"I Did Play by Play on Two Eph Miracle Football Finishes 15 Years Apart"
By Steve Epstein '83
The football book looks so out of place on the lawyer's bookshelf. But there it is, next to the treatises and law review articles—Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys, 100 of the Greatest College Football Finishes (1970-1999) by Ted Mandell.
I'm the lawyer and it's my bookshelf, and the reason the book is there is because this lawyer got to call the play-by-play of maybe the greatest Williams-Amherst football game ever played. Buy the book, which comes with a CD, and re-live the chaos.
I had been Sports Editor of The Record and was Sports Director of Williams College Radio (WCFM), working play-by-play of the football games alongside Sam Flood (now a an executive producer at NBC Sports, with 26 Emmys to his name), Todd Krieg, and Peter Worcester doing stats. The game that was etched in our memories was Williams-Wesleyan 1982, when the Ephs came back to claim a 27-24 victory thanks to a miracle TD toss from junior quarterback B.J. Connolly to junior wide out (and now Grammy winning country singer-songwriter) Marcus Hummon.
There was drama off the field that day, too. I found out about it when I ran into Williams Sports Information Director Dick Quinn at a dinner honoring head coach Dick Farley during the spring of 1997. Quinn shared Farley's account of that day in 1982: After the Ephs gave up the lead in the final minutes, Farley, then the defensive coordinator, threw off his headset in a rage and drove back to Cole Field House before the game ended. On arriving at Cole, Farley learned the Ephs had come back and won! He only believed it after he heard my recap of the miracle Hummon catch and the pandemonium as the goalposts came down.
"One of the greatest wins in the program to that time," said Farley, "And I missed it." Then, as an afterthought, Farley said to Quinn, "This guy is good at calling miracles—we should get him back when we need another one."
Four months later, my office phone rang. It was Dick Quinn. Quinn explained to me that Dick Farley looked like he needed another miracle, this time against a nationally-ranked, undefeated Amherst team that led Division III in scoring defense.
Quinn asked me, now a 36-year-old finance partner in a large law firm, to don the headset one more time. I would be the guest announcer on WCFM, working alongside Williams students Jason Hehir and Matt Marvin to call the fray live on the air and via an Internet feed to alumni. Although I hadn't seen an Eph game that season and would need a lot of help spotting players and pronouncing their names, I agreed on the spot. Three things I've always loved are football, the Purple Valley, and the sound of my own voice.
Just eleven days before the big game, my father, Jesse, passed away after a long illness. Although my dad didn't attend Williams, he had a tremendous love for the college and during my broadcast days became friends with Dick Farley. Dad shared Farley's love of track and field. He would travel to MIT from our Newton home whenever Williams had a meet, just to talk track with Farley. So I spent a day trying to decide if I had the strength to trek to the Purple Valley in the wake of my father's passing. In the end, I decided Jesse would have wanted me to go. So off I went to find another miracle, and revive my dormant radio career.
I arrived at Weston Field eager to meet my broadcast partners, go over the line-ups and get some background on the Eph team. But the broadcast booth in the press box was completely empty. No announcers and no radio equipment.
I tracked down Quinn. Occupied with pre-game requests, he stopped just long enough to explain that the Williams-Amherst soccer game, which was also being broadcast on WCFM, was running long. The broadcast equipment might not arrive before the opening kickoff. "Are we not going to cover the first quarter?" I asked. Dick assured me we'd be on the air before kickoff, then left on other business. I was left wondering how.
Within minutes, a dorm-room telephone had been installed in our broadcast position. Dick asked me to start calling the game by myself, through that phone. I'd done a Williams-Trinity hockey game from a lobby pay phone back in the day, but that was more than 15 years ago. Still, I was game.
Without a spotter or statistician, and unfamiliar with the players on either team, I forged ahead. Within a few minutes it all came back to me and I started having fun, realizing I was experiencing an amazing game. By the end of the first quarter the same Amherst defense that had previous allowed just over seven points per game in seven contests had already surrendered two Williams TDs, and the Ephs led 14-7. Equally as important, I was speaking in complete sentences, more or less, and identifying players I'd never seen before with sufficient competency. It was going well. Quinn even gave me a supportive wink. Was I good? Or, with Marvin and Hehir AWOL, was I just the only game in town?
To be continued in the Amherst game program Nov. 11, 2007.
Steve Epstein is a Partner at Haynes & Boone, LLP in New York City and lives in Rye Brook, NY with his wife Susan, where they raised three children: Michael, Adam, and Jamie. Steve can be ready at a moment's notice to deliver another Eph football miracle.