Andy Demetra understands that there will never be the perfect call of a game. It doesn’t prevent him for pursuing it, though.
Recently named Georgia Tech’s new broadcasting voice, the tools in Demetra’s chase of the flawless broadcast include meticulous preparation, a habit of self-critique and a weathered sheaf of synonyms.
“You’re trying to place a listener there alongside you, and I love that challenge of trying to build a more vivid picture for a listener,” Demetra said. “That’s why I wake up so excited every day, that challenge of trying to paint a picture more accurately and artfully for an audience.”
Demetra, 35, was hired after seven years as director of broadcasting for the South Carolina radio network, for which he oversaw broadcast production and called Gamecocks basketball and baseball games. (Football has been handled by former South Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis.) He replaces Brandon Gaudin, who ended his three-year tenure as voice of the Yellow Jackets in June to accept positions with EA Sports, the Big Ten Network and Westwood One.
“I’ll tell you first of all, Andy is extremely prepared,” said Tommy Moody, Demetra’s partner on Gamecocks baseball broadcasts. “He paid an incredible amount of detail in that preparation. I cannot overstate that it’s totally amazing to me and a lot of people.”
Raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Ill., Demetra (pronounced De-MET-tra) is the son of a math-teacher mother and a consultant father who majored in math. His brother earned math and economics degrees and is a stock analyst. Demetra’s career path suggests a different type of wiring, but he approaches his craft with an inclination for exactness that might please a mathematician (or an engineer).
When he was about seven, Demetra was already demonstrating his gifts for the narrative, writing short stories on the family computer, when his mother gave him a paperback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. Demetra said he remembers “being mesmerized that there were all these words that could more accurately describe what was on my mind.”
It became his life’s work. In fact, he has come to rely on his own thesaurus. For each sport he broadcasts, he has several pages of terms with synonyms for each. His basketball list is six pages long, single spaced in seven-point font. He has a similar catalog for football, lists that he has added to as he reads, listens to other broadcasters or contemplates during his daily six-mile runs (though a recent hip injury has sidelined him).
He pores over the list about 30 minutes before going on air to work up, in his words, “a mental sweat.” A pass isn’t always merely thrown, he said. It can be zipped, rifled, lobbed or slung, among many other manners of travel.
“I’ve always been kind of sensitive to that, and I always try to challenge myself to be more precise with that description,” he said.
Between games, Demetra listens to his last broadcast as many as five times, probing for mistakes or facets of the call that he could have executed better.
The end products have been professional calls, delivered with a natural radio voice, sprinkled with anecdotes and background and punctuated with passion. It perhaps goes without saying that he loves digging up statistics. He was twice named radio sportscaster of the year by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association. A favorite call among Gamecocks fans was his documentation of a dunk in a Dec. 2015 game against Clemson over a Tigers defender:
“SINDARIUS THORNWELL ELEVATED, DETONATED AND LEFT BITS OF ORANGE SCATTERED UNDER THE BASKET IN GREENVILLE!”
Said Moody, “He’s got a very smooth delivery, he enunciates about as well as anyone you will hear behind the microphone and has a great combination of being cool and then excitable, which fans are going to love.”
In leaving Columbia, S.C., for Atlanta, Demetra is actually tracing the path of a legend. In 1965, Moody said, Tech coaching great Bobby Dodd prevailed upon Gamecocks voice Bob Fulton to call Yellow Jackets football games. He did so for two seasons until Dodd’s retirement after the 1966 season, when South Carolina coach and athletic director Paul Dietzel brought him back.
“He said, ‘Whatever Bobby Dodd’s paying you, I’ll pay you more,’” Moody said.
Fulton ultimately was the Gamecocks’ radio voice for 43 seasons, retiring in 1995, a legend on par with Tech’s Al Ciraldo, who succeeded Fulton in Atlanta. Demetra was drawn to Tech in part by the opportunity to join that lineage, which has also included Wes Durham, Brad Nessler and most recently Gaudin. The chance to call football was also significant.
“I know Andy’s been waiting to do football all his life,” Moody said.
Demetra, married with a five-year-old daughter, was one of almost 70 applicants for the job. Along with football and basketball, he’ll host coaches shows, conduct interviews for the Tech website and also write columns, an outlet he also used at South Carolina.
With his ability, experience at the college level and familiarity with the Southeast, “all the pieces seemed to fit well,” Tech deputy athletic director Brett Daniels said.
Demetra officially started Aug. 15 and has been cramming ever since, pumping Tech knowledge out of analyst Sean Bedford, sideline reporter Randy Waters, Durham and Gaudin. In an interview, he dutifully referenced Tech not as a university but an institute, a distinction that certain graduates of the Georgia Institute of Technology aren’t shy about clarifying.
While watching Jackets’ scrimmages and videos of past games, he has done an internal play-by-play, getting a feel for the offense’s pacing and considering the verbs and nouns he might rely on to depict coach Paul Johnson’s spread-option offense.
He’ll make his debut Monday night with Johnson’s radio show. The first action will be Tech’s first-ever game on international soil, this Saturday against Boston College in Dublin.
“I’m going to embrace it 100 percent and I hope Georgia Tech fans are going to feel that coming from me on the radio,” he said.
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