Seeing Through the Eyes of a Voice: Visiting the Broadcaster's Perspective

Daniel ReedContributor IApril 15, 2008

If you are a sports fan, then you more than likely are someone who loves debating. 

Whether it's about titles won, past players, terrible trades, best venues, sports fans clash constantly on the superiority, or inferiority, of whatever the topic may be.  However, something that often gets overlooked is something that is an integral part of every game: the broadcaster.  

Let's be don't really here people saying things like, "Man, Jim Nantz was great on that fourth down call."  It does sound a bit odd, but the voice of the broadcast is part of what makes it so special.  Many voices have come and gone in every sport imaginable, each trying to put their own spin on the live experience.  

On that subject, radio is a much more difficult task then television.  Television is relatively easier because the fan can see everything that is going on and what is being said is largely supplemental, rather than scene-setting.

Radio is such a unique medium.  All you have is a transmitter, a microphone, and an event.  The rest is up to the beholder.

That's why I believe that radio is a much more creative and imaginative medium then television.  Radio will never have the mass appeal of television because of the visual capabilities, but it does rely on the appeal of the human voice and the eyes that give the voice life.

The truly best to ever do it professionally have done so by keeping it simple (stupid).  Red Barber, Mel Allen, Harry Kalas, Lanny Frattare, Curt Gowdy, Phil Rizzuto...they didn't complicate things. 

They had the innate ability to tell you what was going on (field and crowd) and do it with a great fluidity and clarity.   You weren't scratching your head.  You were privileged to have heard it.

The phrase "painting the picture" often comes to mind in reference to radio announcers.  Since there is no visual orientation, it is entirely on the announcer to set the scene with descriptive language and engage with the audience in an intelligent and direct manner.

As announcers wave the brush over the canvas throughout the contest, the game can take whatever form the announcer sees fit.  The level of description and passion in the tone of voice can create a Mona Lisa, or a kindergartner's finger painting. 

It's a tough job, no doubt.  Many people think it would be easy to make a living as an announcer because all you do is talk.  Trust me, it's plenty more than the voice.

You have to take into account knowing the history of the sport, preparing for both teams, knowing tendencies, records, trends, field conditions, front office moves...the list grows and grows.  It's not all pops and buzzes.  

The announcer sees the contest through a constant focus, then translates those visions into audible poetry.  I'm not trying to say that T.S Eliot and E.E. Cummings could be announcers, but you have to have a command of the descriptive capabilities of the English language (and all its nuances) to be a great announcer.

It's about constant travel, long hours, and not great compensation.  But, it's like no other profession in the world.  You cannot possibly match the feeling of being at a live professional sporting event and being responsible for the sound of that event to a wide audience.

It's as if you are putting your own stamp on each individual broadcast, "That game sounded the way it did because of my effort."  Sometimes it's a blessing, and sometimes it's a curse.  But, all the while, nothing is quite like 'having the call.'  

It's exhilarating, exciting, engaging, passionate and every other great adjective you can conjure.  It might sound cheesy, but for an announcer, seeing is believing.