I've never been a huge sports fan – a lifetime of zero hand-eye coordination can make a person pretty bitter – but when I lived in New York, I became a big Nets admirer. Everything about the team is cool, and through them, I discovered I actually like basketball.
When I moved back to the Milwaukee area, I went to a Bucks game and found out that my cousin's girlfriend was the in-game host. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was the coolest job – I had a million questions for her right away.
Melanie Ricks provides the narration of every Bucks game. She really is the voice of Wisconsin for Milwaukee basketball fans. I was lucky enough to follow her around during a game and see all of her hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes.
Check out the photos I was able to catch, and the conversation we had about Melanie's role as in-game host for the Milwaukee Bucks:
My Midwest Is Showing: What does being the in-game host for the Milwaukee Bucks entail?
Melanie Ricks: As an in-game host, my role is to engage the crowd, let fans know what's happening in the arena, conduct games and promotions during timeouts, and, most important, be the ultimate Bucks fan.
MMWIS: How did you land your job?
MR: I started dancing for the Bucks straight out of high school and was with the team for four years. When my current boss found out that I was studying journalism, he asked me to try out the role of in-game host. By the next season, it had become my new title!
MMWIS: Is it your full-time job?
MR: In addition to my role with the Bucks, I am also a dance instructor. I teach hip hop, jazz, and contemporary dance at North Shore Dance Studio in Mequon, Wisconsin.
MMWIS: Do you host every Bucks game?
MR: Yes, I do host at every Bucks home game alongside my co-host, Judge Joe.
MMWIS: What's your favorite part of a game?
MR: My favorite part of the game, aside from watching such a young and exciting team on the court, would have to be when the Rim Rockers put on their dunk show in the fourth quarter, which is always an exciting time especially if the score is close. The Rim Rockers are an incredible dunk team, and watching them is truly thrilling. They are a huge part of the fan experience at a Bucks home game.
MMWIS: The Bucks are having a great season. What's been the most exciting part of that?
MR: I have to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo has by far been the most exciting part of this season. He has truly become a force to be reckoned with on the court. He was selected as a starter for the NBA All Star game in New Orleans this year, which was huge for the Bucks since we have not had an All Star since Michael Redd in 2004. Giannis's future is so bright, and it's incredible to be able to watch him play in person.
MMWIS: Do you ever get to hang out or interact with the players?
MR: The only time I interact with the players is when I am at a Bucks event or maybe during pre-game when I am getting ready to do the welcome, a player will jokingly ask if he can say something on the mic. Unfortunately, I usually have to turn down their requests.
MMWIS: What are you currently reading? Watching? Listening to?
MR: I am currently reading First Women by Kate Andersen Brower. It's a book about our modern First Ladies and it's really good. I am always watching the show Friends. I own the entire series and probably watch an average of two episodes a day. I am listening to an artist I recently discovered named Grace. Her album FMA is great. If you love Adele and Andra Day, Grace is your girl.
MMWIS: If someone was visiting Wisconsin for the first time, what would you tell them to do first?
MR: If someone was visiting Wisconsin for the first time, I would tell them to go to Culvers, stop by a MillerCoors brewery tour, and then get tickets to a Bucks game!
MMWIS: Favorite thing about the Midwest?
MR: My favorite thing about the Midwest is just how truly nice everyone is. I hear all the time from my friends that live in other areas of the US that Wisconsin has some of the nicest people they have ever met. And it's something you don't realize until you leave.
MMWIS: How does your Midwest show through your personality and/or what you do?
MR: I think my Midwest shows through my love for Wisconsin sports. I am a die-hard Bucks, Packers, Brewers, Panthers, and Badgers fan. I unintentionally wear at least one piece of Wisconsin sports gear everyday, be it a pair of Packers socks or my Bucks sunglasses. I think it also shows through my personality. My role with the Bucks feels natural for me because I like to make sure everyone is having a good time, and I think that is what the Midwest is all about – having a good time!