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A Look At Bill Roth’s Journey

Jason Barrett

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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

Sports Radio News

Ray Didinger Subject of NFL Films Feature, Tells Angelo Cataldi He’s Stayed Busy in Retirement

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Former 94WIP host and Philadelphia Daily News and NBC Sports Philadelphia writer Ray Didinger retired earlier this year, but he told Angelo Cataldi he’s remained busy even though he stepped away from his media career.

“It’s been busier than I thought,” Didinger said. “Just because of the way things have gone in the city. The Phillies going to the World Series, the Eagles are 10-1, I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be this kind of run. Consequently, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I had no idea everyone in the world has a podcast so I’ve been getting all those calls. My name and my phone number are on way too many rolodexes all around the country. When somebody says ‘Hey, let’s do a piece about Philly’, my phone rings. It’s been busy but it’s been good. It’s been great to see what this has meant to the city.”

Didinger hosted shows from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays for 94WIP. In total, he spent more than 50 years covering the NFL before retiring in May.

After Cataldi asked for Didinger’s opinion on the 2022 Eagles, he asked the now-retired reporter if he was still using his yellow notepad. Didinger admitted he does still use the notepad, and Cataldi chastised his former colleague after he said he would retire the notepad. Cataldi joked when he retires after the Eagles season concludes, he hopes to lose co-hosts Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes’ phone numbers.

Didinger will be the subject of an NFL Films feature about his longtime career covering the league. The program will air on FS1 on Friday at 12:30 AM.

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Sports Radio News

Colin Dunlap: ‘Insane’ What Tom Rinaldi Has Done During Last Week

“He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”

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Tom Rinaldi

It was a banner week for FOX Sports during the Thanksgiving holiday, and no one got more work than the network’s Tom Rinaldi. 93.7 The Fan morning show host Colin Dunlap believes Rinaldi deserves props for his schedule.

“It’s insane what he’s done,” Dunlap said. “I wrote it down and I saw somebody tweet it. Listen to this schedule — and I don’t even know if it’s worth it — but listen to what Tom Rinaldi has done: Wednesday? Qatar. Thursday? Dallas for the Cowboys game. Friday? Back to the US-England match in Qatar. Saturday? In Columbus, Ohio for Michigan/Ohio State. Sunday? Kansas City for the NFL game.

“And then if you’ve gotta guess, he’s gonna be at the American game tomorrow so he’s travelling back to Qatar today. I don’t even travel back and forth to Baltimore like that. He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”

Dunlap, co-host Chris Mack, and producer Adam Crowley then discussed whether FOX Sports was using Rinaldi enough. While noting that he’s travelling to all these locations, they believe he isn’t being utilized enough for the bigger stories he’s been known for.

They also joked about whether Rinaldi was flying back and forth on Rupert Murdoch’s private jet and whether or not that would make life easier.

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Sports Radio News

Boomer & Gio: NFL RedZone Botched Transition From Seahawks/Raiders

“If he would have told me ‘We’re taking this off, sorry, those are the rules’, I could have accepted that. He told me that it was on my local CBS!”

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Boomer and Gio

Josh Jacobs scored a tremendous 86-yard touchdown run in overtime as the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Unfortunately, many didn’t get to see it live as NFL RedZone cut away from the game due to NFL broadcasting rules. WFAN morning show Boomer & Gio believe the coverage was botched by the channel and host Scott Hanson.

“The RedZone is who I have issue with,” Gregg Giannotti said. “Scott Hanson — who I have trusted for many years — tells me and the rest of the country to go over to your local CBS and watch the rest of this overtime. ‘International customers stay here. If you’re in America, go over to your local CBS.’ So I go over to my local CBS and there’s some guy wiping off dinosaur eggs with a brush.”

“I’m so confused with the TV rules — and I’ve been in it for 22 years. I’m just very confused,” Boomer Esiason added.

After a discussion about what the rules actually are for television broadcasters and the NFL, the show concluded NFL RedZone couldn’t air portions of just a single game that was still underway.

“If he would have told me ‘We’re taking this off, sorry, those are the rules’, I could have accepted that. He told me that it was on my local CBS,” Giannotti said.

Esiason asked for the show to get in touch with Mike North, the NFL’s Vice President of Broadcasting, joking that they needed to know who to blame for the blunder.

“Somebody dropped the ball over there, that’s for sure,” Giannotti concluded.

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