STORY No. 26
Putney, Fort Lewis College Ski Team
|Peter Graves in the booth at the 2011 World Nordic Championships in Oslo, NOR.|
BEHIND THE MIC
As a kid my ski jumping experiences were limited, I jumped a bit in high school, but largely was a cross-country skier in both high school and college. I don’t think I really had the guts to be a ski jumper and to be honest, I’ve always had a little fear of heights. So you can understand perhaps why I admired them so, their skill and their daring.
I don’t recall now exactly when, but as a child my parents took me to Brattleboro to watch the Harris Hill events, probably in the late fifties or early sixties, they loved to watch the sport and they spoke often of the exploits of the Art Devlin and the Tokle and Barber families. From the very fragments of my childhood memories I knew I wanted to be a part of this world.
When jumping was on TV, mostly on the acclaimed ABC’s Wide World of Sports, my dad and I would devour the event and dream of these amazing athletes displaying their skill and verve on the hill. The TV transported us from our little living room in Vermont to a glamorous place in a magical town like Innsbruck or Oberstdorf. We were hooked.
I have announced some manner of ski jumping for more than 30 years, since my first time at the mic, during a college meet, while I was a student at Fort Lewis College. It was the ski jump at the Purgatory Ski area outside Durango. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I guess I found my way and people seemed to like it. In those days college jumping was the final event, and the energy of the crowd was infectious.
I was lucky to be hired by ABC Sports to do cross-country skiing at the Lake Placid Games, and got another test of the TV scene then. Just a year later, a little start-up cable tv operation was starting up in Connecticut, called ESPN. Their experiment was to have 24 hour a day television sports and they were in desperate need of programming. So they bought on the cheap some ski jumping and cross-country shows from the FIS.
As the buildings were being constructed in Bristol, there were only blue porta-potties outside, Jim Simpson and I voiced over ski jumping from a under-construction garage and the tv monitor we called the action from was on a cardboard box. From there it went, I got to indulge in a favorite sport, make a little cash, all while it gave me a joyous trip of a lifetime and allowed me to help promote the sport.
When my son Willy got into the sport it was so exciting for me, I was thrilled and proud, and always have been. He performed well, saw the world, learned a lot and made wonderful friends along the way.
I love the rich heritage of the sport, and the people that are involved on so many different levels. I have been blessed to make the greatest friends of my life thru skiing.
From ski flying at Copper Peak, to many US National Championships to Olympic Games at Lake Placid, Calgary, Salt Lake and Vancouver I have been lucky enough to have done either TV commentary or PA announcing and it’s been really transformative experience. Every jumped looked so big, so majestic it gave me a profound sense of awe. Just as it does every time I drive into Lake Placid, even today, or other ski jump towns.
Looking back, perhaps one of the most joyous, yet humbling experiences was being an PA announcer at the 2011 FIS World Nordic Championships at Holmenkollen in Oslo. As if it was today, I can recall getting settled in the announce booth ready to do ski jumping and gazing out over Oslo and the huge crowd of fans assembled. I was lucky to have good friend Kris Severson there as the producer of the live show that week. We had worked together in SLC and Vancouver and we could read each other pretty well, having been in the trenches at big events before. Having him there helped calm me.
Before the first day, I looked out the booth window to the colorful crowd below, and took several deep breathes, there were tears in my eyes. Holy shit, I thought, this is Holmenkollen, the sport’s iconic meeting place. I hope I am up to the task, I hope I’ve got it today, even how did I get here…I mean I couldn’t really believe I was there. I had always dreamed of announcing there, but thought it was beyond my grasp.
It proved to be one of my professional life’s most profound experiences…I let the fear go, and announced like I was a fan–just like I was so many years ago. Needless to say, it was an amazing week, which I will never forget. And I thank all the folks who worked with me, encouraged me and gave me support on this path of learning and growth for allowing me to share your world of sport.
Editor’s note- USA Ski Jumping is extremely fortunate to have Peter as our Director of Communications and Public Relations. His knowledge of the sport and his reputation in the industry gives us a look, feel, and presence that can not be bought. Thank you, Peter. And BTW- my favorite Peter Graves story was watching him announce an event for ESPN in Lake Placid in the mid-80’s when he had a bout with Bell’s Palsy which had half his face paralyzed. He could only enunciate if he held his slack cheek high. Whatever it took… the show DID go on!