I Hear Voices

by Rich on August 14, 2017

Let me state, for the record, right off the bat, as a matter of full disclosure, that I have a day job in radio broadcasting. I want to make that clear because I’m going to spend a little time today talking to you about the voices of the sports we consume. So just know, be aware… I’m biased.

Perhaps it is a product of my age, but I cannot think of almost any sport without instantly linking it to at least one, and often many, outstanding sports announcers. The only sport that seems to lack that iconic voice is U.S. soccer. But we’ll get to that later. Stick with me.

Technology, geography and timing created those first great voices. Baseball was arguably coming into its peak just as radio coverage began to blanket the fruited plains. It was only natural that the games produced some of the most recognizable and respected announcers. Men like Red Barber, Mel Allen, and Ernie Harwell laid the groundwork for the recognizable tones of Vin Scully, Harry and Skip Caray, Jack Brickhouse, Curt Gowdy and Jack Buck. The list goes on and on.

The gridiron, and television, gave us even more. Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, John Madden, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg.

And who could watch college basketball without Dick Vitale? Or the NBA without Marv Albert?

I know nothing about hockey, other than it looks incredibly hard and mostly painful to play, but if I’m scanning through the dial and come across Mike “Doc” Emrick calling the action on the ice, I’m in. If soccer had its own Emrick, you couldn’t pull me away from the match. Or game. Or whatever.

Of course there are all the other great voices like Bob Costas and Jim McKay; Chick Hearn and Jim Nantz; Brent Musberger and Frank Gifford; Bob Uecker and Greg Gumbel.

And those are just a few of the great voices. If you’re a Georgia Bulldog fan, you probably can’t think college football without hearing Larry Munson’s gravelly descriptors. Auburn fans still hear Jim Fyffe yelling, “Bye-Bye Bo!” in their sleep.

Look, I’m just a DJ. A “radio personality”. I yuck it up with a sidekick every morning while you’re going to work, playing music and making jokes. What I do is child’s play compared to the labor of love that is sports broadcasting. But I have so much admiration for them.

I fell in love with radio the way a lot of people in the business did, I suppose. Radio is intimate. Television less so (it’s a little more voyeuristic). But both mediums allow us to invite these voices, these people, these personalities, into our personal spaces. In our cars during the morning commute we share private conversations. We sit in the living room and share our families with these people. And often times it is their voice that we hear in the privacy of our bedrooms as we drift off to sleep, only to greet them again the next morning while we brush our teeth.

I guess what I am saying is this: the next time you listen to a game on the radio or watch it on TV, pay attention to the voices. They’re more important than you think.


Spectacular Spectators

by Rich on August 7, 2017

Listening to a sports call-in show last week, I heard the host ask the audience about the most amazing thing they had seen at a live sporting event (it is the dog days of summer, after all, and while baseball is in full swing and football is right around the corner, Wednesday afternoons on a small market radio show can be challenging to fill). The callers responded in a somewhat predictable manner. Many spoke of miraculous plays, spectacular feats of speed and strength, and incredible, last second, come from behind victories. All worthy fodder for the talk show cannon.

But here’s the thing…while I certainly have my fair share of those types of experiences, some of the most memorable experiences I have had at live sporting events have little to do with the actual game being played. Almost all have occurred around me in the stands, or, on a few notable occasions, in the press box.

Take for instance the little league baseball game I attended in north Florida a few years ago. After the 3rd inning, the mother of one of the players became so excited at her son’s prowess on the pitching mound, that she stood up and removed her top, swirling it around her head like a towel at a Pittsburgh Steelers game, whooping it up at the top of her substantial lungs. Her bikini top. No lie. One assumes alcohol was involved. And while that sight was…interesting, what was really memorable was the response by those around her. Half her friends high fived her and half tried to tackle her. The dads in attendance wisely stayed out of the melee and waited to see how things would play out. Speaking of play, on the field, it stopped completely. Order was restored and play resumed only after the young ump asked the excited mom to write her phone number down in his score-book, put her top back on, and promise to remain clothed for the rest of the game. In that order. What happens in the stands of a little league field in North Florida, stays in the stands of a little league field in North Florida.

Then there was the group of 4 twenty-something guys at the Sugar Bowl a number of years ago. Keeping in mind when (around New Years Eve) and where (New Orleans) the Sugar Bowl takes place, it’s probably no surprise that I might witness something amazing at that particular venue. Said gentlemen had obviously been working hard to save themselves a considerable amount of money at the concession stand inside the Superdome by consuming all of their alcohol outside the Superdome prior to kick off. As I took my seat, I noticed that one of these poor youths had become overcome with fatigue and was fast asleep. On the ground in front of his seat. It was at this point that the other three decided to be responsible, and after refueling from a strolling beer vendor, they proceeded to attempt an exit with their sleeping companion. I say “attempt” because they didn’t make it far. Three steps, to be precise, where they then unceremoniously dumped unlucky number 4 into the lap of 2 female spectators. I will say this…the New Orleans Police Department is both patient and polite when dealing with disgruntled female spectators.

So many amazing things happen at live sporting events. And a large number have little to do with the game itself. Although I’m not sure either of the above mentioned stories would make for good radio. But who knows? Maybe next Wednesday I’ll call in.


Winter…er… Football Is Coming

July 31, 2017

It’s the end of July. Outside it feels like someone left the world’s largest pot of water boiling on the stove. The inside of your car doesn’t even register on the thermometer anymore. Inside, the cold water tap in the kitchen dispenses water warm enough to bathe in and the A/C unit is threatening to […]

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The Open

July 24, 2017

There’s something romantic about the game of golf. I don’t mean candlelight dinners and Valentine’s Day romance. I mean the history of the game. The players, the courses, the traditions…there is a certain amount of nostalgia built into the game that creates a certain…well, romance. This weekend is The Open. The Brits hate it when […]

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Summer Sucks (Please Come Back, Football!)

July 20, 2017

When you live deep in the heart of SEC country, there’s no way around it…summer sucks (sorry, mom. I know you don’t like that word, but there really isn’t anything else that quite captures the absolute crappiness of the summer). It’s hot. It’s humid. There’s no football. Ah… and that’s the real problem, isn’t it? […]

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Hey Greg? Need A Favor…

July 17, 2017

While taking a break this week from the continuous stream of The Office that never seems to end at my home (I have a 17 year old son. He’s on his 10th time through the series. Thanks Netflix), I scanned through the upper, triple digit channels from my local cable provider and was somewhat startled […]

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SEC Media Days: A Must Have

July 10, 2017

The annual cattle call/feeding frenzy/psychotic event/beat writer expense report padding session known as SEC Media Days begins this week, and with it the unofficial kickoff of the 2017 college football season. I, for one, cannot wait. It’s something we definitely cannot live without! SEC Media Days (SECMDs) are a welcome respite from the long, arduous […]

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Make Baseball Great Again

July 3, 2017

It’s Independence Day Weekend I need help. I need your help. Don’t worry, I’m not moving or painting a house. I don’t have IT issues (well, I do, but that’s not what I need help with. But if you know somebody…?). I’m not rebuilding the carburetor in an ’83 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (“You think […]

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Cutting The Cord

June 26, 2017

I write this column every week here in the sports pages, and I’m very fortunate to have editors who give me pretty much complete creative control when it comes to subject matter. That’s why you’ve seen stories from my covering topics as varied as sports in the military to why I wasn’t thinking about sports […]

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No Pod Races Allowed

June 19, 2017

It’s Father’s Day weekend and I should be writing a column about how sports brings fathers and sons together, or Phil Mickelson dropping out of the U.S. Open to be at his daughter’s graduation, or coaches being father figures, or dads who volunteer to coach their kids, or a hundred other time-honored topics surrounding this […]

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