SALT LAKE CITY — Tim Hughes was conflicted about which team to root for in Friday night's Jazz-Nuggets game.
A Jazz win would mean his home team advanced to the next playoff round. A Nuggets win would mean a trip to Denver and a fat payday for saying four words — "Can you feel it?" — before a stadium of 19,000 cheering fans.
"Well, it's kind of an interesting deal," said Hughes, of South Jordan, during an interview Friday afternoon. "As a Jazz fan, you want them to win it tonight and get it over with, because road teams don't fare well in Game 7s in the NBA. But from a business standpoint, yeah, it would be great to go back to Denver to do a Game 7."
"Can you feel it?" is the trademarked expression of Hughes, a professional announcer who also hosts "Outdoors" and co-hosts the "Greenhouse Show" on KSL Radio. It also happens to be the Denver Nuggets' slogan and can be found on clothing, in music and on billboards promoting the team, and a dispute over usage of the phase led to Hughes getting a deal to say it before Nuggets games.
Hughes began saying "Can you feel it?" at live sporting events shortly after the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. He has announced for mixed martial arts, boxing, arm wrestling and the United Football League. About three years ago, he hired an attorney and trademarked the phrase with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, hoping to mimic the success of ring announcer Michael Buffer, who coined the phrase, "Let's get ready to rumble!"
"He turned it into an entire business and franchise," Hughes and. "So I wanted to come up with something I could deliver at boxing or mixed martial arts events. And then I've used it at basketball events. I do the Utah state high school basketball tournament every year."
About this time last year, Hughes' children heard his phrase during a Nuggets playoff game. It turns out the Nuggets had been using the phrase for more than a year, but pregame announcing isn't typically broadcast nationally except during the playoffs.
Hughes said he figured the team would bag the phrase at the end of that season but was surprised to hear it used this year. His attorney contacted the Nuggets' and NBA management.
A "co-existence" agreement was worked out shortly before the playoffs began. Hughes gets $1,500, plus expenses, for his pregame activity. Thus far, he has announced at one playoff game, Game 5.
In full tux, he walked toward center court and said, "From a sold-out Pepsi Center to millions of NBA basketball fans watching all over the world ... Nuggets fans, can you feel it?"
The crowd went wild.
It's unknown whether the Nuggets will use the expression next season.
"I would hope," Hughes said, "they would use it for years."
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