Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good Call

The greatest call ever made by a sports broadcaster is Russ Hodges' account of Bobby Thompson's Shot Heard 'Round the World. If you doubt me, read Don DeLillo's Underworld (or even just Patko at the Wall). Or just watch:

For my money, the second greatest call belongs to Joe Starkey during what has come to be know simply as "The Play:"

Yeah, that's the John Elway. By the way, if you ever get a opportunity to see the entire game, jump at the chance. Even without Standford's last minute drive down the gridiron for the go-ahead field goal, the chaotic series of laterals that led to Cal scoring on the ensuing kick-off, and, of course, the goddamn band coming out on to the field it would still be one of the best football games I've ever seen.

So by now I hope anyone reading this has seen this jaw-dropping play:

As if the play wasn't mesmerizing enough, the call is simply phenomenal and is justifiably being spoken of next to those made by Hodges and Starkey. Frankly, I don't know how the kid was able to keep everyones' names straight during the play.

Making matters even more wonderful is the fact that the call was made by a 20 year-old Trinity sophomore named Johnathan Weiner:

Wiener said he had not planned to cover the game but decided to stop in Jackson while returning from a journalism convention in Washington. The game just happened to be played in his hometown, a few minutes from his parents’ house.

His mother picked him up at the airport and dropped him off at the field before kickoff.

Read the whole thing, it's worth your time.

Weiner is getting all kinds praise, and rightly so, but one of the aspect I love about this video comes courtesy of his broadcasting partner, whose name I haven't had much luck finding. At the being of the video, the guy just sounds downtrodden to the point of cynicism -- there's a sarcastic bitterness to his suggestion that Trinity might have to start lateraling that simply disappears into the depressing silence of one negotiating the brutal acceptance of a loss. But then the ball is snapped and the play starts to drag on, and with about 1:05 to go in the video he suddenly becomes a believer again urging his his team to GO! GO!

Right after Trinity scores you can almost feel him tossing off his headset and getting out of his chair to egregiously break the cardinal rule of broadcasting: no cheering in the pressbox! You can almost feel the emotion despite the silence.

Weiner's call was world class, but his nameless partner should get some credit too. He did exactly what a good color guy is supposed to do in these situations: let the play-by-play guy describe the action, adding only for emphasis. Both of these kids deserve a lot of credit.

Slate has an amusing "analysis" here. "And this part is important: you've to heave it over your head blind! Blind!"

Good stuff.

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