Making the Call
I was all set to do some kind of year end sports list, a nice wrap-up of my favorite sports moments of 2011. Then I remembered the Yankees bombed out in the playoffs, the Islanders sucked and really, there were more lowlights than highlights this year.
Instead, I’ve culled together a list of my favorite sports broadcasting calls. Why? Because I was having a conversation with someone a few days ago about our favorite sports moments and I realized that I remembered the call for each one of them; whether I heard the call live or listened to it over and over in replays, the fact is the play-by-play of pivotal moments in sports history is the soundtrack that brings the memories to life.
Note that these are not the Best Calls Ever. They are, however, my favorite (and I only went with six because I just as easily could have gone with 20 and that would interfere with my intended nap). The calls that I can recite by heart, the ones where I can hear the announcer’s voice in my head as if the play is going on right now. Sometimes the call is about the play. And sometimes the play is secondary to the call.
That there are three hockey calls in the list of six is, well, it’s why I’m the token hockey writer here.
6. World Cup, 1986. I’m not a fan of Maradona. In fact, I hate him. And the fact that this goal came on the heels of his infamous “Hand of God” goal just makes it harder to admire but damn if this call doesn’t do perfect justice to the moment at hand.
5. Kirk Gibson. Jack Buck. 1988 World Series. “I don’t believe what I just saw.” Every baseball fan knows this one. If you love the game, you love this moment and you love this call.
4. 1980 Stanley Cup finals. A very personal choice: “Tonelli to Nystrom..” and that’s all I have to hear, just that two second sound clip before I’m transported back to 1980, crowded in my den with about twenty other Islander fans when bedlam erupted on the ice, in the stands, in my house and later, on the streets of Long Island. “Tonelli to Nystrom” became the sweetest phrase ever uttered for a while.
3. 1994 NHL playoffs. Yes, I am an Islander fan. But I’m a hockey fan first and foremost and there’s no denying that Howie Rose’s call - “Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau! The Rangers have one more hill to climb, baby, but it’s Mount Vancouver!” when the Rangers sealed their entry in the Stanley Cup finals in 1994 was exhilarating (I was watching with a room filled with die hard Rangers fans, it was hard not to get swept up in the moment).
2. 1980 Olympics. I remember what I was wearing. I remember the way my mother’s living room was set up at the time. I remember the game and the seconds ticking off the clock and the glorious chaos and Jim Craig. And I remember screaming back at Al Michaels “YES! YES!” when he asked “Do you believe in miracles?”
1. October 2, 1978. It’s only natural that my favorite call is from my favorite sports moment of all time. Bill White’s narration of the moment is locked in a vault in my mind, in that place where I keep my “happy place” memories. It’s filed under “Bucky Fucking Dent.”
“Deep to left! Yastrzemski will not get it — it’s a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent…”
I once thought about getting that tattooed on my back.
Honorable mention: Any time ever that Marv Albert said “YES!”
Dishonorable mentions: Any call I remember for the ensuing heartbreak. Bill Buckner. The 2004 ALCS.