Broadcasting a Game with Coronavirus | Vandermeer's View

I had COVID. There, I said it. I hadn't gone public with it before today. Not that I was ashamed of it, it was more like I didn't think it was anyone's business, but here I am outing myself because I think it's an interesting story and it was a significant part of my 2020 season.

I tested positive during the week before a home game. We were coming off of a road game, most of which were broadcast off monitors at NRG Stadium. We were all well-distanced during broadcasts and some of the guys had already had it anyway.

I started to feel 'run down' during the week and was basically in denial. I've felt like this before, so I didn't think too much of it. One morning, my wife woke up and felt off-the-mark as well and said, "Run down? This isn't run down! I'm getting tested." Whoops.

After she tested positive, I did too. It was Thursday and the game was coming up way too fast. That night, the symptoms ratcheted up significantly: chills, fever and lung pain. I was already banished from the building and my streak of calling every game in the history of the franchise was about to end.

I thought about who I might be able to get to replace me. This wasn't professionally pleasant either. In over 30 years of broadcasting, (geez, I don't feel that old) I have never missed a game of any kind.

Then, I realized that my broadcast partner, Andre Ware, calls just about every ESPN game from his house. I remembered that Kirk Herbstreit called a game from home while his partner, Chris Fowler, was at the stadium. I started to think that we could pull off something similar.

Not to get too technical, but I would need a 'real time' feed to call the game from home and have Andre at the stadium. Anyone who has tried to listen to us at home during a game knows that the TV feed is delayed by about ten seconds (depending on what service you subscribe to).

We weren't sure that we could get an up-to-the-second feed at my house, so Andre would need to be okay with being at his house and me at my house while we describe the action off a regular TV broadcast feed if necessary. We had wireless radio units installed in our houses so we could be live on the network though the flagship station, Sports Radio 610. You following this?

Andre was more than happy to do whatever it took to keep us together. We are one of the longest running tandems NFL radio. He's also an unbelievably nice guy. Unsolicited, he dropped off an oil drum-sized container of chicken soup and plenty of food and groceries at my house. I asked him for the Heisman Trophy too, figuring I could get away with it as an ill man, but he wasn't buying that.

Gameday arrived. As for my physical condition, I felt like I was ready to perform the dinner scene in Alien. We couldn't get a usable real time feed going and made the decision, 30 minutes prior to kickoff, to call the game right off television. The biggest issue now was that Robert Henslee (our producer), David Obert (our engineer) and John Harris would all be seeing the action ten seconds before we would.

We would hit Johnny on the sideline coming out of commercial breaks to not disrupt the timing between plays. Our studio producer, Ryan Rockett, had to feed delayed crowd noise across the network with our words. It was an audio tight rope walk for the crew but we all got through it.

I was pretty sick, but adrenaline, hot tea and most of the over-the-counter medications available at H-E-B carried me through as I called a Texans game from home, basically in my pajamas. No one could tell because everyone on the broadcast kept their heads on a swivel.

The next week was the bye week, so I could rest up and get back to normal. The illness wasn't easy. I know people who have had few symptoms or none at all. Of course, many have had it worse. I skipped out on the weekday Texans Radio shows the next few days, something I had never done.

All is better now. It was a strange campaign to say the least, and I thought I'd share my untold story from a season we'd like to forget.

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