No 'mailing' it in here: Local sportscasters get creative in keeping their skills sharp
Joe Buck is calling indoor Nerf basketball games. Josh Lewin is tick-tocking all the action at dinner time, like the other day's leftover asparagus and potatoes.
And Neal Ruhl, he's describing, with amazing detail and energy, the daily delivery of his mail.
With sports pretty much entirely shut down across the globe, broadcasters, locally and nationally, are curing their boredom by continuing their craft — with some hilarious results.
"You know what, it was one of those things I thought would resonate with people," said Ruhl, a Washington Township resident who broadcasts Oakland University basketball and other Golden Grizzlies sports, and is the voice of Detroit City FC. "As the days were going on, I found myself getting excited about the mail, because it was something to do.
"Something you take for granted became an exciting part of my day, and I figured probably everybody feels the same way.
"It's kind of like going on parole to get the mail."
Ruhl started broadcasting his daily "Mail Time" last week, going over in impressive detail each piece that's delivered. Things get really exciting when there's a package, like the shirt from Express his wife Silvia recently purchased.
The daily videos (Sunday excluded, of course) include some of Ruhl's favorite on-air catch phrases, like "Of course," and his signature sign-off, "Welp, see ya later!" He also provides the occasional glimpse of his well-kept neighborhood, including one trash day, when "things are about to get lit!"
The videos already have been viewed thousands of times, and it's catching on so much, recent installments have included a fistful of cards and postcards from fans wanting to get in on the action.
On Monday, there was even a bonus episode, as Ruhl had to put outgoing mail — a birthday card and some thank-you notes from his son's birthday party — into the mailbox. One day last week, he even spotted the mail truck a street over, and got some quality, impromptu video.
"That one was gold," Ruhl said, laughing. "I ran out on the deck for that one."
The daily videos, which actually are supported by his sponsors at Oakland, have become a much-needed light moment for a month (and counting) that has caused many broadcasters stress in the financial department.
Ruhl is no different. He said April is among his worst months to have off, and it's set to cost him thousands — including a Pistons game he was supposed to do on the radio, two DCFC matches, and several ESPN soccer matches.
"I'm not crying, and I don't want anyone to cry for me," Ruhl said. "Because you look around social media now and you're starting to see people you know, and people you know's parents.
"I'm healthy, my family's healthy, so everything's cool from there."
In "pilot" episodes of "Mail Time," Ruhl grabbed the letters barehanded. He now is wearing yellow gloves.
Other local broadcasters are dabbling in side "gigs" too.
Fox Sports Detroit's Matt Shepard, who calls the Tigers, recently filmed a promo broadcasting his son's darts skills, and asked viewers to send in their clips to have him call them, too.
FSD's Ken Daniels, who does the Wings, recently shot a video with his dog — Jack Daniels, of course — in a "home" Wings No. 7 jersey, given five food options to choose from. (He chose the treat that was wrapped around a replica Stanley Cup, if you would believe that.) Ken Daniels wore a tie and headset.
And Dan Dickerson, the radio voice of the Tigers, is trying to stay busy, too. Last week, on what would've been the Tigers' season opener, he did a 20-minute first inning — Miguel Cabrera homered — on which he spent as much as two hours prepping for. He even researched individual batting stances, like Jose Ramirez's and C.J. Cron's, and wrote out scenarios.
"I was inspired by the old broadcasters that did it on the ticker tape," Dickerson said late last week, after walking his dogs, Finn, a Golden Retriever, and Wally, a Chocolate Lab. "It blows my mind that they could do it. I was exhausted after doing it one inning. Cabrera hit a home run, the wind was blowing out to right-center, left to right. It was 2-1 after one, and the Tigers go on to win, 4-3. It was exhausting!
"Maybe I'll do another inning after the All-Star break."