Poetry: Announcer (in memory of Russ Reilly)

Russ Reilly, who among other things was a long-time announcer at Middlebury College football games, died July 24. A memorial service will be held at Mead Chapel on the Middlebury campus this Saturday, Sept. 21, at 3 p.m. For many years, Gary Margolis sat next to Reilly in the football announcer’s booth, spotting and running the 25-second clock.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,

you would say, please remove your caps

and honor this great country of ours.

 

As Legion Post 27 presents our colors.

The word great bouncing off the peaks

of the Green Mountains, beginning

 

to turn orange again. The umpire

and referees gathering themselves

at midfield, about to hand the fall

 

ball over to the kick-off kicker. Who’s hoping

to make a great kick. Sailing the ball

out of the far endzone. Signaling it’s time

 

to turn the leaves on. And grateful, we are,

for hearing Russ Reilly’s voice. His bass

baritone. No one ever thought he ever needed

 

a microphone. Or why he said great.

Knowing there were those of us in the stands

who might use another adjective. A shade

 

lesser or brighter. Who might say

Let’s keep politics out of this,

at least until the end of the game.

 

Which we hoped would be great.

We could say, close, thrilling, instead.

The clock winding down like a flock

 

of Canada geese into a cornfield.

The visiting team, the scoreboard calls

Guest, attempting its last field goal.

 

Which gratefully flies like the wounded

duck it is. Missing the heart of the goal

post. Russ is heard to say under his breath,

 

Isn’t that great! Before he implores us

to keep ourselves safe driving home.

His voice echoing among the maples,

 

the boys, they’re called, cheering,

as we would expect, in the great well

of their locker room.

 

Editor’s note: Gary Margolis is the retired executive director of Middlebury College Mental Health Services and is a part-time associate professor of English and American Literatures at the college.

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