Wednesday, September 04, 2013
New York sports fans grew up listening to Marty. He was the voice of football and basketball in Gotham for a thousand years. More than that, he literally invented basketball announcing, coining the terms used to describe the game.
He also served as a mentor to numerous young sportscasters, including this incredibly grateful blogger.
This was the mid-80s. We hated Iran more than Iraq. President Reagan had prostate surgery. I was learning how to do baseball play-by-play by going to the upper deck of Dodger and Anaheim Stadium and sitting in the stands with a tape recorder, surrounded by drunks. For basketball I attended Clippers games in the old Sports Arena, and that was great because I’d have whole sections to myself. Even the drunks didn't bother. Sitting in row 114 I imagine the players on the court could hear me.
A friend put me in contact with Marty Glickman, who at the time was the radio voice of the Seton Hall Pirates basketball team. The Bucs were scheduled to play in the first round of “March Madness” at Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA (my “crib”). Marty needed someone to keep his statistics for him during the game. I gladly volunteered. He sheepishly said he had no budget to pay me, but I didn’t care. I would have paid him. To be able to sit next to God while he called a basketball game -- this was like winning an Emmy.
My friend had told him I was an aspiring sportscaster so he volunteered to listen to a tape of my work. Holy shit! I sent him a cassette of baseball on one side and basketball on the other. The plan was I'd meet him at his hotel the morning of the game, we'd go over my tape, I'd drive him to the arena, and we would work the game. Marty Glickman was going to be in my car. In fanboy terms that's like Joss Whedon writing AVENGERS 2 on your laptop.
We met at the appropriate time. He was overall very complimentary (overly so considering the actual quality of the work) and popped in the tape, basketball side first.
Along the way he paused to offer lots of great suggestions. Be more descriptive. Be less verbose. Where exactly on the floor was the action? Always give the time along with the score, and always give the score after every basket. Find interesting ways to identify the players. Vary my vocabulary. Always make it clear which team controls the ball. Talk about the crowd and setting. Use my voice to build tension. Have an expert grasp of the rules. Sprinkle in more analysis. Keep the audience aware of the foul situation and how many time outs were left. Refer to the shot clock more. In other words, I needed a lot of work. A LOT of work.
When the basketball side was mercifully over he removed the cassette. I figured he would flip it over and do the same with the other side. Instead, he just handed it back to me and said, “You’re a baseball announcer.” Clearly I had a better feeling for the game and was way more in my element.
When I needed a demo to send out to minor leagues teams I used that inning. I figured, if it was good enough to impress the great Marty Glickman, it had to be good enough for the huckleberry in Elephant’s Breath, Georgia.
Sure enough I received several offers.
I owe a great debt to Marty. He was the first professional to suggest I might have enough talent to actually get a job doing this. He was (as everyone else says in the documentary) a total mensch.
I invite you to seek out the documentary. It's a slam dunk. SWISH!
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM