HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
February 5, 2006

Games on the radio are music to my ears

By Matt Kane

I was driving home from the Delano boys’ basketball game last Tuesday night with the radio broadcast of the Minnesota Wild versus the St. Louis Blues keeping me entertained for the 25 minute trek. Wild broadcasters Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid started talking about the press box at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center and that it was named after former Blues play-by-play man Dan Kelly.

Kurtz and Reid spoke of working with Kelly over the years, and conversation eventually included former Minnesota North Stars broadcaster Al Shaver, for whom the press box inside the Xcel Energy Center is named.

Honestly, I don’t really remember listening to Shaver, and can’t recall what his voice even sounds like. But Kurtz and Reid’s topic of discussion stirred a thought in my mind — in the world of sports, it doesn’t get any better than listening to a radio broadcast of your favorite team’s games.

I’m sure there are some arguments for television being the ultimate because it shows you what is happening, but I would strongly argue for radio.

Television leaves absolutely nothing for a person’s imagination. Everything is laid out right in front of you in a square box. Radio, on the other hand, allows the listener, with the help of the broadcasters, to paint his own image of what is happening. It works in every sport, too.

In baseball, you can just imagine Nick Punto’s facial expression when John Gordon describes Punto’s trip around the bases on a triple off the baggy. And little sounds better than Gordon telling Torii Hunter to “Touch ‘em all.”

During the radio broadcast of the Chicago Bears’ NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints Jan. 21, the announcers were describing the scene around Soldier Field, with snow falling but not sticking to the turf. I could imagine cotton-like flakes floating through the air so gingerly as 300-pound men violently grappled for position below.

The seamless teamwork of a play-by-play guy and a color man are very soothing to the ear. A good example of this is during the Nascar season. The Motorsports Radio Network (MRN) broadcasts always have at least one broadcaster in each of the four corners of an oval track, and the broadcast fluently flows with the 43 cars from corner to corner until it reaches the start finish line. Somehow, between descriptions of what’s going on on the track, the announcers find spaces to talk about pit stops and even to talk with drivers over their headsets during the race.

It’s music to the ears.

Of course, not all broadcasts are tolerable, usually because of who is the talking head. But when you find one you like, it’s hard to turn him off.

Kurtz is an announcer I love listening to. I’m sure it has something to do with hearing him as a kid on broadcasts of the North Stars and Twins, but he is near the top of the list in my book.

Gopher fans must feel the same about Ray Christianson when he was the man behind the golden microphone.

I always read or hear about baby boomers falling asleep to the sounds of Mel Allen, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell and Vin Scully on their bedside radios. I would include Herb Carneal in that group, Gordon is not too bad either.

I don’t go to bed with the radio on, and the local games are usually over by the time I hit the hey, so I don’t fall asleep with thoughts of Kurtz describing Wild big man Derek Boogaard’s latest boxing match with another goon. But rarely do I tune my car radio past WCCO when the Wild or Twins are on the air.

There is something about imagining the games that make them great.

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