The Glory Days Of Sports Radio

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

I feel young again. Like it was when I was young, instead of music on the radio, it’s broadcast sports. I caught the end of the Tulsa-North Carolina thriller on the radio Sunday afternoon. I listened to a meaningless NBA regular-season game that night.

When I was little, listening to the radio was a part of my life. At night I would go to sleep with any sports game I could find on my radio regardless of the team, usually the Blackhawks or the White Sox, a team I was bred to hate. On the Sunday ride home from my grandmother’s house, we always had the Bears games on the radio. But when I found out that music existed and roadtrips became a thing of the past, listening to sporting events on the radio died out for me.

Now I want to listen again. Television is the easy way to gather a game, and when you see an event, it’s far easier to form an opinion on it. But I’ve again realized that listening is more redeeming.

With the radio, you are put in charge of painting the game in your mind. On the radio, the game’s emotion is captured because the announcer has to give exact details to allow the listener to understand what is going on.

During a long, arduous trip home from Chicago in October, Guide editor Alison Banks and I partook in the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians playoff game, the game in which Pedro Martinez came in relief to shut down the Tribe and win a trip to the ALCS. The announcer was Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell, and the announcing, including his characteristic home run call – “and that ball is LONG GONE!!” – made the game as exciting for us in Nowhere, W.Va., as it was at Jacobs Field.

Except for a few exceptions, like Vin Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s famous home run, the greatest moments in sports history have been captured in large part because of amazing radio announcing. Russ Hodges’ call of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – “The Giants win the pennant!” is perhaps the most famous and is a big reason that play is as famous as it is.

Jack Buck’s call of the Kirk Gibson game – “I don’t believe what I just saw!” – is equally inspiring. The famous band-on-the-field game between arch rivals California and Stanford in 1982 has been immortalized by the call by announcer Joe Starkey, who moments after it happened called the game “the most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”

Georgetown’s Rich Chvotkin immortalized one of the Hoyas’ greatest plays when Don Reid’s buzzer-beating putback gave the Hoyas a win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1995. Even some modern announcers can make the moment even greater with a great call, like the Tennessee Titans’ Mike Keith’s call of the iracle in Music City (check it out at www.titansradio.com).

For the most part, radio announcers are a dying breed, because television inhibits the need to call a game closely. They’re also a dying breed because radio is no longer the most important medium around. But it’s still there, and I’m still listening.

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