David Cloninger

Call it: Andy Demetra paints the picture for Gamecock Nation

Voice of the Gamecocks Andy Demetra describes the action during USC’s game against Mississippi State.
Voice of the Gamecocks Andy Demetra describes the action during USC’s game against Mississippi State. gmelendez@thestate.com

“The game is over! The game is over! The wait is over! The Gamecocks are the national champions!”

– June 29, 2010

He doesn’t script them. Even when preparing for a potential watershed moment in South Carolina athletics history, Andy Demetra doesn’t jot down a phrase or two to use if it happens.

“I said the game is over twice,” recalled Demetra, the Gamecocks’ men’s basketball and baseball radio play-by-play voice since 2009. “Somewhere between the first and second, something in my brain said, ‘It’s not just the game is over, the wait is over.’ I was in disbelief, like everybody, that South Carolina had finally won the national title.”

Tens of thousands of layups and pitches called over his career, and he still meticulously works each broadcast like it’s his first. Charts, statistics and words are all part of Demetra’s preparation as he broadcasts to Gamecock Nation.

He has some verbiage, as Frank Martin once told him, and Demetra also appreciates USC’s past.

“When I signed off (at the College World Series), I thought, ‘I hope I did Bob Fulton justice.’ We all know Bob deserved to have that call,” Demetra said. “And over that summer, I met so many people who told me how much they appreciated it, and some that played it as their ringtones … it was humbling to call something that meant so much to so many. Hopefully, I’ll have a few more of those in my time at USC.”

“Sindarius Thornwell elevated, detonated and left bits of orange scattered under the basket in Greenville!”

– Dec. 18, 2015

Demetra knew early that his path might break from his family’s math-oriented backbone. He liked numbers – something evident in number-crunching for “Inside the Chart” features – but words were better.

“My mother gave me a paperback copy of Roget’s thesaurus when I was 7, and I was amazed that there were so many words that could describe any one thing,” he said. “Once I heard play-by-play, it seemed the perfect marriage of sports and creative ways to use the language.”

Demetra began honing his craft at the Syracuse campus radio station, aiming to be a TV sports anchor. Radio was a safety bet, TV being a hard foothold to find.

Nearly six months without a TV offer turned into two radio offers in 24 hours. One was a Division II job in Detroit. The other was USC women’s basketball.

“I knew within the first week of moving that I had really found a wonderful place,” he said. “Friendly people, beautiful campus, loyal fans.”

Broadcasts were always worked on, in-season or not. A 35-to-40-mile a week runner, Demetra would think of descriptions or adjectives while exercising, or write a phrase he heard on the car radio on a scrap of paper. Listening to the Seattle SuperSonics while preparing a chart would clue him into how Kevin Calabro could describe the action, and Chicago Bulls/Bears announcers helped out as well.

Fulton, especially, coached Demetra on how to mix broadcasting and USC.

“He told me, ‘It’s OK to lean, but you never want to cheer,’” Demetra said. “If you try to sugarcoat things too much, or you try to let your allegiance distort the reality, you’re not giving an accurate picture of what you’re doing.”

USC women’s basketball was on the downslide. Demetra learned another lesson – win or lose, the play-by-play man has to walk the line between being excited for the job, but not being down because of the team’s lack of success.

“You have no control over wins and losses. That’s no excuse to not have enthusiasm and passion for your job,” he said. “You owe it to your audience to be honest.”

“They’ve done it again! Back-to-back, for the garnet and black!”

– June 28, 2011

Demetra took a position with IMG College in 2006 as production manager. Instead of doing strictly play-by-play, he was doing studio hosting and production, helping call ACC and Big East games for national broadcasts.

It was a good career move, but Columbia was always in the back of his mind. In April 2009, the Gamecocks had an opening.

“I always thought if there was an opportunity to come back, I’d jump at it,” he said. “This was for men’s hoops and baseball together, as their director of broadcasting. So I would put together the elements, billboards and liners in and out of breaks, and scene-setters.”

Just over a year later, he was preparing for a broadcast that he knew would be remembered, for better or for worse, by every person who’d ever worn garnet and black.

He prepped the way he always did. Demetra charted UCLA’s lineup, noted its pitching statistics and didn’t write down any potential phrases. And the way the game went, he needed to say what was happening, not what could.

“By that point, I had gotten very superstitious and didn’t want to think of a great call only to see UCLA win the next two and make me feel like I’d jinxed them,” he said. “And then that game … you’re so focused on getting the details right, you can’t daydream about what you want the call to be.”

Whit Merrifield swung, Scott Wingo scored and Demetra’s call was entrenched in the USC lexicon. Looking back on it, he’s glad he hit the broadcaster’s goal – do it as right as possible, because there is no take 2 – and has hoped to make every call since a little bit better.

“I can go back to the last and listen to a dozen different things and say I could have done that better,” he said. “Maybe that word wasn’t good, I didn’t tee up the analyst, my pacing wasn’t good. But it sharpens your focus for the next time. You only get one shot to paint the picture, so I think any broadcaster is going to be super-critical of everything he does.”

Basketball partner Casey Manning has seen – and heard – the improvement.

“Very hard-working, very enthusiastic, loves trivia and details,” Manning said. “I watched him grow up, so to speak, and it’s a pleasure working with someone so dedicated to his craft. He has a great feel for the game, vision and knowledge because he works so damn hard at it.”

Demetra got to call another national championship in 2011, and chronicled the rise of Martin’s team from a 14-win squad to a group that could set USC’s all-time wins record. There have been moments – the Gamecocks beating No. 1 Kentucky, winning a nutty SEC tournament game against Ole Miss – and he’s hoping for a few more.

He won’t script it beforehand. He’ll prepare, study – then deliver.

“I ran track and cross country in high school, and I’d never run without warming up first. Same thing in broadcasting,” Demetra said. “Sometimes you say the right thing at the right time the right way, and people remember it.”

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