College sports are all about highs and lows, and Robert Portnoy doesn’t mind going along for the emotional ride.
The University of New Mexico’s play-by-play announcer for baseball, football and men’s basketball doesn’t pretend to be objective or neutral in his descriptions. He’s essentially paid by the school’s athletic department, and his broadcasts are aimed at Lobos fans.
“I definitely do games through a cherry-and-silver lens,” he said.
Emotions also play a role. Portnoy can sound almost ecstatic when New Mexico gets on a roll and the decibel level decreases when the bad guys have things their way.
It’s no surprise, then, that many of Portnoy’s best and worst moments coincide with UNM successes and failures. Here are a few examples.
• NOV. 14, 2015: UNM football’s 31-24 upset win at heavily favored Boise State came on the same night when Albuquerque’s Holly Holm shocked UFC’s unbeaten Ronda Rousey. Portnoy spent much of the game on pins and needles.
“We were following Holly Holm on social media in the booth,” he said. “After she kicked Ronda Rousey into oblivion, our game came down the wire. When (UNM’s) Markel Byrd made the clinching tackle on the last play, man, that was just off the charts.”
• MAY 28-JUNE 5, 2016: The upside was UNM baseball’s Mountain West tournament championship, won at Santa Ana Star Field.
“UNM dominated the final game against Nevada (14-4) and the place was packed,” Portnoy recalled. “That was so much fun. It felt like a window into the future of what that program can become.”
Downside? A week later UNM defeated Dallas Baptist in an NCAA Regional opener and led No. 7 Texas Tech 3-1 after seven innings in Lubbock. The Red Raiders scored three runs in the final two innings to win and the Lobos were eliminated the next day.
“They had Texas Tech on the ropes,” Portnoy said. “That was heartbreaking.”
• JAN. 5, 2019: Portnoy concedes he was spoiled by back-to-back 27-win men’s basketball campaigns, Mountain West titles and NCAA berths in his first two seasons. A single-game highlight, however, came during UNM’s otherwise mediocre 2018-19 season.
“Nevada came to the Pit undefeated, ranked fifth in the country and the Lobos blew them out (85-58),” he said. “Nobody saw that coming. UNM played so well that day.”
• MARCH 21, 2014: Portnoy does not count UNM’s infamous 105-104 home loss to Nevada in 2017 – during which the Lobos surrendered a 25-point second-half lead – among his more painful calls.
“That was impossible to believe,” Portnoy said. “Nevada was banking in 3s, UNM missed free throws, it was a perfect storm. What can you say?”
Portnoy found UNM’s 58-53 NCAA first-round loss to Stanford in 2014 more upsetting – a game in which UNM missed 15 of its final 17 shots.
“The Lobos were a better team than Stanford and probably could have beaten them nine times in 10 tries. They didn’t play up to their standard. That was hard to swallow.”