CHAMPAIGN — Tim Sinclair’s perspective on his work as a public address announcer has shifted considerably in the last two years.
Sinclair’s goal two years ago was to do PA work for one team from the big four professional sports.
Not even a season’s worth. Just a single game for the Champaign native who is the PA announcer for Illinois men’s and women’s basketball games.
Then, the Indiana Pacers PA job came open, and Sinclair got it ahead of the 2018-19 season. An opportunity to work a couple Chicago White Sox games materialized last summer. On Monday, another future opportunity beckons: PA voice of the Chicago Bears.
“Hockey is the only pro sport left,” Sinclair said, “but maybe I’ve got a chance to fill in for (Chicago Blackhawks PA announcer Gene Honda) one of these days.”
The last two years have seen Sinclair work more than just the Pacers. He was tabbed as the PA announcer for the NBA India Games in Mumbai last October, the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago this past February and both the NBA and WNBA in their respective Florida bubbles this summer.
“I never could have predicted I’d go to India and do the games there and a few months later do the All-Star Game and then both bubbles and in the process of that get an NFL job,” Sinclair said. “Had I known to dream this big I would have, but I’d never really thought about it. … There are other things I could do I might be able to make more money or have more time off, but I do it for the experiences not just for me but that I get to share with my kids.”
Sinclair first became interested in pursuing the PA job with the Bears last October when longtime announcer Jim Riebandt announced he would retire after the 2019 season — his 37th with the team. Sinclair ultimately managed to get a couple of auditions and in-person meetings after making his interest in the position known and was officially announced Monday as Riebandt’s replacement.
“I can’t think of too many organizations in sports that are more revered or have a deeper, stronger history than the Bears,” Sinclair said. “The only one that comes to mind is the (New York Yankees). Taking over there now for a guy who was there for almost 40 years holds a lot of weight.
“Chicago is a Bears town and given that responsibility is humbling and a huge honor. I’ve been a fan since we moved here in 1989. It’s been a good long time I’ve followed the Bears. It’s disappointing there won’t be fans right away, but it will also give us a chance to work on some things.”
That the Bears will open the 2020 season without fans in attendance at Soldier Field won’t be anything new for Sinclair. His work in the NBA and WNBA bubbles was the same, although he did note it was weird at first “addressing a public that didn’t exist.”
“For me, it doesn’t take too long to get wrapped up in the game,” Sinclair added. “When you’re actually a fan, you want to react like a fan would react whether there’s 60,000 other fans there or not.”
The NBA’s bubble in Orlando, while odd, was something Sinclair said he was glad he experienced. It created situations like simply being in the same place as the Miami Heat’s Duncan Robinson and having a random 10-minute conversation or swimming with NBA officials.
“Obviously nobody wants this, but I think both leagues have bent over backward to protect players and employees and put up as high a quality product as they can put up given the circumstances,” Sinclair said. “You’re all in the same place and all under the same guidelines. It’s a safe spot for everybody. You don’t have to worry about fans and paparazzi. We got a chance to be ourselves.”
Sinclair intends to keep up with his other public address work even after landing the job with the Bears. Professional football, he said, was the one sport he could add to his already lengthy list of responsibilities. In addition to Illinois men’s and women’s basketball and the Pacers, Sinclair is also the PA voice of the Chicago Fire of the MLS.
“The Bears will be my No. 1 priority if there’s ever overlap,” Sinclair said. “It’s really hard to tell this year because we don’t know when anything is happening. … Obviously the NFL is known for sliding games and moving things around midseason, but the hope is it will only overlap with one or two events. This year it might not overlap with any given the state of sports.”