Monday, August 25, 2014
Looking back, one weekend in June was a couch potato sports fan's paradise. Television covered the Belmont Stakes – third leg of racing's Triple Crown – as well as the Men's Singles championship of the French Open.
At the historic racetrack in Belmont, New York, (just outside Manhattan on Long Island) California Chrome was picked to be the first Triple Crown winner for decades. However, Belmont is a notorious swamp for favorites and this year did not disappoint. Chrome's failure was no fault of her own, she was just worn out from repeated high stress competition in a relatively short span. One good thing came out of this race however. That was the opportunity see and hear the great Bob Costas in action. Costas stands firmly at the top of the Communicators Hall of Fame. He never misses a beat. His delivery is flawless. His is delivery without error or mispronunciation, and certainly no “fillers” like “y'know” and other verbal garbage. He is at the blessed end of a spectrum where ex-jock Phil Simms routinely tortures listeners, one and all. Which moves us to his on-air partner Jim Nance who consistently narrates the action with style and grace. Nance is a competent and genial life preserver for Simms who would have certainly gone down for the third time without him. Simms is not the only jock who stumbled in the broadcasting booth. Football legend Red Grange never could get the name of his own announcing partner Lindsey Nelson right – calling him “Lisley” throughout.
The day after The Belmont coverage television sports panned over the seas to Paris and the French Open tennis championship where the fearsome duo of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were battling for the Singles title yet one more time. It was arguably one of the best tennis finals ever. Covering play in the announcing booth were John McEnroe, Mary Carillo and Ted Robinson. This trio have been there and done that before. The three of them know the sport very well (and McEnroe and Carillo have championship titles to prove it.) But Robinson gushes like he is watching a May pole dance. Carillo, who rarely shuts up, gets mixed up in her delivery reminding me of the sign-off on the old Bugs Bunny cartoons “Th..the..tha...that's all Folks! Where are Costas and Nance when we need them?
The fault lies less with the men and women calling the match than it does with the American Way of doing it. The Brits have it right- let the play on the courts speak for itself. Their on-air people make comment only when they have to. This gives their words extra value and enriches the viewers/listeners appreciation of the game. Here in the good old USA where broadcasting is drenched with advertising commercials ad nauseum, such seconds of silence would be especially appreciated.