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.

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