Stephen A. Smith, the former Inky sports columnist, has apologized for comments he made on ESPN last week that seemed to excuse men who had been “provoked” by women into committing domestic violence. The comments came after the NFL suspended Baltimore’s Ray Rice just two games for violence committed against his wife.
The voices carried me home. Dating back to high school, on most weekends in the summer I’d drive to the Jersey Shore and relax with friends and family who owned or rented houses there (see: mooching). Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Sea Isle, Avalon, Wildwood — I’ve slept on porches and tight couches and in sheets decorated with conch shells. Sundays meant the dreaded trip home, and the worst stretch was usually where the Garden State Parkway meets the Atlantic City Expressway. Traffic crawled. The air conditioner in my black 1994 Chevy Cavalier was broken. It’s a safe bet I was dehydrated, from the sun or booze or both.
Far more important to me than a cool blast of air was my radio. Music was the soundtrack for the ride to the Shore; Sundays were for the Phillies, and for Harry. As the heat and my stress level rose, Harry Kalas turned my sweatbox-on-wheels into a Buddhist monastery where baseball was peace and Harry the K’s play-by-play was a Zen koan. You can still hear his voice, like that of a grandfather or dad who told stories that held you rapt, or a friend who could talk sports for hours: “Struck’im ouuuuut!” During that long drought between 1993 and 2007, when the Fightins mostly stunk like a Vet Stadium bathroom, you tuned in not just for baseball, but for a version of the game as described by Harry. It was often better than what you’d see with your own eyes.
By contrast, a lousy broadcaster can ruin the experience. Like former Sixers color man Eric Snow, who was so dull he once apparently put himself to sleep. On the air. Or the current Phillies television crew, who should begin each inning with a narcolepsy warning. (Google “Matt Stairs Wing Bowl” for proof of a far more entertaining guy than you’ve heard so far. Jamie Moyer? I think he may have a future on NPR.)
With the window now officially closed on the Phillies’ ’08 championship era, and with no basketball, hockey or meaningful football till the fall, it feels like we’re all stuck in a hot car on the Philadelphia sports highway — going nowhere and not happy about it. Which makes this the perfect time to recognize the local TV and radio play-by-play men and color analysts who’ve made our best sports memories better and helped us survive the lean years. To rank them, I’ve looked at three categories: voice (smooth delivery, unmistakable sound), calls (moments that will live in Philly sports history), and general awesomeness (would you want to have a beer or play a round of golf with this guy?).
What makes a broadcaster special is more than the ability to interpret the infield fly rule or describe the action; it’s the weird, deeply personal one-sided relationships that fans develop with him over time. These broadcasters will likely never know you, but they’re part of your family for the big game and your co-pilot on long drives home.
To see the list, buy the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine, on newsstands now, or subscribe today.
No, America won’t be playing when the World Cup resumes this afternoon. But who cares?
I’m still watching the World Cup because I want to see Germany’s colossal back line pummel Brazilian strikers. I still tune in because I want to watch a disciplined Dutch team try to keep up with the creativity of Argentina. I’m still watching because I cannot wait to see who steps onto the pitch in Rio this Sunday to take home the title.
Like me, a record-breaking number of Americans have continued to watch matches after our team’s tragic loss — but look closely and you can call the bluff. Moments after our loss, I could hear American fans saying, “Does this mean I can stop pretending to care about soccer?”
I’m a big soccer fan. I was a big soccer fan even before this World Cup. I love watching soccer on TV. (I know — weird, right?) I get into arguments with my husband over Michael Bradley. I think Kyle Beckerman is the hottest thing since sliced bread.
Philadelphians: Next time you start to talk about trading a once-popular, now-somewhat-past-his-prime Phillie and start the rebuilding already, remember what this feels like:
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded forward R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft on Monday to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Scott Hartnell.
Perhaps we’ve been beaten down by too many bad Philadelphia Union seasons — after so much hope and excitement before the team was actually formed! — but it doesn’t appear that Philly’s paying too much attention to the World Cup.
There’s nothing like seeing your rival handed a humiliating defeat — even deep in the off-season — so this one’s for you Eagles fans: An appeal board has canceled the “Redskins” trademark of the Washington Redskins.
You know. Because it’s racist.
TMZ reports that 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel has been hit with a child support suit from a woman named Jamie.
“In legal docs, obtained by TMZ Sports, Jamie claims Nerlens agreed to pay $10k per month in child support — and did for 3 months — but suddenly cut her off and hasn’t paid a dime since.”
As one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL, Eagles guard Evan Mathis pushes people around for a living. And he’s also one of the wittier players in the game, at least if you define wit as “the ability to be a wiseass on Twitter” (which I obviously do). And, last night, Mathis pulled off a thorough Twitter prank.
It all starts with a $17,747.86 dinner bill from Del Frisco’s second-year-player Lane Johnson tweeted out last week. In light of last year’s Miami Dolphins hazing scandal, Johnson took some criticism for the tweet. That included a Sporting News piece that originally identified Mathis and teammate Todd Herremans, both 10 year veterans, as rookies — a piece Mathis joked about on Twitter.