the scorekeeper, and they have a hand signal to show how many personal fouls and how many team fouls that makes. If not for them, I'd probably be best to keep my mouth shut."