University of Missouri-Kansas City center Ashli Hill's elbow smashes the face of an opposing player. The crowd at the Swinney Recreation Center gasps as a bloodied Eastern Michigan University guard crumples on the hardwood during a late-December women's basketball game.
The silence on this Saturday afternoon is shattered by a boisterous voice from courtside.
"That's like taking a 9-iron to the snot factory!" Sterling Brown shouts into his microphone.
Brown, 33, is the play-by-play voice of UMKC hoops on K-ROO, the university's first student-run station in four decades. K-ROO went live November 3, 2012, the same day as the first women's basketball game of the season.
More fans in the stands of Swinney Rec overheard Sterling's colorful call than did those listening online.
Before the game, Brown meets color-commentator Cody Tapp and producer Ryan Witkowski at Mike's Tavern for rounds of Mexican beer, and they joke about how few people listen to their live streams.
"We get eight or nine listeners," says 30-year-old Witkowski, "and two of them are our wives."
Brown corrects him. Listenership is declining: His wife has stopped tuning in.
All three men are nontraditional students, in their late 20s and early 30s. They see K-ROO as their best chance to launch careers in sports radio.
Tapp, a 28-year-old waiter, is trim and wears Buddy Holly glasses. He never struggles to add pouches of analytical insight during Brown's brief pauses from alliterative flourishes.
Witkowski looks the part of a sports-radio producer: husky, with a scruffy beard, always wearing a baseball cap. He works as a part-time producer for 610 Sports. As a child, he recorded himself analyzing the Royals, which he says is his dream job.
"I'd do my own Royals report," he says, "and I'd give the tapes to my mom and make her listen on her ride to work."
Brown, a hulking man who played on the defensive line for Truman State University from 1998 to 2001, started "calling games" in high school while playing football at Rockhurst. When he wasn't on the field, he'd pretend to be an announcer. It carried over to college and even while playing Madden video games with his friend. He also admits to using a voice recorder to do mock play-by-play at Chiefs games. That has drawn more than a few strange looks from fellow bleacher bums. He's not afraid to explain.
"My ambition is to be the voice of the Chiefs," he says. "Or any other major franchise."
Even though UMKC hasn't had a student-run radio station (terrestrial or online) for a little more than 40 years, the university has a history of student radio. KCUR 89.3 started as a low-power station in October 1957 and became a charter member of NPR in 1971. By 1984, UMKC students were no longer trained on-air at KCUR.
Students, including KCUR arts reporter Laura Spencer, first pushed the idea of an Internet radio station in 1999. But the station was denied funding. The latest attempt at student radio started four years ago.
Starting a project like K-ROO has been a grinding labor of love for the station's main proponents. The student volunteers have spent dozens of hours a week working for an Internet station with few listeners. That's on top of their course loads and day jobs.
Getting K-ROO on the air was a hassle of university bureaucracy and funding problems, and a recruiting nightmare.
"It was brutal," Witkowski says.
In 2009, a group of students presented a plan for a student-run Internet radio station to the Student Government Association, which granted them $17,000 and a studio space.
"We were stoked," says Casey Osburn, K-ROO's longest-tenured aspirant and the station's music director.