Nov. 2—The Minnesota Purple Rage, a professional indoor football team that played in the civic center for one season in 2000 before folding, likely didn't leave a big impression on many people.
For TJ Palesotti, however, it was life-changing.
"(When) folks from the civic center downtown came into the radio station to talk about the new football league, I happened to ask, 'Who's your public address announcer?'" Palesotti said. "They were like, 'We never thought about that.'"
Although he had never done public address before, he offered his services in exchange for game tickets for family and friends. And thus was born a new sideline for the longtime radio personality.
This year marks 20 years of him announcing for the MSU Mavericks hockey games and 19 for football. In that time, Palesotti has honed his skills, created call-outs that encourage fan participation, and learned more about the sports he loves.
"I've always wanted to be an athlete (but) was never athletic enough to be successful as an athlete," he joked.
Sitting behind the mic, with knowledgeable folks speaking into his ear with information that he shares with the crowd, he has found a way to be successful announcing the sports he is a fan of.
Director of Athletics Kevin Buisman knows the important role Palesotti plays.
"He has now carved out an identity as the public address voice of Mavericks athletics," Buisman said. "His continuing presence over the years has made him a fan favorite and an iconic part of the gameday experience."
During the day, Palesotti is program/contect director and morning show host at KEEZ/Mix 99.1 for Alpha Media in Mankato.
As the voice of two sports whose seasons overlap, schedules sometimes require some fancy personal puck-handling. But he's always made the trip across town without turning the ball over, Buisman said.
In regard to how the schedule fits into his home life, Palesotti is happy for technology. When football and hockey schedules are announced, he said, they drop into the family's online calendar. All other activities work around them.
"We've been very fortunate that we've been able to do that," he said, referring to his college-aged daughter and 16-year-old son, plus wife Laurie. "The good thing ... is that the rest of my family are hockey fans."
Although a good PA announcer can make the chatter appear light and breezy because it ties in so closely with promotions and educational elements, it's actually heavily scripted.
Sponsors get mentioned in specific ways at certain times, promotions are highlighted and, well, promoted, and live and recorded music happens at orchestrated times. A production team is in constant communication to make sure it happens correctly.
"So, there's a timeline for everything," Palesotti said. "In a game situation, there's about six or seven of us that are all on a headset together throughout the arena. And that includes the person directing, who's usually a grad student from MSU."
Because many in the team have been working together for years, they can guide the new student to make it a better learning experience.
"Students have been awesome (this season). They've learned real quick, and it's fun to hear him in the headset when they do something. And they're like, 'I really liked the way that worked,' you know. And in my mind I'm thinking, 'Good, because that's the way we always do it,'" he laughed.
And how about those crowd-participation moments? When they work, they're great, he said. When they don't, they can hurt.
"The one minute (remaining) at the end of the period is usually announced at most hockey games," he said. Usually there's no response, but a good Minnesota crowd will respond with, "Thank you."
"I started saying, 'You're welcome.' And then we kind of came to the conclusion that we weren't going to do that because they were doing that at the University of Minnesota and their announcer had been doing the same thing."
Then came the game when he didn't say, "You're welcome."
"And I'll never forget that because the first game after, I said, 'One minute remaining,' they all said 'Thank you,' and I said nothing. They booed me."
After some consultation among the powers that be, it was decided that instead of "You're welcome," he would reply, "You betcha." Instant Minnesota success!
Palesotti said he will remain doing the public address as long as he's wanted and enjoys it. It's likely the fans are as excited to hear that as the folks at MSU.
"What he provides to our game and fan experience helps make Maverick athletics special," said Scott Nelsen, senior associate athletic director/marketing and communications. "We couldn't be more grateful for not only what TJ brings to our games every week, but for his family for sharing him with us in the way they do."