Recently while viewing the movie “42”, starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, I was reminded of the sacrifices Robinson made and courage he exemplified. He not only opened people’s eyes and created a path for others in professional sports; he opened minds in all segments of society.
However, being a geek for accuracy in movies, I paid close attention to scenes featuring Dodgers play-by-play announcer Red Barber, portrayed by John C. McGinley. When I saw an hour glass in the corner of Barber’s booth I thought, “Someone has really done their homework.” Some play-by-play announcers used to keep an hour glass in the booth to remind themselves to announce the score before all of the sand had fallen to the bottom of the glass.
Like most professions, Hollywood hasn’t always been completely accurate in portrayals of sports announcers. In “Slapshot,” Charlestown Chiefs’ announcer Jim Carr, played by Andrew Duncan, seems a bit unprepared in his play-by-play and in his studio interviews. He should have known how many years Reggie Dunlop has played pro hockey, which Hanson wore which number and he (along with several other people) would have noticed the Syracuse roster had almost completely changed for the final game of the championship series. This also begs the question: why did the Federal League allow this team to make so many roster changes in the middle of a playoff series?
What Carr misses in preparedness, he makes up for in knowledge of opposing players. How did he know Andre “Poodle” Lussier had been living in semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec, or that Gilmore Tuttle now runs a donut shop in Mile 40, Saskatchewan? I’m ashamed to admit I have no idea what former Wichita Thunder penalty minute leader Chris McAllister or Jake Riddle, who was once a tough guy for Tulsa and later Quad City, (both played several games against the Mavericks) are doing now.
Fortunately, I never had to face the difficulties Carr had to endure in “Slapshot.” I was never whacked across the leg during an interview, never had a player, or coach, put a bounty on a man’s head while being interviewed, or never had a player climb to the gondola where he took my microphone and told the listeners of his personal problems. However, I did have a player leave the ice to join me in the booth during a game. While working as “voice” of the Wichita Thunder, former Blades player Jim Latos, filling in for Thunder coach Bryan Wells, was interrupted by me while filling out his lineup card for a game in Fort Worth. Midway through the first period Fort Worth coach Mike Gamble, Sr. summoned the referee to point out Wichita forward Eddy Marchant’s name was omitted from the lineup sheet. Marchant was excused for the rest of the game; but, I soon had a color commentator for the remainder of the contest.
In “Slapshot,” Carr is never shown on the team bus. The only movie I recall that shows the announcer traveling with the team is “We Are Marshall.” That film tells the story of an entire community dealing with a tragedy that affects almost everyone within. In this movie play-by-play announcer Gene Morehouse, played by Tommy Cresswell, is having a conversation with head football coach Rick Tolley, portrayed by Robert Patrick, shortly before their plane crashed in Huntington, West Virginia. Everyone on board the flight perished. Morehouse’s son, Keith, played by Christian Kanupke, is now a sports announcer at WSAZ television in Huntington.
Perhaps the most accurate role played by a play-by-play announcer in a film was Al Michaels, portraying himself, in “Miracle.” Even if he had lost his script he would have remembered the lines “Do you believe in miracles………yes!” during the closing seconds of the United States victory over the Soviet Union in hockey in the 1980 Olympics. He would also remember his call “This impossible dream comes true” two days later when the USA wrapped up the gold medal in a win over Finland.
Watching play-by-play announcers in film certainly is entertaining for me but, I am definitely looking forward to doing it for real in October when the Missouri Mavericks open their fifth season in the Central Hockey League. Remember the home opener is Saturday, November 2!