Sunday, March 25, 2012

Calls of the wild

This is a great month for sports fans. March Madness, spring training, the NBA and NHL are roaring towards the playoffs where their games actually matter. And who can forget golf (other than me)?

I must say March Madness coverage isn’t the same this year without Gus Johnson. Yes, he’s an acquired taste because his enthusiasm sometimes spills over into raving lunatic, but during dramatic finishes of big games his excitement (read: screaming) enhances the experience.

The age-old question for sportscasters is always how excited should you get? Fox’s lead play-by-play guy Joe Buck takes a lot of criticism for being too low key. His detractors accuse him of being dispassionate. I don’t feel that way, but I can see how many do.

On the other hand, is there anything more annoying that a sportscaster constantly out of control? I hear announcers going absolutely bat shit over a home run in spring training… by some kid who will be spending the season in Altoona.

The trick is to have something in reserve so when there are genuinely big moments your excitement level is appropriate. If you’re going bonkers over a routine play in the Grapefruit League what will you have left for a game winning play in the World Series?

The great announcers understand this. It’s been a treat to listen to Marv Albert call March Madness games. No one is better at calling a basketball game… and building the drama. Same with Doc Emerick in hockey, Al Michaels in everything, and the incomparable Vin Scully in baseball.

So here are Vin Scully’s top 5 calls followed by Al Michael’s famous call.


And now, the best of Gus. He’s become a caricature of himself but at his best, when the games came down to the last few seconds, he was sure fun to listen to… with your hand on the volume control.

13 comments:

David Whitham said...

A few things... When I hear the name Gus Johnson, I always think of the Gus Johnson that used to battle the boards with Dave DeBusschere...

As a Cowboy fan, that play still hurts...

Leave it to ESPN to screw up #5... The best part of Vin Scully's call in Game 6, and something every sportscaster should watch and learn from, was the silence. Right after Ray Knight scored, Scully didn't say a word for over 2 minutes, letting the pictures, and the crowd noise tell the story. We came back saying, "If a picture paints a thousand words, then you have seen a million of them. The Mets are alive and well, and game 7 is tomorrow night"

Great Big Radio Guy said...

I hadn't seen that Gonzaga/UCLA game since it aired. Gus and the Broonz were both amazing.

HFFC1977 said...

You forgot the biggest sport in the world: Soccer, with European Champions League entering it's decision time in March.

Michael said...

Ken, thanks for the reminder of the greatness of The Vin, which we always can use on a day he isn't broadcasting, and possibly on a day when he is. I'd like to toss out an idea that is not entirely my own.

Ken and I were raised on The Vin. So we tend to like broadcasters who don't scream and can be funny and/or literary. Ken might have mentioned Dick Enberg, who can be emotional, but in an understated way. It may be worth noting that Michaels was more emotional in the 1980 call than he might be today--not in language but in voice; broadcasting for the Reds and Giants in the 1970s, he was more inclined both to root and to blast the team. He always has been a great broadcaster, but his style did evolve a bit for network TV while Vin's really didn't.

Anyway, the point is that before Ken and I came along, before the Dodgers were in LA, the local announcers tended to be total homers. When the Dodgers moved west, Walter O'Malley asked Vin and Jerry Doggett whether they should adopt that style. They discussed it. They came back to O'Malley and said, we're migrants to this area, like so many other people, and they will listen to us because they come from Pittsburgh and root for the Pirates, or whoever. If we root for the Dodgers, we offend them. Play it down the middle, as Vin was taught by his mentor, Red Barber. So they did, and it worked. That's what we grew up with. Growing up with a Harry Caray or Bob Prince might have made us prefer the Gus Johnson approach. Thankfully, I didn't, and I still don't get why people need an announcer to scream for them.

Jon88 said...

Those are certainly five top moments in sports, but are they really Vin Scully's top five? I'd rather hear examples of his insight and wit -- and there's no shortage of those. Hey, KTLA guy, try again!

Ray Barrington said...

The other night, MLB Network was showing a Dodgers spring training game with Scully at the mike. I was channel surfing and stopped just to listen, as one stops to watch a beautiful sunset.

As for Gus Johnson, he's good for basketball, where the whole thing rushes to wild moments. He's not so good on football, where you need explanation and exposition and the crazy moments are few and far between. He did the B1G (Big Ten for you non-midwesterners) football championship last year and I was out of breath listening to him by the second quarter.

I should note Brian Anderson, who does the Brewers games for FSN and did the playoffs for TBS last year, was on the NCAA tournament this month - I think his games were on the Game Show Network - but I thought he did a great job after I found him.
Horses for courses. And if they ever get one of your games on MLB Network, give us a little advance notice, will ya?

MattAnthony said...

As great as the great calls are, Mr. Scully's greatness really comes out in the ordinary play- by-play.

Joey H said...

The Vin montage was disappointing. Five seconds of a baseball call doesn't do it justice. There are much better clip out there of Vin setting up the moment.

jb said...

I once read a transcription of Vin Scully calling the last inning a no-hitter--Koufax, maybe?--and it was in complete sentences. Most of us talk in phrases and incomplete sentences most of the time, and sports broadcasters do it more thanm most. Not Vin Scully, which is why he's the greatest.

Cap'n Bob said...

Perehaps because I didn't grow up listening to Vin Scully, and I'm not a Dodger fan, I don't find him exceptional. If those were his best five calls, what's all the shouting about?
I did like this story I heard about him, though. Seems the guy at third base bobbled two grounders. Then he caught the next one hit to him. Scully remarked, "And like the Ancient Mariner, he stoppeth one of three."

tb said...

In a Koufax no-hitter I remember Vinnie saying something like
"20,000 people and a million butterflies.."
And of course in the Kirk Gibson clip, they left out the best part: "In a year where the improbable has happened, the impossible has happened"

chuckcd said...

That's why I'm a Vin Scully guy instead of a Dave Niehaus guy...
don't like the screaming much.

I like that photo of Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller.
The 3 best announcers at their respective sports in history.
That's right, I said it.

cadavra said...

Right on about the silence. Another great Vin example is the minute-plus after Kirk Gibson's historic home run in Game 1 of the 1988 Series.

WV: "missiti tandge"--Cocktail served in some of the stranger bars in New Orleans.