When Tony Caridi calls a basketball game at the WVU Coliseum, he’s close enough to identify players by their faces. “I don’t even know what number Nathan Adrian wore,” he says, referring to the six-foot-nine forward and Morgantown native who, for the record, wore No. 11.
But calling a game on the gridiron is a different story altogether. “Football is 22 players running into each other with helmets on, about 100 yards away,” Caridi says. So in order to provide listeners with a quality play-by-play, Caridi spends hours each week memorizing the opposing team’s roster. “I want to be able to say, ‘That’s John Smith’—boom, instantly, as soon as that ball hits his hands.”
His preparation begins each Monday when he leaves for his morning walk with Charles Barkley, the family’s wheaten terrier. For those 45 minutes, you’ll find Caridi strolling behind Charlie and studying a depth chart, the paper folded so all the players’ numbers are on one side and their names are on the other. To memorize the list, Caridi creates associations between those numbers and players’ names.
For an example, let’s say a player named Andy Roth—Caridi picks an old elementary school friend’s name for the demonstration—wears No. 16: “Sixteen, don’t even ask me why, is a dish. A dish that’s as big as a flying saucer. Roth, I would associate that with a raft. My son’s name is Andy, so I’d put him in a raft. So when I see 16, I see a dish, I see a raft, I see Andy. Andy Roth.”
It’s a trick he learned from a book he read in college, The Memory Book, by memory training specialist Harry Lorayne and NBA All-Star Jerry Lucas. But there’s no recycling. For the trick to work, he must create new associations for every player in every game. “You have to be able to shock this portion of your brain to get it to remember. You have to shock it with a crazy, stupid image.”
He watches game film about halfway through the week to study each player’s build and gait. “So I can associate those numbers with what they actually look like,” he says. On gameday, he’s assisted in the broadcast booth by a pair of spotters. But if he’s prepared enough, “I should have 90 percent of it,” he says.
For all his memory muscle, Caridi is also talented at forgetting. He does not junk up his brain with piles of unneeded statistics, names, and numbers. When the game is over, he lets it all go. “You flush it. No. 7 next week is going to be a different player, and No. 7 from this week doesn’t stick.”
Catch Caridi’s play-by-plays on WRLF and WZST, found at 94.3 FM and 100.9 FM on your radio dial, respectively. — ZH