Nobody had to tell me to listen to sports on the radio when I was a kid. I loved it. Loved listening to games. That’s all there was pretty much. Just games. No bits, no tickers, no personalities, just games and the guys who called ‘em. And you had to be good at it and these guys were. They were the guys who invented the craft or grew up listening to the guys who did and worked hard to build on what they heard.
I was lucky growing up in Minneapolis in the 70’s. Had a deep well of true craftsman to model. Like Ray Scott and Ray Christensen and Al Shaver. And on weekends I could watch and hear TV play-by-play guys who moved over from radio like Scully and Nelson and Gowdy and Jones and Enberg and Marv. What a wonderful time if you were a kid with designs on doing what they did.
I didn’t learn it from a textbook and neither did they, and I learned it from them. And there aren’t too many of us left. Guys who actually listened carefully to old school radio play-by-play guys because we wanted to do this job well.
Four of us who learned this way got together last Saturday and will again this Wednesday, and it’s a thrill for me every time we do. We speak the same language – literally – but it’s a language that is devolving and disappearing. The truth of the matter is I barely speak the language at all anymore; something called a simulcast at once bastardizes and keeps me only slightly tethered to my second tongue.
Ours is a craft more art than science to be sure, but there are unrecorded rules and common phraseology stamped on each of our internal hard drives. And guys like us can recognize a brother’s siren call after only a few words. But there are fewer and fewer of us. Television. Alternative delivery systems. Cosell’s prophetic early warning call of the spreading of “Jockocracy”. And so on.
But when I’m with Eric, Brad & Coop I’m good. When I listen to each on the radio, I’m transported back to those golden days. And I delight in the notion that maybe there is a young man or woman in the market who listens like we listened – dreams like we dreamed – and desires to do what we do. If you get what my friend Eric said recently that “laying out is over-rated” – then maybe you’re one of them.
I just hope there’s a job out there for you when you’re ready.