The eyes may be the window to the soul, but it’s the ears that first cross the line to bring big sporting moments to life. Mesmerized by the poetically euphonious voice of an excellent commentator, we see the game perfectly from even a thousand miles away.
One of the best of this rare broadcast breed took to the great pitch in the sky last week – an Irish-American master of the mic who licked his present off the Blarney Stone.
Though little known this side of the pond, Vin Scully shone as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers (or the Brooklyn Dodgers as they were known before the franchise moved from New York to California in 1958) for a record 67 seasons.
For those of us who took J-1 summer jobs in New York and Boston in the 1980s or 1990s, the Thursday night ballgame and commentating beauty of the “Fordham Thrush” in full flight was a mandatory rite of passage.
In an American era when life was simpler and its horizons brighter, Vin perfectly brought to life “exactly how the game felt, how it brushed our fingertips and brushed our cheeks on an August evening”.
Born to Irish immigrants, he recalled returning to the ‘Auld Sod’ at the age of five. “My father had just passed away and my heartbroken mother brought me back to reconnect with the roots of the family. I actually kissed the Blarney Stone, so maybe that magic rubbed off on me.” He was in good company on the Emerald Isle, where legends like Cogley, O’Reilly, Corcoran and Hamilton offered commentary that was as sportingly insightful as it was wittily intoxicating.
“And there he is, Alan Lotty, he may be bootless, he may be sockless, he may be stitchless, but he certainly isn’t ballless,” was Michael O’Hehir’s vivid description of a Cork corner defender after a ‘scheme puzzle’. ‘ outside the parallelogram. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, GAA Maestro on the microphone, was no less insightful: “Seán Óg Ó hAilpín is on the ball now – his father is from Fermanagh, his mother from Fiji – neither a hurling stronghold.”
Or how about down-to-earth prose: “He grabs the sliotar, he’s on 50! He’s on 40! He’s on 30… he’s down!” More succinctly, but no less heartily, was Marty Morrissey’s delight when Clare equalized against Cork in the 2013 All-Ireland Hurling Final: “He scores, he scores and it goes over the latte. O holy Moses!”
A wise man once advised to look to the sports pages of a newspaper to witness mankind’s great achievements and ignore the front page and its greatest failures. How true.
When the news of Vin Scully’s death broke last week, I was transported back to New York summer evenings, listening to baseball’s greatest voice on the fire escape of our Hell’s Kitchen apartment. When Vin announced his retirement in 2016, he presciently paraphrased Dylan Thomas: “I’m raging at the death of my career, right around the corner. But for whatever God-given time I have left, I’ll rage.” It’s a decent epitaph for all those hypnotically athletic voices that make this world a better place.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/elevating-the-greatest-sporting-feats-by-way-of-the-power-of-speech-41895849.html Elevating the greatest sporting achievements through the power of language