Through The Lens: The Voice of the Blue Eagles
For the past forty-one years if you have attended a football game or girls or boys basketball game, it is likely you have heard the voice of Neil Marshall announcing the game. You may not have seen him, but the unmistakable clear and deliberate sound of his voice told you the players’ names and the games actions.
Neil start life out at the New Martinsville Hospital back in 1944. His parents were George and Glena Marshall. His father was a well-known and liked teacher of shop, industrial arts and mechanical drawing at Magnolia for many years.
When I asked what he remembered about growing up in New Martinsville he quickly responded, the kids in the neighborhood and the fun we use to have. He spoke about the fun and joy of growing up at a time when kids felt safe playing around the neighborhood during the day time and after dark. He told me about a system the neighborhood parents came up with to call their kids in from play. Each kid’s parents had a specific whistle to call for the child. Neil’s come home signal was two longs and one short whistles from his parents
Neil went on to explain, back then Bruce Park and pool was the center of the community. Life for any kid growing up took center stage at the park. In the summer time the sounds of kids laughing and playing could be heard every day. And from Bruce pool the center of enjoyment the sounds of splashing and happy voices were abundant. He talked about how kids swam in the morning, in the afternoon and the evening. He also talked about the hierarchy of your position around the top of the pool. The younger you were the closer you sat on the rail near the steps. As you grew older you moved further away from the steps. I asked if any of his ventures in to the pool were after lights out. He laughed as he said yes. I understood from his explanation that during his growing up years, the community was a safe place he remembers as home. He also wonders why those days are no longer part of our town.
Next I asked about his being an optometrist in the community for many years and how did he choose that career. He explained while at the university filling out his application, he thought about Doctor Early, “he’s an optometrist, he don’t hurt anyone, there is no blood…and he makes a good income.” That’s what he wrote for a career on his application not knowing what it took to be an optometrist.
After college Neil spent two years in the Army. Returning home after his service time he settled into life as a member of the community and hometown optometrist. Then in 1980 Neil took on the job of announcing for the Blue Eagles football team. I asked how it came to him to be invited to be the team’s announcer. He explained that while watching a football game one Friday night he made several comments about the announcer’s game knowledge, or the lack of. The individual did not have an understanding of the game. Clearly team formations on defense and offense were not understood. Shortly their after George Mullet asked him into the office. Mr. Mullet asked if he would like to take on the job announcing the remaining games. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Neil’s skills of understanding football formations and game strategy’s comes from his being part of the 1961 perfect season team.
At first he announced only home football games. But with time he began announcing for both the girls and boys basketball teams. Given his career began forty-one years ago and he has missed very few games, a ball park estimate for the number of games Neil has worked has to be nearly a thousand.
I asked if he prepares for the games and is it hard to catch all the action. He explained he works with a spotter, without them, he would have a difficult time seeing all the players involved in the play on the field. Most of the time his spotter is his wife Ann. She uses binoculars to see the players and then passes the player’s number onto Neil who announces it. Over the years he has work with several people who spots for him. Early in the week of the games, he gets the team rosters’ to familiarize himself with names and numbers.
Over the last four decades, Neil has witness the Blue Eagles have several winning seasons. And along the way he has seen them struggle to put a win on their side of the score card. Throughout those years he has witness them rally to a victory and stumble with a win in hand. Yet for Neil, he has maintained an evenness to his game calling. He maintains an even tone to his voice giving credit to both sides of the field. Maintaining impartiality can be difficult, but he has maintained that evenness for all those years.
Knowing he has spent forty one years in the press box, I asked what does the future hold for you. He explained it may be time for someone to come along and work with him so he could give them the wisdom of his years behind the microphone. Then when Neil is ready, he can step away from the press box, back to that seat he was sitting in when he heard that long ago announcer struggling to figure the proper calls on the field. Maybe than he can enjoy watching the Blue Eagles as just a fan Through the Lens.