Friday, August 26, 2016

Babe Laufenberg and Other Honest Sportscasters in My Otherwise Uneventful Life

My self-righteous, religious fanatic father used to refer to TV as "the devil's eyeball."  We were allowed to watch some TV, but only after Bible study and other cult activities.  I was in a 12 year old's version of heaven when dad left on long sales trips for the Gates Rubber Company, while the ineffective, frequently disliked salesman, made a living, slightly north of the poverty line for his wife and 5 kids. (OK, guys.  I left home at 16)

Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese
During those long sales trips, mom didn't object or interfere with my TV watching.  I was actually watching CBS in Payette, Idaho  in 1961 when Dizzy Dean questioned how the game he and Pee Wee Reese were broadcasting could be called the "Game of the Week" when the other channel was showing the Yankees vs. Cleveland.   I was instantly captured by Ol' Diz's honesty and wouldn't have turned the dial for any other game.

I've always had a weakness for sportscasters who would "tell it like it is."  Enter Muhammad Ali's friend, Monday Night Football legend, Howard Cosell.  Howard put sports in their place, secondary to verbs, adjectives and prepositional phrases.  Howard knew in December of '80 that John Lennon's death was bigger than any game he, Frank Gifford and Dandy Don were broadcasting.

Watching Babe Laufenberg broadcasting
yesterday's Cowboys game made me recall honest sportscasting. Babe rejects homerism, telling us over the years that the Cowboys were bad, analyzing why they're bad before going to commercial.  Yesterday's broadcast was no exception as Babe explained Romo's desire to go back into the game after a "stiff back" as like a kid going to daddy, then mommy to ask if he can go back into the game.

Nena, watching Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on TNT's broadcast of NBA basketball, identified with Barkley somehow. Before she lost her sight after the strokes, she read all of Barkley's books, starting with "I Might Be Wrong, But I Doubt It." Nena mockingly uses the Barkley pronunciation of "turrible."

And, then there's Lou Holtz, the quipster, the folk hero, the motivational speaker of sports commentary.  Forty years ago, Lou told us the light at the end of the tunnel was an onrushing freight train:


  1. Good read !! Not turrible.....I also like tha way Barkley Boo pronunciation....haha

    1. I was raised on Vin Scully, the greatest broadcaster in history. Articulate, erudite, factual, historical, objective, he still calls a Dodger game like Reggie Jackson trotting around the bases after hitting another October homer. There were many nights when Scully's soothing voice put me to sleep. As he nears ninety, he is like Tony Bennett: He hasn't lost any of his marvelous abilities. He will always be the poet laureate of baseball. He retires at the end of this season. His impending departure closes a book thicker than a Tolstoy novel. I was raised listening to sports on the radio. I can still see my father working in the yard with his transistor tuned to a game. I owe much of my literary inspirations to broadcasters painting a picture in my mind with their play-by-play prose. I pine for those days and the faces long since faded into eternity.

  2. Hank Hollingsworth of old KBOR was the best sportscaster in Brownsville. Once, at a game at Sams Stadium, I heard him say into the microphone: "He was hit by everybody but the mayor on that play!" in his inimitable whiney voice. Truly a loss for Browntown. I'd rate him higher than Vin Scully, because Hank was real, not Hollywood.

  3. Love this Mr Barton!



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