Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Magnificent 5 Say Goodbye

While I do love writing, especially here, my first love in the sports media world has always been broadcasting. And for broadcasters like me, this has been a fairly incredible year in terms of big names retiring. From Vin Scully announcing his retirement from the Dodgers booth after basically being there forever earlier last spring, to Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist, Chris Berman and yesterday Brent Musberger, it has been an incredible time to celebrate the careers of five men who essentially created the industry as it's known today.

Even non-sports fans can tell you who Vin Scully and Chris Berman are, and probably the rest too because they have transcended sports in ways that other great broadcasters just haven't. That alone makes the loss of these giants from the broadcast booth particularly difficult, and made a bit tougher by losing so many of them at once. And while Berman, Lundquist and Musberger aren't leaving the sports world entirely, their presence is greatly reduced and they won't be doing what they used to do on a weekly basis.

It's somewhat pointless to go into all of their resume's because they are so well known, but instead I can talk about what they've meant to me. First Vin, who is absolutely eternal. The man can tell stories like no other, and weaved them into the general story of the games he called without much effort. That takes skill. In sports broadcasting, telling stories during downtime is hard to weave in when there is other action going on that needs to be described, and Vin did it perfectly. And he still knew how to call a moment really well and let the pictures tell the story when he had to. That's the tip of the iceberg for him, but in the times I've gotten to listen to him call Dodger games (which sadly wasn't enough), it was an experience you didn't get from almost anywhere else.

I'll always remember Dick Enberg for this: at the 2009 NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia, UCLA was playing VCU in the nightcap of a four game day. Enberg was calling these games for CBS, and during a TV timeout, a cheerleader was walking across the floor on her hands. Enberg rose up over the broadcaster's table and cheered her on. While that's apropos of little in terms of his broadcasting skills, that's a story I'll always remember when it comes to him. His career with NBC was nothing short of brilliant, and he continued it at CBS where he did just about everything from tennis to football and college basketball and beyond. And to wind down his career, he called San Diego Padres games for seven years, and did it as well as anyone has. While he won't be known for that, it shows you his versatility and ability to do it all, and be really good at most everything.

Chris Berman? No one could read highlights like he could. NFL Primetime is eternal, and while his shtick may have gotten old fast when the Primetime we all know and love went away, no one can take away his impact on broadcasting and the NFL itself. It stands to reason that Howard Cosell's halftime highlights started the boll rolling, and Boomer put them over the top, and maybe even the league over the top. The NFL isn't where it is now without him.

Verne Lundquist will be forever linked with SEC football, but I'll always remember him for this:

 Couldn't help myself. But those NCAA Tournament pairings with Bill Raftery were also classic, as well as big moments calling the Masters. He too was as versatile as it gets, but he'll be forever known as the voice of the SEC when the conference took over college football, but he's more than that, as a small 62-7 Jaguars playoff win showed.

And what can you say about Brent Musberger that hasn't already been said. He basically created the live sports studio show with the NFL Today and hosted it as if the format was down pat for years. He called the NBA, college basketball among other items for CBS and was essentially the Bob Costas of his time. And after his very public split with the Tiffany Network, he moved to ABC and still was almost exactly the same tour de force he was at CBS. My memories of him will be forever linked to College Football, especially those Saturday's on ABC where he called the biggest games of the weekend and five straight national title games from 2010-2014 with ESPN, but like everyone else here, he's more than that. And no one could slip in a subtle gambling reference like he could.

All five of them have left their posts that they have been in for what seems like the whole of time, and it's a shame to see them go. But their impact not just on future broadcasters but the entire world of sports can't be understated. Losing one of their voices is tough, but all five practically at once is a tough blow. But with their legacies well established and forming a bedrock of the present an future of the sports industry on TV, all of us are going to continue to live their legacies onward and upward.

These were just my memories and impressions of these five amazing men, and no doubt you'll all have more to share than just these. But to these five: enjoy retirement or your new roles, and know that the world you've left behind is better than when you found it and its in plenty capable hands (outside of me, perhaps).