Sportscasters and catch phrases
Jim Lampley, on left, obviously
Other sportscaster icons
What are great sporting events such as the Super Bowl, Summer Olympics and Monday Night Football without those "talents in the booth," the men (and women) who give life to sports, the sportscasters? Dull, bland and easily-forgotten.
Not everyone, not even former professional athletes can "cut it" as sportscasters, both on and off the air. Do not ask me, for I have never had the pleasure of "calling" a game, or giving color analysis while a game is being played. In short, I don't know.
Sportscasters, like pro athlete's are a special breed of superstars in their own right with their own style of broadcasting, speech tone and favorite catch-phrases. Listen sometime to an NFL game and hear Al Michaels blend-in a few gems like, "he really took that hard," when an imposing 300-pound linebacker from the Chicago Bears "levels" the opposing quarterback from the Tennessee Titans and. Michaels, like all talented sportscasters and color persons, give "that certain something," to the game.
Here are only a few of "my" favorite sportscasters and their famous catch-phrases.
JIM LAMPLEY of HBO Sports called the monumental-upset of then-Boxing Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson, by truly-underdog, Buster Douglas as in the eighth-round, Douglas stunned Tyson with a stiff "right" and sent him reeling toward the ropes. Lampley "painted" the historical-moment with, "Tyson's in serious trouble," and with that one phrase, Lampley is forever linked to Tyson's shocking defeat as well as the sport of boxing as well.
KEITH JACKSON or commonly known as the "Dean of sportscasters," has covered it all. College football, pro football, and some Olympics. Jackson's unmistakable voice sets him apart from all other sportscasters. Jackson's voice says, "I can be trusted." And he is. I prefer his comment late in the 1992 Sugar Bowl when underdog, the Crimson Tide of Alabama handily-defeated Gino Torretta's Miami Hurricanes for the National Championship. Bama used a running play in the final minutes to "seal the deal," winning by a score of 34-13. Jackson "nailed" it with, "and with three minutes, forty-nine seconds left, I think we just heard the back door slamming," and made the game all the more interesting.
HARRY CARAY the "voice" of The Chicago Cubs for decades was famous for his "Holy Cow," remark when a Cubbie hit a homer or scored. Caray was loved and respected by every Cub fan.
MEL ALLEN, also a baseball announcer had one phrase that every baseball fan alive can readily-remember, "how about that?"
HOWARD COSELL was so versatile that he could help call an NFL Monday Night Football game with Don "Dandy Don" Meredith, Dallas Cowboys quarterback-turned-announcer and New York (football) Giants legend and husband of Kathy Lee Gifford, Frank Gifford and still work a boxing match the next night without missing a beat. His most-famous remark came when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought in Manila for the title in a fight called, "The Thrilla in Manila." Sometime toward the middle of the fight, Ali landed a solid left hook to Frazier's chin and Cosell wrote his own history by spewing, "Frazier goes down! Frazier goes down!" I miss Cosell. Some.
Speaking of Don Meredith. In his first few games that he called, audiences heard how tough it was on him to see his beloved Cowboys lose to some underrated team as Meredith's biased opinions would surface and he would cry, "dadgum it, Cowboys! Score!" That was honest and more fun than listening to Howard Cosell's rantings about racism and politics being found in the locker rooms of hockey players in New York City.
And there are more. I just didn't have the mental toughness to do an in-depth search of all of the famous sportscasters and their "golden" lines.
A few more not-so-famous sportscasters and their forgotten lines are . . .
MIKE HOGWOOD who worked at a local ABC affiliate, WBRC-TV, Channel 6, Birmingham as sports director. His catch-phrase to a baseball highlight of a player hitting a home run was, "kiss that baby goodbye." Hogwood went on to work for some obscure sports network that covered sports related to swamps in Florida. Not a glamorous gig.
RON GRILLO, who also worked for a time at WBRC-TV, was such a humble man, that when he would give the sports news on weekends that his compassion would show through especially when an SEC football team would be beaten by a lesser-team. Grillo would ease-in his personal remorse at the loss by saying, "and the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi sorta "got by" Vince Dooley's bulldogs of Georgia, by a score of 45-10." He is no longer employed at WBRC.
JACK CRYSTAL was "the voice," years ago of the SEC's Mississippi State Bulldogs. Crystal would pick-out a favorite player and it was obvious that he would give that player more props than the rest of the team. One season I happen to hear him say, "Lewis Grubbs hits left tackle for one yard." "Grubbs off right tackle for two yards." and "Whooaaa, Grubbs is 'wrestled down' for a one-yard loss." Truth is, Grubbs was 'pounded' like a bass drum and taken off the field. Jack Crystal was whom the term, "homer," was designed for. A "homer" only gives the home team positive comments.
JIM FYFFE, speaking of "homers," was a true "homer," for his team, the Auburn (Alabama) Tigers of the SEC. No one, even I, couldn't blame him for that. But Fyffe took the "homer" role a bit too far with his high-energy commentary before the game even started. Example: "Wow, did you see the Tigers run onto the field? No other SEC team has that style of running down like the Tigers. No sireee." And this went on for a number of seasons. Fyffe passed not so long ago, but was loved by Auburn alumni and non-alumni alike.
LARRY MUNSON was loved by all Georgia Bulldogs fans. Even fans from opposing teams loved his gravel-edged, "old school" style of calling a game. When Georgia was one time playing in the Sugar Bowl, Nov. 13, 1982, for the SEC Championship. Munson said, "I know it's a lot to ask you guys, (Georgia's defense), but hunker down one more time," after Auburn Tiger quarterback, Randy Campbell's fourth-down pass fell incomplete allowing the Bulldogs to run-out the clock to win the big game.
KEITH DAVIS, a virtual-unknown sports director for WOWL-TV, Florence, Alabama, in 1991, would not find it in himself to say on the air that the Lions of The University of North Alabama, were "outclassed" in one particular game. Davis kept his fans happy by saying, "the Lions are sure giving it all they got--lotta heart," each time the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, would score another easy touchdown.
DOUG LAYTON was a beloved-sportscaster for The University of Alabama before Eli Gold and Kenny "The Snake" Stabler came along. Layton could "give" Bama's opponents a pat on the back with no problem, but when Bama beat Notre Dame in the late 80's, Layton's enthusiasm couldn't be bridled as he said as the seconds ticked off, "In what some sportswriters said was an 'uphill climb,' the Crimson Tide of Alabama has proven to the Irish just what SEC football is all about."
HERB WINCHES was once a "local favorite," among Birmingham, Alabama sportscasters and sports directors. What Layton and other "homers" did for the home team, Winches would sometimes overdo his on-the-air goodwill remarks for the out-of-state team playing against Auburn of Alabama. For instance. "those guys from Ole Miss sure know how to run the ball. No doubt about that." And this one, "the Auburn Tigers could sure take a lesson from the Florida Gators on ball-control," but it kept him employed for many years in Birmingham television and radio sports.
VERNE LUNDQUIST, CBS Network football sportscaster called the last game when embattled Crimson Tide head coach, Mike DuBose's team was beaten in the fog by a good Auburn Tigers team in their annual Iron Bowl game and Lundquist's remark, "I bet DuBose wishes this game would mercifully end," although wasn't meant as harsh, but an honest view of the game, marked him as one of the most "disliked" sportscasters who ever called an SEC football contest.
I have but a few closing remarks.
I wonder how it would work if "I" were so rich that I could buy CBS, ABC or NBC and have my own sportscasters who were honest to a fault call every pro and college sporting event?
And "my" sportscasters could be like Howard "Tell it like it is" Stern when they saw a player fumble, "What an idiot! Did you see that clumsy player try to run and hold the ball at the same time?"
Tickets would sell. And my ratings would surely soar, but with the good, I see the bad too. I could no longer visit my local Huddle House restaurant and enjoy an evening of relaxation, good talk and good food.
Not with my fifteen bodyguards lurking around me.
Keith Olbermann, formerly of ESPN
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