10 Questions with Mark Blashford
Lady Lions basketball announcer has more on the ball
By Megan Dutill ‘13
College Relations Intern
For Mark Blashford, work has meant holding a microphone, not a briefcase.
For the past year and a half, the junior Schreyer Scholar has been the official announcer for the Lady Lions basketball games. He has fist-pumped Coach Coquese Washington before every game, announced plays and helped to entertain an arena of fans during halftime.
Mark is just as comfortable taking center stage as he is being on the sidelines. He’s double-majoring in theatre in the College of Arts & Architecture and English in the College of the Liberal Arts, and his hobbies include playing the banjo and writing songs.
Due to scheduling conflicts, Mark may have just announced his last game of the season. But we still got the chance to catch up with him and ask him “10 Questions” about announcing for the Lady Lions and his experience at Penn State.
- So, how did you get this gig of announcing Lady Lions games?
I saw an ad in The Daily Collegian saying they needed a new announcer, and so I went and auditioned. We were given a script, and we just sat down at the table, put on the mic and read the script, which was player introductions and commercials. Then they called back people, and we did it for the coach. I didn’t think I was going to get it -- there were some really experienced people and good-sounding radio announcers so I just decided, “I’ll be crazy!” I yelled into the mic and pretended that I was the genie in “Aladdin,” Robin Williams. It worked out because the coach likes that and really connected with that. It was really cool.
- Where did you sit – on the press box or on the floor?
I’ve been on the floor, at the scores table. I did introductions, commercials and sponsors, and games during halftime, like the Kiss Cam – where the camera pans the audience and the couple it settles on has to kiss. But during the actual game I just announced shots, who scored, fouls, substitutions and time-outs. I had a spotter who would help me if I missed a shot or, if there was a foul and I missed the number, he’d get it.
- What is the best game that you ever announced? Why?
Last year’s Ohio State game was really fun. We won but it was a tight game – it sticks out as a well-fought game, a really good back and forth. Any game that Maggie Lucas is on and hitting all her threes is phenomenal. In general, the Pink Zone is probably the best game. Coach Quese has done a whole fundraising drive to raise money for cancer research and breast cancer awareness. At the Pink Zone game, everyone wears pink. The players wear pink uniforms, they have a pink ball, and they bring in breast cancer survivors in the area and raise a lot of money. It’s really cool. And yes, I’ve worn pink, too.
- What is your worst nightmare about announcing?
The worst thing that could happen – other than losing my voice or having both teams sub in five players at the same time, so there’s 10 players in front of me and I miss all their names – the worst thing that could happen is I’d be handed my script and I’d miss a part when I’m checking the names. I check all my names beforehand, and any name that I have to say I get a pronunciation on it and double-check to make sure the pronunciation is on the script. But there will be times that it’s the player of the week and I don’t know how to pronounce it, and it’s the most awkward thing ever. I feel really bad and it’s really unprofessional.
- Have you ever found yourself announcing things in real life?
I have. It’s really, really, really tempting to announce the Lady Lions’ names on campus when is see them, and I have done that before. One time Alex Bentley and Julia Trogele were coming out of Subway downtown, and I was down the street and just announced their names. I try not to do that because it’s kind of embarrassing for them but they were just like, “Hey!”
- What’s your favorite part of announcing?
I don’t even have to think about that – definitely introductions! That’s when it’s just me and everyone’s listening, the lights are down, the band is playing, and it’s super exciting. That’s showtime!
- What are some other cool jobs that you’ve had?
I worked as a camp counselor for Project Forward Leap, which is a month-long summer program for inner city kids. It’s from sixth to ninth grade, for kids from the Philly, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Lancaster areas. They come to college campuses around the Commonwealth and take classes. I got to TA a class for them, and that was fun. I’ve also been an ice boy, delivering the bags of ice to convenience stores, and I was a life guard before I got the job announcing. I also had this amateur clown thing going on in high school and at camp. His name was Wobbles, and I would ride a unicycle and do a little bit of juggling. Someday, I’m going to devote a lot of time to that.
- In addition to being a part-time clown, you play the banjo. How did you get into that?
Well, my brother played one, so I picked up his banjo and was messing around with it. I heard a CD of the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song with Earl Scruggs playing the banjo. There’s something about his banjo – many players will say they heard him play and said, “I want to do that!” That’s what happened. I heard that song and said, “I want to do that!” For awhile there I was writing songs, too. I’ve been in four bands – Bridge Ride, Forest of Fire, The Old Growth and the Zen Bats. The Zen Bats are a band from home so we only play or record over breaks, but we’re still going on. You can find us online!
- You’ve also been able to go to India and work in an orphanage with a travel grant from the Honors College. What was that experience like?
That’s one opportunity that I would not have had without the Honors College, and it’s definitely a defining experience of my college career. I went the summer after my freshman year. We went to India for three weeks and did all kinds of stuff for two orphanages for boys and girls. We dug a trench to lay down wires for Internet and phone, we knocked out and replaced every window in the girls’ home because there was termite damage and we built a little bridge over a stream. We’d do that during the day, and then at night play with the kids and tutor them with their homework. Spending that long in India is eye-opening – I’m very glad I went.
- What do you mean by “eye-opening”?
Well, there was definitely some culture shock coming back. I feel really cliché but it does change your perspective on clothing, food, and what your priorities are – how you prioritize your life and what’s important. To some people, what’s important is just getting food and places to stay, and here we are complaining about some Gen Ed class or something. They would love to take that class – any class! The kids value school and education so much more than the average middle-schooler in the U.S. – and I really take indoor plumbing for granted! I think everyone should have an experience like that, if they can. I know I was very fortunate and it was a fantastic experience.