Oct. 22, 2012
View video "On the Road With Huskie Radio" here
By Matt Scheerer, Assitant Media Relations Director
The Huskie football game at Ball State on October 6 was another thriller that was an excellent illustration of “MACtion.” The Huskies defeated the Cardinals, 35-23, after trailing 23-21 entering the fourth quarter securing their third come-from-behind win.
I was fortunate enough to be at the NIU-Ball State game, my first road trip with the football team since last season’s MAC Championship in Detroit - another fourth quarter comeback. I’m starting to see a trend here…
The game is not what I will remember most about that weekend however.
Back in late July, our Media Relations Office had a staff meeting on the upcoming fall and different ideas we wanted to pursue with new media. Ideas were thrown around and one of those was to follow the Huskie Radio Crew on a road trip and shoot video to make a documentary -- so to speak -- of their life on the road.
To the Huskie faithful, the raspy, yet smooth and excitable sounds of Bill Baker have been music to your ears for the past 33 seasons. In the crammed, Astroturf-lined home radio booth at Huskie Stadium, Baker has been alongside Mark Lindo for 27 years, likely one of the longest radio pairings in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Add sideline reporter Casey Kahler in the mix, who has been with the radio crew since 2006, and you have a seasoned radio crew.
When I arrived at NIU in July of 2011, I was told about Baker, his love of Chinese food and the back roads of the MAC he had traveled to find those restaurants. Then I met Bill, and the stories were all confirmed in my first interaction with him. I told him I had driven out to DeKalb from Washington state on Interstate 80 and he proceeded to tell me about a great Chinese restaurant in Nebraska.
So when I was told by Media Relations Director Donna Turner that I would be accompanying the radio crew to Ball State in September, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only constant I conjured up for the trip was that Chinese food was going to be on the menu at some point. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my preconceived notions, and I’m okay with that.
I was told to meet the crew at Lindo’s house in Oswego, where Baker would pick us up in his wife’s minivan so we could load their equipment and our luggage. When he arrived, I discovered we had an extra guest in former sideline reporter Sid Simmons, who retired from the Huskie Radio Network in 2006, but still joins the guys for a couple road games each year.
I pulled the camera out and caught some of the interplay between the long-time friends, we were underway. They included me in the conversations and we were ready for the rest of four-hour car ride to Muncie, I setup dialogue for the camera and continued to capture banter of the trip.
In the back roads of Indiana, off of Highway 2, we arrived at Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant in Lowell. Both Simmons and Lindo echoed, “it is extremely rare to be on a road trip with Bill and not eat Chinese.” Baker replied, “whenever we go to Ball State or Miami, we always stop at Mi Ranchito. It’s tradition.”
Along the way I heard about Baker’s first game with Northern Illinois in the 1980 season opener at Long Beach State, who no longer even sponsors the sport, and countless other stories about yesteryear at NIU.
I learned that despite driving in the pouring rain and in the dimly lit dusk of the evening, you don’t need windshield wipers. According to Baker, a United States Air Force veteran, “when you’re flying 400 miles per hour in the sky and it’s raining, you don’t have windshield wipers.”
I learned, like all of us, each individual on the crew has suffered his own personal setback and was dealt a bad hand at some point in time. After, and even during, each situation the members of the group rallied together to offer their support for one another. Like a family. A Huskie radio family.
It was a great trip and I’m glad I got the opportunity to spend it with these guys. I don’t want to speak out of line, but I feel like a part of the family now.
The guys told me that my job was to separate fact from fiction on the trip. They may be full of beans 90 percent of the time but, I’ve just given you the real facts -- three members of a family reciting the Huskies trials and tribulations, thrills and chills, throughout the Mid-American Conference to you, the fans of NIU.
The video is now available on NIU Huskies All-Access and can be viewed free of charge here. It is an entertaining piece and will show something completely different than what you have read here.