Category Archives: NBA

THE BROADCAST BOOTH-THE MOUTHPIECE OF SPORTS

When we lost Joe Garagiola back in March I had planned on writing about the subject of sports broadcasters.  As life went on it kind of slipped away from me so I decided to revisit the subject when Vin Scully called his final out for the Dodgers.

So pull up a chair, members of my blog audience and grab a beverage.

Vin Scully joined Red Barber in the Ebbets Field broadcast booth in 1950.  He would eventually take over the “Cat Bird Seat” in Brooklyn and will be vacating the booth at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on October 2. His 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers, which spanned two locations on opposite coasts, is the longest tenure of a broadcaster with one organization.  This record wont be touched for a very long time, if ever.

Mr. Scully, I have to thank you for influencing me.  My writing style is much like your broadcasting style.  Yes you have a legendary way of describing facts that happen on a baseball field (and in years past on a gridiron as well), but your story telling talent is unparalleled.  I can hear your voice as I tell stories here on WordPress just as if I was watching a Dodger broadcast.  Thank you again Vin!

On the night that we lost Joe Garagiola I began to think and reflect on all the sports voices I’ve heard over the years.  I can honestly say there have been many literary influences that have shaped me. Those of us who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s will remember when NBC had a stronghold on Major League Baseball.  I have such fond memories of the “Game of the Week” on Saturday afternoons.  I will say that as a young boy growing up in Queens my first broadcast idol, if you will, was Curt Gowdy.  Like Scully, Gowdy was a story-teller in addition to being almost flawless in describing the action on the diamond as well as the football field.  His longtime baseball partner, Tony Kubek still strikes me as one of the best analysts of my time.

My Queens upbringing formed a bond with the New York Mets who played in my home boro.  The trio of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, and Lindsey Nelson remains full of fond childhood memories.  They were the voices of the Mets from their inaugural season of 1962 until Nelson left the Mets for San Francisco following the 1978 season.  I was pretty disappointed when he left.  Mets baseball would never be the same.  Met fans who followed the franchise will always remember Bob Murphy’s “Happy Recap” when the Mets won, and Ralph Kiner’s post-game show “Kiner’s Korner.”

In addition to his baseball career, Lindsey Nelson spent years behind the CBS College Football mic.  He was the annual voice of the Cotton Bowl.  It’s not the same without him.

The “hated” crosstown Yankees also had their share of broadcast legends.  From Mel Allen’s “How about that” to Phil Rizutto’s “Holy Cow!”  But for most of this blogger’s life nobody manned the public address microphone like Bob Sheppard.  Growing up as a Met fan I didn’t go to many Yankee games. I was at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx twice and saw a handful of Yankee games at Shea Stadium in 1974 and 1975. For those who may not know the Yankees played those two years in Flushing while the Stadium was undergoing a massive renovation.  Sheppard had a presence unlike any other public address announcer.  Players referred to him as “the voice of God.”

Growing up, baseball wasn’t the only sport that I took to.  To this day I am a hockey fanatic.  Just as a coming attraction I will be following the Florida Panthers this year here on my WordPress page.  That being said, I became a fan of the New York Islanders when the NHL awarded a franchise to Long Island.   Tim Ryan was an established NHL announcer when he joined the Islanders TV crew in their inaugural season.  I grew up listening to him as well as Marv Albert calling Rangers games on radio.  As much as I hated the rival Rangers, I have got to admit Marv’s call of the Rangers and Knicks games was a big influence.  I miss Marv as a hockey announcer and still enjoy his NBA broadcasts on TNT.

In 1980 the voice of the Islanders changed.  The legendary Ryan would leave Long Island for a national football job with CBS.  Jiggs McDonald would join Ed Westfall as voice of the Islanders.  The tandem would last seventeen wonderful years that included four Stanley Cup championships and a streak of nineteen consecutive playoff series wins.  Any Islander fan from that era can still here Jiggs referring to Westfall as “18” in reference to his uniform number in his playing days with the club.

Hearing Marv open Ranger broadcasts still rings through my head.  “This is Marv Albert with Sal “Red Light” Messina at Madison Square Garden” was how each home broadcast began.  Marv would then describe how the game would begin by identifying the 7th Avenue end and 8th Avenue end of Madison Square Garden as to which net the teams were to defend.

In today’s time there are so many voices to be heard, so many new pictures to be painted.  To me the story-teller that would be the heir apparent to Vin Scully has to come from the hockey world.  Mike “Doc” Emrick who broadcasts the NHL for NBC and its networks has a unique way of calling games while getting descriptive.  Locally Steve”Goldy” Goldstein’s  New York accent throws me back to my childhood roots as the voice of the Florida Panthers.

Local sports legend Jim Mandich was the voice of the Miami Dolphins.  It was such a sad South Florida day when we lost him to cancer in 2011.  We also have a Scully disciple on the Marlins radio network in Dave Van Horne.  Dave is another great combination of facts and story telling.

There are just so many more that are going through my head, probably enough to fill another blog.

In closing, thank you so much Vin Scully.  I hope someday you can pull up a chair and read my work.

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AMERICA’S DARKEST DAY AND HOW THE SPORTS WORLD HELPED HEAL A NATION

It has been fifteen years and it doesn’t get any easier.

This morning, as I have every year following the attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001 I paused and prayed at 8:46 and once again at 9:03.  I also watched as MSNBC reran that morning’s Today Show that also turned into news coverage of the heart wrenching events that unfolded.  Seeing not only my country, but my hometown being attacked brought it all back as if it was yesterday.

Our lives changed so much on that cloudless morning in the northeast.  So many families that lost loved ones who simply went to work and boarded airplanes.  Ordinary things that met with anything but ordinary.  On a personal level that morning was as scary and stressful as it can ever get.  I am the middle of three brothers, and the only one who relocated when I left the New York area for South Florida.

Both of my brothers spend time in Manhattan as part of their daily routines.  I spent that morning frantically trying to find out about their whereabouts and safety.  I knew my parents were safe in their home in New Jersey.  I thank God that all I got that morning was a scare.  Many people weren’t so lucky.  I can never forget the anguished looks on the faces of those walking around the neighborhood that was beginning to be called Ground Zero.  The fear of the worst, the finality that came.  Sad beyond words.

I know that everyone who was old enough to understand what happened in New York, Washington, and Shanksville has a story to tell. But how does this all connect to a sports blog?

Let’s set the clock back to Sunday September 16, 2001.  Baseball was still on hold, the NFL had postponed week 2 till the end of the season.  Too soon for fun and games to continue, but one of American sports’ famous cathedrals was actually was used as one.  The city of New York picked Yankee Stadium as the venue to begin healing.  A massive memorial service was held at the House That Ruth Built.  Six weeks later President Bush would bring the nation to its feet when he threw out the first ball at game 3 of the 2001 World Series from the pitcher’s mound of the Bronx landmark.

Across the East River in Queens, Shea Stadium would be the center of healing.  On September 21, 2001 Major League Baseball was back in business in New York.  The Braves would face the Mets (clad in NYPD and FDNY baseball caps) as New York attempted to return to some semblance of normalcy and fun.  If Bobby Thompson’s epic walk off home run at the Polo Grounds in 1951 was the “shot heard round the world” then Mike Piazza’s walk off on that September night was the “shot heard round America”.  The crowd at Shea exploded to a fever pitch not seen since Jesse Orosco finished off the Red Sox in 1986.

On September 20th the Rangers, one night removed from opening their preseason at Madison Square Garden headed to Philadelphia to face one of their fiercest rivals.  What happened that night still gives me goosebumps.  You see, President Bush addressed Congress that night with a status report on the events of September 11th.  The Flyers decided to post the speech on the scoreboard at what is now known as the Wells Fargo Center.  The Rangers and Flyers stopped the game.  The NHL officiating crew stopped officiating.  No brawling, no rivalry, everyone stopped and listened to the president.  The game never resumed.

Anyone who knows the makeup of South Florida knows the distinct connection to the New York area.  Like most of the country, time stood still on that awful day as residents had one eye on their loved ones up north.  The typical South Floridian question among transplanted New Yorkers was “everyone OK?, Have you heard from everyone?”

On September 23rd the NFL resumed their schedule with what was supposed to be week 3. South Florida went into a collective cheer when Jay Fiedler crossed the goal line to finish a Miami Dolphins comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders.  The eruption at the stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium was deafening.  Our community reacted with such a release with that win you would have thought the Dolphins just won the Super Bowl.

So as the NFL opens up in earnest this afternoon, the fifteenth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil still overshadows fun and games.  Amid the pregame and halftime ceremonies that will go on around the league today, hearts will still be heavy.  Despite it all games will go on in the NFL and Major League Baseball.  Sports will once again be there for America.  The sporting world will again be part of the healing process.

God Bless America!

TIMES HAVE SURELY CHANGED

As every football fan is now aware, last Sunday night’s Hall of Fame tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts was canceled due to poor field conditions.  The problem with the field?  The quality of the paint used for the logo at midfield and the lettering in the end zones.  To me this brings about questions of what seemed to be a string of gaffes by the people responsible for getting sports venues ready for play.

My first question is the obvious.  The NFL Hall of Fame Game originated in tn 1962. How is it that the grounds crew at Fawcett Stadium has prepared the field for play in each of the past 54 years and couldn’t get the right paint?  How does that happen?  Or is it a question of the NFL and other professional sports fine tuning events like this to the point of it being ridiculous.

The paint problem in Canton is another in a series of interesting gaffes in professional sports in recent years.

October 15, 2013, Comerica Park in Detroit:  During Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers  a power outage occurred causing a delay.  There was just one problem, the game was played at 4:00 PM with the outage occurring in sun drenched conditions.

June 6, 2014, AT&T Center in San Antonio:  Prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, the air conditioning system malfunctioned.  The game went on as planned with complaints from players, coaches and fans about such awful conditions.

Super Bowl XVLII, New Orleans Superdome:  Shortly after play resumed following halftime between the Baltimore Ravens and San Fransisco 49ers the game was halted due to a power outage.  About half of the lights overlooking the playing field went out, however the field was still lit by the other half.

On the surface, all of these events have an argument for being halted due to sub-par conditions, however I disagree.

First off, what happened in Canton on Sunday should have been inspected by the league, the Hall of Fame and the teams on Saturday  This would have allowed time for at the very least, the paint to be scrapped.

Having grown up in the 1960’s and ’70’s I look at the series of events that I discussed earlier through a different set of eyes.  Those of you in my age group might remember when sports was more game than TV production.

Consider the days when baseball and football were played in the same place.  Shea Stadium in New York was home to both the New York Jets and the New York Mets.  The Jets played on a field that ran from home plate to center field, leaving half of the gridiron in the infield dirt.  The same was true at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium which housed the Baltimore Orioles and the old Baltimore Colts.  It was accepted, that’s the way it was done.  In 1993 when the Florida Marlins joined the Major Leagues and called Joe Robbie Stadium home, it drew the ire of Miami Dolphins fans since the Fins had to play September and in 1997 and 2003, October on a field that had a dirt infield at one end.

Who remembers the old Boston Garden and Buffalo Memorial Auditorium?  Both buildings had no air conditioning.  The Boston Celtics played many NBA Finals games in sweltering heat and used it to their advantage.  The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres played many playoff games in which fog rose from the ice.

Many might remember games at Wrigley Field that were suspended because the players could no longer see the baseball.  It was accepted, Wrigley was the last hold out for not having lights.

Sports has become such a network production that it may have lost some of its edge.  Imperfection is not necessarily a bad thing.