A Change in Sports Broadcasters Has Emotionally Wrecked Me


#1

I don’t remember when or how I got into Formula 1 racing, but I do know that the sound of the voices that welcomed me into this strange international subculture. For as long as I have been a fan, commentators David Hobbs and Steve Matchett (joined over the years by Bob Varsha, Leigh Diffey, and Will Buxton) were the voices of F1, and because of them F1 was a place of dry wit, unsparing judgment, and boundless enthusiasm. For the last twenty years, I spent my weekend mornings listening to that crew educate me on what became my favorite sport. This weekend, when the new F1 season began with the Australian GP, those voices were gone.

Nothing tragic happened, except in the sense that losing a connection your past often feels tragic, a foreboding taste of mortality and time that reminds you of how impermanent are the things that we think of as fixtures in our own lives. For most of my life, Sunday mornings in the spring and summer have been a time to gather with my friends on the television to watch a race together and share our pity for “poor auld Ralf Schumacher” and our growing disbelief at whatever asinine thing Pastor Maldonado just did. Now, I’m watching the race with strangers. I still love the sport, but it no longer feels like family.

The kind of connection I forged with this evolving crew of British, American, and Australian racing commentators is more commonplace in this era of podcasts and personality-led media ventures. But in the 1990s, the cozy familiarity in that commentary booth, and the no-bullshit style of critique they applied to every aspect of F1, made the entire venture feel both personal and illicit. It felt like this sports broadcast was happening just out of earshot of the kind of people who want to make sure “the brand” is properly represented and due deference given to “partners and stakeholders”. By Sunday afternoon you’d be back to hearing sportscasters shilling for the NFL, but in the early morning you’d get to hear some seasoned veterans just acknowledge what was staring everybody in the face. It felt revolutionary.

Now, with the rights to broadcast F1 in the United States passing to ESPN and away from NBC, the old broadcast crew has been put aside in favor of a rebroadcast of Sky’s racing coverage. It’s a good team and the Sky have some brilliant motorsports journalists and commentators, but it’s also another step away from those long-ago F1 breakfasts with my parents in our old house, before the flood, before the move, when two dogs I still sometimes dream about slept lazily on the floor between the couch and the TV.

Have there been any TV personalities or sportscasting teams that you’ve forged a relationship with? Has anyone going “off the air” left you feeling less engaged with a pastime you loved?

Let me know in today’s open thread!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvxbpp/a-change-in-sports-broadcasters-has-emotionally-wrecked-me

#2

I grew up without cable so the only way to catch most sports was the radio for me. I formed very strong attachments to certain broadcasters, as their styles directly informed my mental picture of the game.


#3

Now, with the rights to broadcast F1 in the United States passing to ESPN and away from NBC, the old broadcast crew has been put aside in favor of a rebroadcast of Sky’s racing coverage. It’s a good team and the BBC have some brilliant motorsports journalists and commentators,

Just a note, Sky and the BBC have nothing to do with eachother, Sky is Murdoch-owned, subscription cable TV and the BBC is state-owned, free-to-air.

(if we want to get into another fucking travesty of recent F1 broadcasting rights decisions, Sky outbidding F1 off the BBC/free-to-air completely in the UK is a good place to start)


#5

Personally I can’t imagine watching F1 without Martin Brundle, so I hope you can grow a connection to him too. And it was nice to see Nico Rosberg join the broadcast team. I think he’ll do a great job.

As far as other sports go, I’m a Texas Rangers fan and over the past few seasons they’ve switched from Tom Grieve & Steve Busby to Dave Raymond & CJ Nitkowski. Steve & Tom are old timers. Tom started as a player, then joined the management team before becoming the general manager then finally become a broadcaster. He’s seen it all. He was at 10 Cent Beer Night. I didn’t like the change to Dave & CJ, but now I find them to be the same level of quality of play by play as Tom & Steve. It helps that Tom fills in when CJ does nationally broadcast games, and the sideline reporter has stayed the same.

And speaking of baseball broadcasters, how could I not mention Vin Scully. I love Vin. Theres an art to doing play by play and color solo as opposed to doing it with a partner (and a sideline reporter). He had that old-timey radio voice and the stories you’d expect from someone who’d been doing the same job for 67 years. It was just comfortable to listen to. It’s tough to watch a Dodgers game now because they went from the second best play by play (behind the Nationals) to one of the 10 worst.

And finally I have to mention the voice of the Dallas Stars (former voice of the Detroit Red Wings), Dave Strader, who passed away from cancer last year. He hadn’t been the Stars broadcaster for very long, but he was the best play by play guy in hockey. I was unsure of what to expect when the longtime voice of the Stars, Ralph Strangis, left to go back to school, but Dave was an excellent broadcaster.


#6

I’m gonna show my age and say that the voice of F1 to me will always be Murray Walker. He was in many ways a terrible commentator, but he had such gusto and passion for the sport it didn’t really matter. He had a talent for jinxing whoever was in the lead to the point where he eventually stopped saying anyone would win until they had. I grew up watching F1 during the 80s / 90s at the height of the Prost / Senna / Mansell era and Murray Walker will always be associated with that, as one of the greatest eras of F1.

I dropped off watching F1 ever since the UK rights got split between Sky and the BBC. It made it too hard to keep up with it live, and I’ve never been one for watching the highlights. I don’t fancy paying £500/yr (plus £150 for a TV licence which I don’t have, as I don’t watch live TV or iPlayer) for a Sky packaged that includes Sky F1 either.

I’m super psyched for the streaming F1 TV though. When that comes out I’m totes gonna get back into watching F1 live every race!


#7

I follow Starcraft 2 E-sports and generally all the casters are very good, but the core team from a few years ago got me through a dark time - Day9, inControl, Tasteless, Artosis, ToD, and Rotterdam were my boys. Not only were they the best casters, but they all have amazing banter and connection with eachother (inControl and Artosis especially). Sometimes they have their problematic or assholish moments, but I felt like those guys especially during HomeStory Cup (a super chill tournament in Germany) we’d get a window into what SC2 e-sports was really like as you’d see everyone crammed into a tiny german apartment and the casters would get players to come in and cast games, even the Korean players who’s English was limited to SC2.

It was when Sports as a thing to be a fan of first really clicked for me.


#8

I have to say that I stopped keeping up with sports nearly entirely when Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole went to Fox Sports in the states from Sportscentre on TSN.

Even with that ship sunk and them being back up in here in Canada, I still haven’t quite found my interest in professional sports again.

Part of that is because I fell out with a lot of my friends who were as big into CFL as I was, including a close friend who had a small rivalry with me between my NHL team of choice (Montreal) and a close friend’s team (Detroit) since Detroit transferred to the Eastern Conference. Used to be that every time those two teams met, we’d meet up at a bar and get wings or something. sigh


#9

A 10-15 ago I found college hockey on (free) radio online. I could listen to games of my alma mater. Now the games are available by subscription streaming online. I so miss Tim Hennessy’s radio voice, I turn on the radio and turn down the volume on the TV. The big difficulty is synchronizing the radio time lag with TV picture. I’m down to one second.
He has been doing it ever since I graduated! Which means he might be ready to retire. I know I am.
Go Sioux.


#10

There was this guy, Ryan Davis…


#11

I’m a New Orleans Pelicans fan and our local broadcast team is really solid. I have league pass so I occasionally watch other teams’ streams and it’s like I’m watching basketball as seen through some intergalactic civilization gazing upon the game for the first time. They reach strange conclusions regarding plays (they think their guys are always right when obviously they’re always wrong) and I find their unique tics and broadcasting styles bizarre and occasionally grating. I guess we’re all a little sectarian haha


#12

My grandmother would mute the TV and listen to the radio broadcast of the cardinals games.


#13

Not sure if there are any cricket fans on Waypoint but summers in Australia haven’t been the same since Richie Benaud retired from broadcasting in 2012 and soon after passed away in 2015. He commentated over 500 tests in Australia and England, starting in the 1960s. His voice was the soundtrack to many summers of cricket on the telly!


#14

Richie was so good they made a parody radio series about him (and then 12 more). Sadly missed and cricket broadcasting in the UK fell to the wayside due to similar rights bollocks from BSkyB, who continuously put on the most boring commentators known to the airwaves. There’s a reason listening to radio 5Live is more enjoyable than watching cricket on Sky.


#15

Pretty much every Brazilian has a strong relationship to this commentator who has been the voice of F1 during the Piquet/Senna years, and also the main play-by-play guy for whenever the national football team plays. He’s very annoying, incredibly self-centered and is clearly getting worse and worse at his job (and he’s never been great), but no one can think about watching F1 or the Seleção without his voice.


#16

In Germany the F1 side-of-the-track commentator team (so, not the guys commentating the actual race), switched out Niki Lauda for Nico Rosberg this year.

Nico has some positive energy, but he’s smiling, laughing, using very modern/casual language, fooling around a lot and to some interviewed drivers this seemed pretty annoying. Vettel for example was in “this is all not working so well”-silent&downtrodden mode when he was interviewed - I had the feeling he could start shouting “fuck off with your stupid smile, I need to introspect and concentrate!” any moment now at Rosberg.

Lauda always was refreshing because he was allowed to cut straight to the chase. Nobody would tell a Niki Lauda “hey, that’s a bit harsh, you can’t just say this like that” - he’s Niki Lauda after all.
2 years ago for example he called Max Verstappen (who speaks German too) “geisteskrank” (= literally “mentally ill”) for swerve-blocking Räikkönen very late at 180mph (even though the stewards decided it was not against the rules) - Verstappen was only a few meters away. He also said his father should have a serious talk with him or he might get someone killed.


#17

The sportscaster I miss the most is Kevin Calabro, the former voice of the Seattle Supersonics.

As intimated in the piece, those voices that call our favorite sports or for our favorite team become an integral part of the fabric of our lives and memories and a significant portion of my youth was spent listening to the smoothest voice in sports.

Never mind all the anger and frustration over losing the Sonics, but losing Calabro as part of all that was just salt in the wound.


#18

Similarly to Rob, it’s F1 for me too, just with different broadcasters and multiple heartbreaks.

For me, F1 belongs on the BBC, with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain playing over the intro, Murray Walker stopping his start-watch and James Hunt oozing his way through the race. That was my childhood.

Then in 1997 ITV bought the rights. Murray Walker stayed on, but now there were adverts, a bunch of new faces, and no Fleetwood Mac. Adverts! During sport! Absolute madness. And this went on for 12 bloody years.

But then in 2009 the BBC got the rights back! Murray Walker had retired by then, but hey, The Chain was back in action, and no more bloody adverts. All was right with the world. For about 3 years.

That’s when Sky got the rights and started developing into what it is today: The premiere F1 broadcaster in the world. Unmatched coverage (an entire dedicated channel broadcasting 24/7), unmatched commentary (Brundle and Crofty are the best in the business), unmatched analysis and access (regular discussion with Team Principles before during and after the races).

An absolutely incredible package that will never be as good as my memories of spending lazy Sundays watching grainy footage broadcast from Jerez, Murrayisms flying, Hunt drawling, and The Chain playing.


#19

Im not one for sports, but when it comes to growing attached to TV personalities, the day I fell off keeping up with rap/hip-hop and the day AJ and Free stopped hosting 106 & Park is the same damn date.

Also Toonami wasnt the same when Tom got that big re-design before they backpedaled it for the Adult Swim relaunch. And I dont think anyone remembers Miguzi, which replaced it. I wish i didnt.


#20

I live in the UK and am a big NFL fan. I have been since madden on megadrive. When I regularly got to watch it in the mid 2000’s the Sky broadcast was anchored by Kevin Cadle. He to me became my voice of NFL, not because he commentated (we always have the Fox, CBS, etc. live broadcasts) but because he was the first voice you heard at the start of the broadcasts. He got, in my opinion, phased out over the last 3-4 years and sadly died last year.