Sunday, November 01, 2015

It's dark out already?

This is always one of most depressing days of the year – the day we go off Daylight Savings Time. I hate that it gets dark so early. And I’m in Los Angeles. I can imagine what it’s like in Maine.

This was especially true when I was a kid. I couldn’t stay out and play past 4:30. And there was always school the next day. Who needed that shit?

Looking back though, I did have one fond memory of late fall Sunday afternoons – watching NFL football. Of course this was sooooo long ago that Los Angeles actually had a team.

I was a big Rams fan. I guess at heart I still am although fuck ‘em for moving to St. Louis. If they return I’ll be a fan again… although when things come back they’re usually not the same. I call that the “Hawaii 5-0 Syndrome.” They were not very good in my childhood. In 1959 they were 2-10. (Ironically, one of their wins was against the Packers in Green Bay. Final score: Rams 45, Vince Lombardi 6.)

I’m going way back before the AFL really had a toehold. The NFL was the Big Kahuna. Here’s how far back I’m going – the NFL actually had a competent commissioner. One of the many things that Pete Rozelle did right was set up the television package. One network – CBS – carried all of the games. Every team split the rights equally. So a small market team like Green Bay would get as much as the New York Giants. Unlike baseball, there was true parity.

And the broadcast schedule was the same for every team. In every market that had an NFL franchise, you got one or two games a week. All of your road games were televised and only home games that sold out a few days before kickoff. Otherwise, you saw another game.

Since the Rams played in the Coliseum with a seating capacity of over 100,000 (and they sucked) they never sold out. But that was okay. Here’s why:

Local team announcers called the games. There were no national guys – no generic slick interchangeable robots with the same voice. The game callers had regional accents, and distinctive styles, and were passionate about their teams. They added way more to the experience than just whiz-bang graphics and endless replays.

The Rams had the great Bob Kelley calling their games. I assume most teams had a similar rotation. Kell would call the home games on radio and the road games on TV. (Bill Brundage would call the road radio games). Kelley's TV color guy for years was (are you sitting down?) NOT an ex-player. Gil Stratton, a local sportscaster and former actor (he was in STALAG-17) provided the analysis for several years. And the fun thing here was that Kelley had no use for him. He completely ignored him. This was a typical exchange:

KELLEY: Pass to Arnett – incomplete.

STRATTON: Bob, the Rams are relying way too much on their passing game, don’t you think?

KELLEY: Second and ten from the thirty-four.

I used to love when the Rams were home because that meant we usually got the early game. Before Monday Night Football all games started at 1:00 on Sunday. If you were on the West Coast that meant games from the East started at 10:00. I’d watch a game in the morning and listen to the Rams in the afternoon. I imagine if you were on the East Coast and saw a Rams game it must’ve been doubly depressing because it was already dark where you were and still sunny in California.

But I loved those morning East Coast games more than anything. I’d hear the elegant Chuck Thompson (later to be my partner with the Orioles) call the Baltimore Colts, the stentorian Ken Coleman of the Cleveland Browns and Van Patrick of the Detroit Lions. I forget who called the Bears and Eagles but do remember Chris Schenkel of the Giants (sorry I didn’t get to hear Marty Glickman do their radio), and the best of the best – Ray Scott of the Packers.

Scott had the voice of God and used it to perfection. He style was very minimal. This was a typical call that would send shivers through my body.

SCOTT: Taylor. First down.

I know. You had to be there. But it was thrilling.

Those were different times. I will say this – there was never a World Series game after Daylight Savings back then. As much as I love baseball, it just seems wrong still playing in November. “Hey you kids. Get off my outfield!”


Anonymous said...

Just a quick note back then home games never televised only away games in New York that meant almost no double headers
Blackout rule changed in seventies or eighties

Unknown said...

Don't know who did Bears TV back then, on radio it was Jack Brickhouse and..Sun-Times gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet. All anyone remembers Kup saying is "Dat's right, Jack".

In all fairness to Kup, he was an NFL QB for a year and a referee. He also was one of the interim hosts of the show between Steve Allen and Jack Paar's Tonight Shows.

Tragically, his aspiring actress daughter was murdered in LA.

Diane D. said...

When we were telling you what we liked and didn't like about this blog, I mentioned many things I loved (or at least enjoyed), and only one thing I didn't enjoy……but I had forgotten about FOOTBALL! And this, with one of the most exciting World Series in years about to end tonight. Watching the Royals in this post-season is like the first time……"I rode a bicycle".

Terence Towles Canote said...

I'm the opposite. This is actually one of the happiest days of the year. As a night person I never have liked DST. I like it best when it's not light out at 8 PM! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wendy M. Grossman said...

Argh, did not mean to post my email address (because of spambots). Ken, could you replace with my name, please?


JW said...

Before 1973 or 4, even sold-out home games were blacked out for fear fans would stay home and watch. Also, teams set their own starting times - Colts games started at 2:15 because of a Baltimore city ordinance that made churches happy.

Joseph Scarbrough said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Scarbrough said...

I'm the exact opposite, I hate Daylight Saving Time - hate it, hate it, hate it. I'm a night owl, I like when it gets dark early; when it's DST, and it doesn't get dark till like 10:00 at night, it makes it feel like the day lasts forever and feels unnatural. I especially hated it when I was a kid: school would start back in August, my mom would make me go to bed at like 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, and it'd still be daylight outside . . . didn't exactly help me fall asleep.

I hate DST so much that I was outraged with G.W. Bush extended it for no reason . . . it's like during the final year of his administration, he thought to himself, "Well, I've fucked up this country during my eight years, but what can I do to top it all off before I leave the White House? I know! Why don't I just extend Daylights Saving Time and mess with people's minds?" All these years, I've refused to conform to extended DST: I'm not letting these governmental fatcats force something on me that I don't want to participate in and that compromises my rights as a citizen; with that said, all these years, I still spring forward in April and fall back in October - I've already fallen back a week ago, I've been waiting for the rest of you mindless sheep to follow suit.

I'm glad it's finally over.

On a related note, check out this video on DST that John Oliver did back in the spring:

I really wish we would just obliterate DST altogether.

John said...

You get a late December day when the fog rolls in off the Pacific and visually, it's dark at 3 p.m. You might as well move to Alaska when those types of days happen (just bring a slightly warmer set of clothing).

The old NFL paired with CBS could also turn a Broadway show tune into the best opening for the games, as they did with this song from 1964's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".

VP81955 said...

I and my brother went to a Colts-Packers game on Dec. 20, 1982, their next-to-last year in Baltimore. The game was a 2 p.m. start, went OTOH and ended in a tie (both teams were mediocre that year). As we left a darkened Memorial Stadium at about 5:30, I joked to him, "This is as close as the Colts will ever get to Monday Night Football. "

VP81955 said...

BTW, my NFL LA prediction: By 2018, the Rams and Chargers will share a stadium in Inglewood. The league will placate both Fox and CBS, which both want in. I'm not saying both will arrive in LA at once, but both will be settled in by '18. I know many Rams want them as the only team in town, but to the NFL, TV takes priority -- and I think there's a tacit agreement that if one network gets in, so does the other.

James said...

A question for you, since we're on the subject of announcers and it was top of mind as I watched the World Series last night: what's your opinion one, two and more man booths? Maybe it's because I grew up with Vin Scully, but unless the play-by-play guy is dull or incompetent, I don't see where a 2nd voice really adds anything. Usually the 2nd guy either comments on the obvious or fills time with useless trivia.

Anonymous said...

Rams had some good teams in the late 1960's, Fearsome Foursome and all.
They were just undone by the Packers, Colts or Vikings.

BTW- there is no one on television or radio that knows more baseball than Harold Reynolds.

Dave Wilson said...

I remember the first Super Bowl (not called that yet)was blacked out in Los Angeles. My step uncle was an engineer at KNX radio (he was assigned to American Airlines' "Music 'til Dawn" with host George Walsh). We got invited by George to come to his Hollywood Hills home and watch it there. He had hung a coat hangar on his roof antenna and we got a snowy visual of the game televised in San Diego. I was introduced to a bumper pool table for this first time. I was enthralled!

Mike Barer said...

Before we had the Seahawks, I was a huge Ram fan. Loved Roman Gabriel. I had a favorite AFL team, the Oakland Raiders. Stopped liking Oakland when Ken Stabler took over the team. The Rams and Raiders were on TV every weekend. I remember the Rams could never quite win the big one.

MikeK.Pa. said...

"I hate that it gets dark so early. And I’m in Los Angeles. I can imagine what it’s like in Maine." If you really want to get an idea, read a Stephen King novel.

"I was a big Rams fan. I guess at heart I still am although fuck ‘em for moving to St. Louis." Be patient, I'm sure their owner will use the same moving company Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere used to move them out of LA.

"Scott had the voice of God and used it to perfection." I have to strongly disagree on this one. John Facenda was the Voice of God, used brilliantly by NFL Films. Scott was a high-ranking Angel (and not the LA, Anaheim kind).

I used to love watching the Rams with QB Roman Gabriel play the Vikings with Joe Kapp at QB. The two teams' helmets were similar - Rams' horn and Vikings' horn - and the games were usually close and often in the playoffs.

I don't remember who did the Eagles games on TV. In the early 1960s Bill Campbell, who also did the Phillies games on radio and TV, was the Eagles radio voice and Tom Brookshier, the Hall of Fame defensive back who went on to work with Pat Summerall at CBS, got his start as a color commentator with Bill. Andy Musser replaced Bill in the mid-60s and was himself replaced in 1969 by Charlie Swift, who did it for nine years before killing himself. He was replaced by his color commentator, the shrill Merrill Reese, who for some reason many Eagles' fans adore, who is still calling games on radio 37 years later.

John Holton said...

This playing baseball into November is crazy. In parts of the country (mostly the parts where major league teams are located) winter is just around the corner. I'm surprised none of the games have been snowed out.

Igor said...

@MikeK.PA - Of course, John Facenda had the voice of God on NFL Films. But I think when it comes to the NFL (and while we're at Ken's house) we might allow for polytheism.

Mike Barer said...

For years, I hated the Packers because in one season they beat the Rams in the play-offs and the Raider in the Super Bowl. I heard the Rams and Raiders may return to LA. Maybe Chargers too. The return of the Raiders to Oakland does not seem like a real success, but these owners are too greedy to think rationally. Anyway, enough sports talk for this page.

tb said...

They've had the Chargers on every Sunday so far here in LA, so I think it's pretty obvious they're trying to build a fan base before the move. It ain't working. Screw the Chargers

Breadbaker said...

Thanks for the shoutout to Van Patrick. Growing up in Detroit but not as a football fan, he was nonetheless the sound of the game in my head.

Anonymous said...

The announcer for my beloved Bears, in your youth, was Jack Brickhouse. But the Bears did more than just beat the Rams on the field, they beat 'em in the broadcast booth too. LA had Gil Stratton? Big deal. Brickhouse's partner was Irv Kupcinet, a Chicago celebrity and gossip columnist. Imagine having Walter Winchell or Herb Caen explain Clark Shaugnessy's defense against the shotgun formation and you've got the WGN broadcast.


Diane D. said...

ROYALS WIN!! In extra innings, making some kind of record, but what's important is that it was a truly exciting and beautiful game.

Blair Ivey said...

I figured the Royals in six; but after the first two games, in five.

November baseball needs to go away. I remember that after 9/11 and sports had been suspended for a week, the Series went into November. Now with the Divisional Series its a regular occurrence. November is for basketball and hockey (I'm looking at you, MLS).

Anonymous said...

Hi ken, small typo, but its a name so i mention it. Aziz Ansari

Andy Rose said...

Maybe the last real "Voice of God" sports announcer was Facenda's eventual successor at NFL Films, Harry Kalas. I once worked on a video project where we got to use Harry as the narrator. A remarkable change happened to the video when you took out the scratch track and put in Harry. It suddenly seemed... important!

Coleen Burnett said...

Ken believe it or not, as a kid in New Jersey I followed the Rams, too.

I'm talking Roman Gabriel, Fearsome Foursome, Tom Dempsey... all the way until they left.

I eagerly awaited the syndication package on TV each week that showed the highlights. Always looked at the national TV schedule at the start of the season so I could plan on actually WATCHING a game. The world is so global now - - it is so much easier to see a game, and you have so many choices as to how you want to see it.

I miss not having a team to root for. Do you think that the NFL will ever put a team there again?