With the end of the National Football League season barreling down like an out-of-control freight train, Burke resident Mike Patrick's time as one of ESPN's play-by-play announcers gets a little crazy. This year, Patrick faced a few weekends in which he had to be in one city on Saturday night to cover one game and then be in another city on Sunday night for another game.
Patrick, who has lived in Burke for 13 years, admits that his job can be hectic at times. He takes advantage of the Burke location with proximity to Dulles and National airports.
"It's almost impossible to do it the way I like to do it," Patrick said. "Preparation is tough. The neat stories, it's just got to go."
Mark Frederickson is Patrick's statistician at ESPN. He has been with Patrick since the late 1980s, when they did college games with Jefferson Pilot, another announcing company. He sees Patrick's determination.
"He aspired to it. There was no doubt that's what he wanted," Frederickson said.
"He is one of the most professional announcers," said ESPN's spotter Dave Dare. "It's unbelievable the degree of preparation he goes through."
In the ESPN booth at NFL games, Patrick works alongside former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and Paul McGuire. McGuire admitted that the game preparation gets better at the end of the season.
"We've done all these teams before. The end of the season is better," he said.
Patrick's wife Janet doesn't mind the football season. She used to be a "Redskinette," a Redskins cheerleader, and she accepts the sports announcer’s life.
"He gets off the plane and starts studying the game for the next weekend," said Janet Patrick. I'm one wife that cannot ask her husband to turn sports off."
PATRICK, THEISMANN AND MCGUIRE finished up their regular season coverage at Washington's Fed Ex field on Saturday, Dec. 28, as the Redskins lost to the playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles, and Sunday night at Baltimore, where the Ravens took on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The proximity for those two back-to-back games eased the travel times, but the week before, it was the New England Patriots at the New York Jets in Rutherford, N.J., followed by the Denver Broncos at the Indianapolis Colts in Indiana.
For the Saturday night game, Patrick arrived at the stadium at 6:30 p.m., checked in, and scanned player statistics for that night's game. He went to the ESPN booth and took a place at the window, which is slanted down at the field like a vulture's perch. Theismann and McGuire milled around, while the film crew set up and the makeup girl made her rounds. Patrick was a sports announcer with WJLA Channel 7 from 1975-80 and then picked up enough games to take it on as a full-time occupation in 1981. He also did a stint at the country radio station WMZQ.
"I had enough games to make a living," Patrick said.
At Fed Ex field, the radio team of Frank Herzog, Sonny Jurgenson and Sam Huff occupied the booth next door to Patrick. Herzog described the announcer's job, which involves split-second decisions from looking at the pass, the spot on the field, how much time is left, and the players' reactions all at once.
"The last thing he's doing is looking at the bench," Herzog said of the announcer’s job, play after play.
Herzog admitted that since the Redskins record was not good the last few years, the broadcasting teams have not been as good. That Saturday night was different with Patrick's group.
"It's been happening more in the last 10 years. They have broadcasters that are not recognized," Herzog said. "This is an 'A' group with ESPN."
Herzog's team is a favorite with Redskins fans. Many local football fans turn down the television announcers doing the Redskins game and turn up the radio. Herzog likes that fan following.
"This ability to connect, keep that broadcast flowing. It's a connection that you value," he said.
At halftime, Patrick planned on asking Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to clear up the rumors about coach Steve Spurrier. Was he leaving or staying? Rumors concerning the future of the Redskins coach had been flying around since Day 1 of this season.
"It's somewhere between rumor and confirmed," said Patrick at the Redskins season finale. Spurrier announced his resignation the following week.
Patrick's pro football season ends this year with the Pro Bowl on Feb. 8 in Honolulu, Hawaii.