Echoing 'The Voice' of Franklin Field
At home opener, C.T. Alexander officially passed announcing torch to son John
September 22, 2011, 12:33 am · Updated September 23, 2011, 1:24 am·
The mid-September scene unfolded like the 50 before it, with Penn football players streaming onto Franklin Field as the team’s yearly introduction resonated throughout the stadium:
And here they come, your Penn Quakers!
The words hadn’t changed, but the voice had.
Saturday, for the first time in 51 years, it was not C.T. Alexander who held the position of Franklin Field’s public address announcer and the honor of relaying the game’s details to thousands of fans. It was the retired C.T.’s son, John.
Tremendous weight rode on John’s vocal chords, a weight that comes with replacing an announcing institution as synonymous with Penn football as the Quaker and the toast.
C.T. embraced his title as “The Voice of Franklin Field.” His passion for Penn football turned game days into a family affair, with young John and eventually daughter Linda joining him in the press box as ‘spotters’ — binocular-wielding assistants who identify the details of each play, such as intended receiver, primary tacklers and defenders in coverage.
Joined by John’s wife and four kids, the Alexanders packed the north side stands as usual Saturday, only their positions had shifted: Linda became the primary spotter, while C.T. proudly looked on just a few feet from his traditional perch, wearing his classic uniform of a blue sweater vest and khakis.
And this time, John was tasked with echoing “The Voice.”
Despite a mid-week cold that had John fretting over whether his own voice would “hold up,” the son’s striking tone never succumbed to the pressure with a tremble or even a stutter.
His first scoring call came on a 21-yard field goal attempt by Penn’s Connor Loftus: The kick is good, making the score Penn, 3, Lafayette, 0.
As fate would have it, later in the half came one of the wildest plays Franklin Field had seen in years — lineman Brian Giesecke blocked an extra point, which cornerback Justyn Williams scooped up and took 92 yards for a two-point conversion, making the score Lafayette, 13, Penn, 12.
Once Alexander coolly navigated that chaos without getting tongue-tied, he knew the rest would be smooth sailing.
“I made a couple mistakes, but I felt like it went well overall,” he said after the game.
His debut as successor was a long time coming. The process to reserve Row 24, Seat 1 for John took a full-on campaign to friends, family and alumni, including a pair of endorsement letters written by C.T. and hand-delivered to Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky and President Amy Gutmann.
It also took an Oct. 2, 2010, tryout during the Quakers’ Ivy opener against Dartmouth, during which the new voice tried his hand at announcing in preparation for an eventual full-time gig.
After overcoming jitters last year, John said he felt comfortable as soon as Saturday’s game began. His father, meanwhile, described his transition from announcer to spectator in one word: “relief.”
With the leader sidelined for good, John adjusted his game plan accordingly. No longer could John just show up on game day and double check his father’s pre-game work. This time, he had sole responsibility for researching the Lafayette roster for numbers and pronunciations, consulting Penn trainer Fran Murray about Quakers’ injuries and gathering the information in an eye-friendly spreadsheet.
And he was the one executing C.T.’s signature final step, which requires Listerine and a sense of humor.
“Now be honest, how many times did you gargle?” a straight-faced C.T. asked his son after it was over.
“I did a double-length gargle before I left,” John quipped back.
But as for taking on his father’s illustrious title as “The Voice,” John feels much more hesitant.
“I love that moniker, but one, he’s an icon and that’s kind of stealing from him, and two, it’s a different thing now — we have two voices,” John said in reference to Rich Kahn, who broadcasts advertisements during the game. “I think we’re going have to come up with a more appropriate nickname that doesn’t exclude Rich’s voice.”
When his son finished speaking, C.T. broke from his thoughtful silence and considered the question. What should you call a man who has practically been raised in the stands of Franklin Field?
“Sort of like ‘The Soul,’” he offered.