From Another View: Q&A with Pistons P.A. Announcer
By Jennifer Nelson
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 12 -- “Deee-troit, bas-ket-ball.”
It doesn't really come across in writing, but if you've been to the Palace recently, you know what I'm talking about.
And the man behind those words is Pistons P.A. announcer John Mason. From his designated spot at the center of the courtside press table, Mason has perhaps the best seat to catch all the action.
Mason shares his thoughts on his dream job, the Palace crowd and some of the greatest moments he's witnessed, as well as a couple of memorable mistakes from his early days on the mic.
Mason enjoys a good laugh prior to the start of Game 3.
How long have you been the P.A. announcer for the Pistons?
Mason: “Oh, I’m a real rookie. I’m green. Two and a half years.”
Q: What were you doing before that?
Mason: “A fan watching television, trying to save up my money to buy season tickets to try to get a seat. That was my goal the year that they selected me; I wanted to buy season tickets.”
Q: So they lost a customer?
Mason: “Yeah, they did, but they gained a real trooper though.”
Q: Had you ever done P.A. work before?
Mason: “No. Never. Had not a clue of what I was doing except for what I thought I heard or saw on T.V.”
Q: But you do radio work as well?
Mason: “Yes, I’m a morning radio announcer in the market. I’ve been in the market for about 20 years... It’s R&B oldies, but it’s a lot of conversation as well.”
Q: Do you get callers who want to talk Pistons?
Mason: “Oh man, they want to talk Pistons and Pistons’ scores. Forget if they’re going to do well tonight, they want to give the margin of victory. It's exhilarating.”
Q: Do your radio fans know that you are the P.A. announcer for the Pistons?
Mason: “You know what, I have a split crowd. A lot of the Palace people who come to the arena don’t know that I do radio, and a lot of the radio people go, ‘Is that you that I hear on T.V. sometimes?’ So, I get the best of both worlds.”
Q: Was this a dream of yours or were you just always a sports fan?
Mason: “Just your normal sports fan. Loved all sports. Of course, hometown rooter for the Pistons, Lions and Tigers. Would save my money and buy the best seat I could buy. Never tried to really get to know players or anything, would just come. This was just a dream come true.”
Q: How did you get the job?
Mason: “You know, that was the other strange thing. I didn’t audition. They called me one day at the radio station, said they were doing a workout for fans at a local college and would I like to come and just kind of get on the mic and warm up the crowd. So I said, ‘Great. Wow, I’ll get a chance to see the Pistons up close. Yeah, I’m there.’ And then they called back and said that they had an exhibition game a week away, so I thought it was going to be at a college or something too, but it was here at the Palace. So I said well maybe they’re going to show me and I’ll do a little bit and then they’ll get their real announcer. No, I did it cold. I learned everything cold. I had no idea how to follow the referees or how to even do it. My spotter helped me tremendously.”
Q: Any big blunders from the early days?
Mason: “Oh, how about Kenyon Martin. I called him ‘Ken-yawn Martin.’ He said I called him Keon, as in Keon Clark. So Richard Jefferson comes up and he’s wiping his feet off and he goes, ‘Oh, you made Light Skin mad now. He’s really hot.’ So he comes and stands like a superhero in front of me, flexing his muscles. And then Richard Jefferson goes, ‘See, I told you. I told you. You made him mad now. I don’t know what he’s going to do.’ I took my headphones off and I said, ‘You know, it’s only basketball. It was an honest mistake.’ I didn’t call him Keon, I called him Ken-yawn. I said, ‘Look, go play the game, I’m just learning. I apologize.'
“And then Joey Crawford, the NBA’s most dramatic referee. One time I made a call before he made it, and he runs over here and he goes, ‘You’re not a fan! You’re not a fan! You wait for me.’ And he told me that the whole game, but we’ve been friends ever since, so I learned to be patient.”
Q: Do you have a favorite name to call out?
Mason: “I do, but the fans seem to have linked on to something else that I do. They seldom ever bring the national cameras here, so they did and I said, wow, how do I make the country understand that we have Detroit passion. So, I don’t have that golden, deep voice, so I have to do a finesse kind of announcing gig. So, I do this thing called ‘Deee-troit, bas-ket-ball’ on a turnover. And so now, the whole arena will do it when I do it, so they wait to see if I’m going to make it. I don’t do it every time, but we get into that pretty good. So we’ve got 22 thousand people going, ‘Deee-troit, bas-ket-ball.’ So, that’s kind of been my thing."
Q: What is it like watching the game from your spot, front and center courtside?
Mason: “It still feels like the first time. To watch players, to watch the conversations between refs and players. But you know, the funnest thing is when something happens that’s out of the ordinary, no coach can approach a referee, no executive, no NBA official, only the officials on the floor, and the first person they talk to is me. I start laughing. I think it’s hilarious that they’re going to come and explain it to me first, waving coaches off. They see me and I’m smiling because I got to get the information first. So that makes me ecstatic.”
Q: Anything you have observed that most fans would not see?
Mason: “Once a player continued to complain to a referee and it was a television game, so the ref put a big smile on his face and he said, ‘I’m going to turn my back and when I turn around, you better not be in my sight. You better be gone, mister.’ And he turned around, and the player left, so as not to embarrass the player or the ref or to make it look like they’ve got a confrontation going on on television.
“Michael Jordan once said, coming down the court, he pulled his jersey over his mouth and he said, ‘O.K., that’s four you called on us, I’d like to have one right about now.’ He didn’t get it that trip, but the next trip down they did get it, but it was a legitimate foul.”
Q: What’s your favorite moment that you’ve seen on the court this season?
Mason: “My favorite moment on the court this season… Chauncey Billups making that one second to go shot to send the game to overtime against the New Jersey Nets.”
Q: What is the crowd like here at the Palace?
Mason: “I should use ear plugs. I’m stupid I don’t do it. This is a very hostile arena to play in. They are so hyped in this arena, it is crazy. They’re loud. And teams in the fourth quarter, they can’t hear the coaches’ instructions. They get lost, their eyes get big as pancakes and they get lost with the arena noise and the crowd here.”