The delivery has changed, from the piece of furniture to the transistor to satellite signals and the internet, but the intimacy of radio is as intoxicating as ever. It is a disembodied voice, speaking in your ear, taking you somewhere that you would be otherwise unable to go.
The marriage of radio and football Saturdays is nearly as old as the medium itself. If intercollegiate athletics is the front porch of a university, then the play-by-play announcer, “The Voice of the (Your Team Here),” is the guy sitting in the rocking chair, pouring iced tea and inviting you to take a chair.
Bill Roth went to work at Virginia Tech at 22 in 1988 — yes, the Reagan Administration. That was the second season in Blacksburg for head coach Frank Beamer, who may have been the only man more closely identified with Hokie football than Roth. For 27 seasons, Roth served as “The Voice of the Hokies.”
He began every broadcast by saying, “From the blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the hills of Tennessee, the Virginia Tech Hokies are on the air.” He ended every regular season with the cross-state rivalry against Virginia. Roth called a Cavalier game again Saturday, but it was against UCLA. Roth is the new Voice of the Bruins.
He sat in the press box of the historic Rose Bowl for the first time and called the remarkable debut of UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins’ 35-17 defeat of the ‘Hoos.
It’s a safe bet that Roth is the only Pac-12 announcer who would easily slide into calling Virginia “the ‘Hoos.”
And so now the Bruins, knocking on the door. First down and goal to go for Rosen. From the left hash mark, the 18-year-old rookie, in his first game, takes the snap, flips it into the end zone. It is caught for the touchdown and the Bruins have taken the lead as Fuller scores the first touchdown of the season.
That voice intensifies the emotional connection that an alum has with his alma mater, that a resident has with his state university, that a young boy growing up in Pittsburgh has with the Pirates. That was Roth, who as a 9-year-old would watch the Pirates and do his own baseball play-by-play, cassette recorder in his lap, feet hanging over the edge of the couch, nowhere close to reaching the floor. He employed his 78-year-old babysitter as his color analyst.
“Well, Mrs. Donagan,” Roth recounted in a pre-adolescent squeak, “it looks like the Phillies are going to leave Steve Carlton in the game to pitch to Willie Stargell.”
“Um, Billy,” Mrs. Donagan replied, “would you like another Pop-Tart?”
Roth arrived at Virginia Tech a year out of the Newhouse school at Syracuse, where his buddies included Mike Tirico and Sean McDonough. And he stayed there, chronicling the rise of Hokie football from an independent to the Big East to the BCS Championship Game in the 1999 season — when Michael Vick and No. 2 Virginia Tech led No. 1 Florida State in the fourth quarter — through four ACC championships.
Roth won the state Sportscaster of the Year award 11 times. He has been elected to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. He became an institution. And then, with gut wrenched and tears emptied, he left.
“Virginia will always be home,” Roth said. “The people there are my closest friends.”
He left because most of his living relatives are in the Los Angeles area. He left because he didn’t want to wake up at age 70 and wonder about the opportunity he didn’t take.
“This is the winningest program in the history of college sports,” Roth said of UCLA. “This is the Yankees of college. It’s an unbelievable city. It’s a global market. I could have coasted to the finish in Blacksburg. I wasn’t ready.”
He no longer has to string together a network of 60 stations and tend to the care and feeding of each market. There are 180,000 Bruin alumni within the sound of his voice. UCLA games are broadcast on one station that reaches 20 million people.
That station is KLAC, home to the Bruins and the Dodgers. Roth is working on the same air as Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers who just announced he will remain with the team for his 67th season in 2016. Roth still has the cassette tapes he recorded of Scully’s NBC call of the 1979 World Series, when the Pirates beat the Orioles in seven games. But he doesn’t need them. He slips immediately into Scully’s musical cadence:
“HERE’s Wilver Stargell and, of course, he always makes the opposition a bit uneasy, especially in a situation like this. Game is tied in the eighth inning. McGregor rocks and throws. There’s a high drive, deep right field. Singleton at the track, at the wall, way back, it’s GONE! Pops has done it. Stargell homers. The Pirates have the lead.”
Roth, sitting in a restaurant near his new home in Marina Del Rey, snaps his fingers.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” he said.
Bruins leading 7-6, going at warp speed. Rosen back to throw, fires, end zone, it is caught for the touchdown! TreMENdous throw by Rosen as he hooks up for the touchdown midway through the second quarter. Duarte, over the shoulder, a yard deep in the end zone and in a crowd. Spectacular catch!
The pace of Roth’s speech picks up with the pace of the play and slows down when the whistle blows. There is a musicality, a rhythm in his delivery, which is slightly nasal. His goal, he said, is to keep it conversational, as Scully still does, as Red Barber did before him. It is a one-sided conversation between announcer and listener, a bond that stretches as far as the signal. A generation ago, that signal needed a clear night and 50,000 watts of power.
To read the rest of this article visit ESPN where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
‘The Dan Patrick Show’ Criticizes Sound on ‘Thursday Night Football’
“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap.”
Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers ended up being a compelling game to watch throughout the first several quarters and was enhanced by the stellar images and presentation from Amazon Prime Video. The Thursday Night Football property recently garnered record-setting streaming numbers from its season premiere, according to a custom integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research.
Even so, there was critical feedback from many fans watching regarding the sonic experience of watching the game. Viewers complained that there was an inherent lack of crowd noise and field-level sound, making it more difficult to fully immerse themselves in the atmosphere.
“You pay all this money for that game [and] you can’t hear that it sounds like crap,” Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said on Friday. “There’s no atmosphere – you’ve got no crowd sound; the mics are all over the place. It’s terrible.”
Show host Dan Patrick concurred with this point, relaying that his wife walked by the television and thought something was amiss with the sound. When she asked Patrick what was happening, he replied that it was due to the presentation from Prime Video. Although most viewers ended up watching the game anyway, the inadequate soundscape detracted from the aura of the contest and dampened the viewing experience.
“I love [Kirk] Herbstreit [and] I love Al Michaels, but when I have the game on, do you ever have your stereo in your car and you have the bass and the treble set and somehow it gets reset – and everything’s reset to medium?,” Paul Pabst, an executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show, said. “You’re like, ‘Where’s the highs? Where’s the lows? It has that feeling.’”
The lack of dynamic contrast and aggregate timbre caused some viewers to connote that the broadcast sounds flat despite the stellar, highly-experienced commentary team. Improving on the sound and other customer feedback will be critical in incentivizing non-ardent fans to return to the property or try it altogether.
“We’ve created the atmosphere that is so good that you don’t even have to go to a game,” Patrick said. “With the sound of it, the TVs, [and] the quality… it’s almost a better experience sometimes when you’re sitting at home.”
In addition to watching the National Football League, Pabst frequently consumes college football on Saturdays, including the prime-time presentations. When he is viewing those games, he can feel the noise of the crowd permeating through the speakers and be part of the crowd.
“It’s thunderous,” Pabst said. “The crowd noise almost overwhelms [Chris] Fowler, sometimes in a good way, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on there.”
Finding games on Amazon Prime Video has been a difficult proposition for some users, evidenced by O’Connor describing how it took him 10 minutes to begin watching the Giants-49ers game last night. The game was broadcast regionally on FOX for those in the New York metropolitan area, but for O’Connor, he noticed that the network had the baseball contest between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies on instead.
“I look and I’m like, ‘I swear there was a game tonight,’ and I see it’s in the first quarter.’ What the hell is going on?,” thought O’Connor. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot Amazon was a thing; it’s just not a TV destination all the time for me.”
Gregg Giannotti on Taylor Rooks: ‘Send in a 10’ to Get Players Talking
“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?'”
This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers came off a record-setting week for Prime Video, according to an integrated streaming report by Nielsen Media Research. There were questions surrounding the impending contest off the field pertaining to injuries, and the TNF Tonight pregame show did its best to address pertinent information.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley headlined the team’s injury report after suffering an ankle injury last week, something the team publicly called a sprain. New information was divulged on Thursday night from Barkley himself after features reporter Taylor Rooks asked him about his injury. He then proceeded to reveal that he was dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, an impediment more serious than originally thought.
WFAN host Gregg Giannotti watched the entire pregame show and watched the desk discuss the state of New York football, including New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. The report from Rooks, a reputable source of information who formerly worked for SportsNet New York (SNY) occurred shortly thereafter. While she has a network of contacts and insider information about the league, Giannotti believes there was another reason she got the exclusive story.
“It’s funny because all we heard was, ‘It’s a regular ankle sprain; not a high ankle sprain,’” Giannotti explained Friday morning on WFAN. “Then Taylor Rooks gets over there and finds out it’s a high ankle sprain. I was thinking, ‘You know what? I’d tell her anything too. Whatever you need to know, Taylor, about me, I will tell you.’”
Giannotti watched the Giants lose the contest 30-12 and fall to a 1-2 overall record, but he also began to ponder over the manner in which Rooks was able to effectively do her job. It led him to make a proposition on the air that challenges the effectiveness of the team’s beat writers because of their collective age and appearance.
“I also thought, ‘Why don’t we use more attractive women in interrogation scenarios?,’” Giannotti said. “This is what I was thinking about after I saw this last night. Art Stapleton couldn’t get that out of Saquon Barkley – I love Art Stapleton, but there’s no way. Taylor Rooks got it out of him right away, so why don’t we send in some of these interrogation scenarios where people are just totally zipped up – send in a ‘10’ in there, [and the] next thing you know, ‘Yeah, it was him. He did it, and I did it. We did it together!’”
Giannotti’s co-host Boomer Esiason was surprised to hear Rooks get that information from Barkley, and has not seen anyone in the media react to the occurrence. The injury update changes the way in which people consider his timeline for a return and was a part of the Prime Video broadcast that Giannotti valued.
“Yeah, of course, great reporting,” Giannotti said. “I’m just thinking about all the Giants beat writers sitting around – old guys who look like me just stewing and trying to hide farts in the locker room.”
Arizona Sports Extends Deal With Coyotes
“We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”
Arizona Coyotes fans can keep their presets the same. The team has extended its relationship with Bonneville in Phoenix.
The new deal is a one-year extension to keep the Coyotes on the company’s two Phoenix-area radio stations, 98.7 Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM and on the statiations’ website and app.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with the Arizona Coyotes and the Meruelo Group,” Bonneville Phoenix senior vice president and market manager Ryan Hatch said in a statement. “We look forward to an exciting season delivering Coyotes coverage on-air, online and on the Arizona Sports app.”
As part of the extension, Burns & Gambo will welcome Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez and general manager Bill Armstrong for weekly segments. Wolfe & Luke will be joined weekly by head coach André Tourigny.
“We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Bonneville Phoenix and are thrilled to have Arizona Sports 98.7 and ESPN 620 broadcast all Coyotes games this season,” Gutierrez added. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement about our team, and we look forward to Arizona Sports 98.7, the Valley’s sports leader, providing our fans with outstanding Coyotes coverage all season long.”