Game Ops Story

Game Operations Plays Backdrop to Wolves Games
by Rebekah Stivers

The Wolves Game Ops group puts team spirit to music. Every game. And it’s quite a task. Seated high above the crowd, above section 230, the musicians of the Game Operations team are tasked with providing the soundtrack to the play—time-outs, half time, when KG gets a slam dunk, when Wally Szczerbiak goes tough on “D.”

Keyboardist Jeff Victor, Apple™ laptop at hand, has been around since the Wolves’ inaugural season in 1989-90, when they still played in the Dome.

“Tom and I have been here since they were breaking attendance records,” he says. Those were the days when the Dome regularly had 35,000 filled seats. Victor is referring to Tom Bolstad, who controls all the house audio and sound quality.

“It’s like a big family around here. We all know each other, and we all work really well together,” he says. There are actually about 15 in the game operations family, led by Game Operations Manager Greg Vanderwilt, who sits next to the game announcer and keeps constant contact with the team.

Tonight, Tim Miller, the game music operator who works in tandem with Victor to provide musical interludes, examines his schedule from Vanderwilt. “I just tell [Victor] if I want the break,” he says, headphones on. He queues up the next track on his laptop.

It’s an ABC night—and nationally televised games bring a couple twists to the schedule. Timeouts are longer. There is a schedule of advertisements, Public Service Announcements and extended timeouts for commercial breaks. Miller leans in close to his laptop to preview a track before he plays it, then kicks out Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” for the dance team during an extended timeout.

“You’ve got to go with how the crowd is feeling—what night of the week it is, are people drinking beer, do they feel like getting into it,” says Miller.

Both Miller and Victor select tracks for the game from a couple hundred songs pre-recorded on their laptops.

Victor supplements on keyboard. When the opposing team is at the free throw line after a Wolves foul, the crowd gets a wolf howl. Timing and creativity are everything. Tonight he’s having a ball.

“I like to think I keep points off the board,” Victor says. “I just try to entertain people and keep the crowd involved in the game.” He focuses on the play. “Volume is very effective,” he notes, but there are decibel rules when the ball is in play. He cranks it during a time out. Plays “Leave it to Beaver” when Wally subs out

Then “Who Let the Dogs Out” when Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen scores. Now that Madsen is back—he’s off the injury list and getting some playing time after breaking his left thumb a couple months ago—it’s “Bad to the Bone” for Mad Dog, Miller says.

Victor mixes it up—familiar tunes with Victor originals. It takes awhile for the crowd to recognize a new tune, so he relies on the dance team—he watches as he plays “Brazilian Tango,” his own composition, during a time out, while the dance team poms to the beat.

Bolstad, Miller and Victor rarely miss a game. Always cranking out tunes to keep the crowd pumped up.

They play the Flintstones™ theme at the end of every quarter. “I like to think of the action on the court as a big cartoon,” Victor laughs.