Until the other day, I never really understood why Marc Daniels has been broadcasting UCF games for all this time.
In my opinion, he is good enough, smart enough and smooth enough to be the radio voice of his beloved New York Yankees or the L.A. Lakers, or perhaps he could be sitting in the Monday Night Football booth alongside Jon Gruden.
But after a recent conversation with Daniels as he gets ready to start his 20th season as UCF's radio play-by-play voice with Saturday's game against Penn State in Ireland, I think I finally get why he's remained in Orlando all these years. Because it's his home and UCF is his school (even though his diploma says "University of Florida") and all of you out there in radio land are his friends.
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Like so many iconic college play-by-play broadcasters, Daniels is woven into the fabric of his program by shared experiences with fans and players and coaches over months and years and decades.
"I always come across people who say, 'Oh my God, your daughter's in college? I remember when she was born and you talked about it on the air,' " Daniels says. "Or, they'll say, 'I remember when you got married.' I love hearing stuff like that because, in a way, it shows that we've all sort of grown up together. I love the fact that local radio personalities have a common bond and connection with their listeners. Being in this job for 20 years has been a dream come true."
In other words, the boys on the national broadcasts may be known, but they aren't loved. Not like Daniels, who is the only voice a generation of Knights fans have ever heard. At UCF, where games only recently starting being nationally televised on a regular basis, Daniels has been the eyes and ears of fans at hundreds of games spanning thousands of miles.
His first season was Daunte Culpepper's first season, which means he has been there for every game of the modern era of UCF football. He saw coach Gene McDowell start the process of getting UCF into the big-time and has witnessed George O'Leary actually draw the map and then put UCF on it.
Daniels was there for UCF's first Division 1 game, first conference game, first conference championship game, first bowl game and first BCS bowl game.
He's been there through the frustrations, celebrations — and investigations.
He's been there through the cheers, the smears — and the crying-in-your-beers.
He's been there for nearly 250 football games and more than 1,000 broadcasts when you include football, basketball and baseball.
He's been there for UCF athletic events at more than 150 different campuses, including five in Louisiana alone — Southeast Louisiana, Northeast Louisiana, Southwest Louisiana, Louisiana Tech and McNeese State.
He's been there broadcasting from some of the largest football stadiums in the country (see Penn State) and the smallest Division 1 basketball gymnasium in the nation (see Campbell). He's been there to tell us about a young Ben Roethlisberger playing against UCF or that up-and-coming quarterback from Purdue named Drew Brees or what about that cardiac kid from Virginia Tech — Michael Vick?
We've heard Daniels choke up and actually cry on the air when UCF beat Baylor last season to win the Fiesta Bowl.
"I'm not afraid to admit it," Daniels says. "I got emotional and the tears started to flow. That victory just meant so much to so many people who sacrificed to build the program."
We've heard him get mad on the air like the 1999 "Burglary Between the Hedges" when Southeastern Conference officials robbed UCF of an almost certain victory over Georgia with a phantom offensive pass interference call in the final seconds.
"It was a travesty," Daniels remembers. "You know it had to be bad when the great Larry Munson [Georgia's legendary radio play-by-play man] came into our broadcast booth afterward and apologized because he even knew that the call was wrong."
And we've heard him be sad on the air like in 1997 when Daunte was running for a 2-point conversion to win the game against Ole Miss and inexplicably tripped and fell down inches from the goal line.
"I've seen some heartbreaking moments," Daniels says.
He's also seen some heartfelt moments like when little ol' UCF led big bad Nebraska at halftime back in '97 but ended up losing.
"I remember their team standing off to the side and their fans giving our team a standing ovation as we left the field," Daniels recalls.
Listening to Daniels is like opening up a history book of UCF football — except he makes the history engaging and colorful and animated like only he can. And he makes the history actually come to life because, well, he was there living it and dying it, laughing it and crying it right along with UCF's fans.
"I've been lucky that I've had the chance to broadcast so many firsts in this program's history," Daniels says. "And the most exciting part of all is that there are still a lot of firsts still to be accomplished. It's been a privilege to do this job for 20 years."
Happy anniversary, Marc Daniels.
Thank you for entertaining and informing us for all of these years.
Thank you for painting the picture of UCF in the theater of our minds.
Thank you for 20 years of radio magic.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740 AM.