By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
As sports fans attend games, little thought is given to the voice narrating the event, the announcer calling out the plays and players alike. Keeping the crowd up to speed is an important job that ironically comes with little recognition. But that’s how Steve Zurbrick liked it. “I’m a behind-the-booth guy,” he said.
Zurbrick held the mic in Wildcat Country for 26 years. In 1994, he took over for Dave Gemmel, who had been the announcer and stat-keeper since 1987. Joining Zurbrick in the press box were Don Maskill, who ran the scoreboard, and Ron Etherton, his spotter.
“Such nice people to work with,” Zurbrick remembered. “They gave me the information I needed. We all worked as a team. We would just talk in-between plays, whatever. It was a great time.”
Back then, gridiron matches were played on the old Pontiac Street field behind Oxford Elementary. Wildcat Stadium opened along with the new high school on N. Oxford Rd. in 2004.
During his career, Zurbrick announced for both his sons Jason (who graduated in 1998) and Matt (2004). But that didn’t bias his coverage.
“I’m a straight public announcer,” Zurbrick said. “I do it for both teams fair. I’m not a homer. It’s very important.” That objective style is how they do it in college and pro games. Although, he admitted he got “excited once in a while when the home team did something great.”
“Everybody’s got your own style,” said Bud Rowley, who coached Oxford’s varsity team from 1982 to 2019. “He was Steve Zurbrick whether you talked to him at the grocery store or you talked to him over the microphone.”
The hardest part was trying to figure out how to pronounce the names of the opposing players. He would print a roster of the other team beforehand, spell their names phonetically and practice saying them out loud.
“He put a lot of time and effort into these games,” his son Jason recalled. His dedication kept him going long after his youngest son graduated, even into the pandemic in 2020. “Dad continued to announce these games as he has a passion for high school sports, especially Oxford Football,” Jason said.
“It was a great time, that’s all I can say,” Zurbrick said. “Just being at the games, I love high school football. Thursday/Friday night, watching the kids grow and become great players. You know, we had three of them go to pros (Eric Ghiaciuc, Dave Rayner and Zach Line), which was great to watch, from middle school on.”
Indeed, Zubrick not only announced the varsity games, he also lent his voice to JV, freshman and middle school teams over the years, with stints in basketball and track as well.
“He did a great job,” Coach Rowley said. “His kids played for me. Never complained, was always there. Just a fine Oxford guy. He did a great job for Oxford.”
By James Hanlon