UNC Around the World
Entrepreneurs, social workers, teachers, actors and volunteers are among the 800-plus UNC alumni living and working abroad. Ten graduates share their stories following their life-changing decisions to take their talents to countries spanning the globe.
Globetrotter Voice Behind International Speedboat Racing
Stephen J. Michael stumbled across a gig as an organ player for a small-time hockey club, the kind that inspired the movie “Slap Shot.”
This was in 1977 — the same year the Paul Newman classic came out — five years after he graduated from UNC with a History degree and a Geography minor (thankfully, he says now).
A flight instructor, Michael attended a hockey game in Lewiston, Maine, with his girlfriend. After the game, he offered to play organ for $10 a game and a free ticket for his girlfriend. He played “Charge” as an audition. He got the gig.
Just six games into the season, the PR guy who hired him asked him if he knew anyone who could broadcast games on the radio. Michael had no experience, but he said he’d try it. They said they were desperate, so why not? And a broadcast career was born.
Now, he’s the official voice and television announcer the Union of International Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship Tour, with races broadcast to 80 countries. Super Bowl-sized crowds of 100,000 attend the races featuring catamarans doing 140 mph.
“It makes no sense to us Americans because we hardly ever see this stuff,” he says, “but it’s huge around the world.”
Michael doesn’t live overseas — he makes his home in the southern part of Florida — but he’s visited about 50 countries and has crossed the Atlantic almost 200 times. He typically visits 10 countries a year.
He admits he could make more money doing major-league sports, maybe for a hockey club, a sport he still loves. But he wouldn’t have nearly as many stories.
“Life is short,” he says. “These crazy experiences I’ve had in life are so much more fruitful to me than just going back to Kansas City to see the Royals for the twelfth time this year.” NV
Watch Michael at work at www.f1h2o.com
—Dan England is a Greeley journalist.