If you can name the 1970 Cleveland Cavaliers starting line-up – with college stats for all five players – then you’re a high-profile freak bleeding wine and gold.
Bob Clancy is bleeding wine and gold. You don’t know Bob Clancy, an old friend of mine, but you know his kind. He’s one of those sports fans with an encyclopedic brain, a hot-blooded heart, and a passionate soul.
“I consider myself one of the top 1% of the Cavs fans in the world,” Clancy said without boasting.
Joe Tait got him addicted.
Clancy grew up in New England, but he hated the Celtics for winning too much. Besides, he couldn’t stand the player Johnny Most – a kebab carper and unabashed homer.
When one of Clancy’s prominent neighbors, Point Guard Johnny Egan, was taken over by the Cavs in the 1970 expansion draft, Clancy found his team. He was 15 years old.
Joe Tait got him addicted.
At first it was difficult to pick up the radio signal from Cleveland, which is 566 miles from Wethersfield, Connecticut. But when the Cavs switched to powerful WWWE in 1972, there were nights when the jet stream was spot on and Clancy didn’t even have to hang out his bedroom window to get a clear sound.
“Downtown Bingo! Bingo!”
Clancy can still hear Joe Tait, who retired as the voice of the Cavs in 2011 after four decades. Tait died on Wednesday after a long illness. Our Rob Oller, who grew up in North Ohio, wrote a beautiful homage in the Thursday issues.
“You’ve had some tough, tough years as a Cavs fan, but Joe Tait made you feel good listening,” said Clancy. “He had the ability to give you an idea of the game, to lie down there on the floor and be critical without hitting. He was a professional. “
John Michael had the difficult job of replacing Tait.
“You speak of a humbling experience,” said Michael, now the Cavs play-by-play announcer. “The organization turned to Joe Tait for me, the voice of four decades of Cavs basketball. …
“Joe was Joe. No outside influences. He felt the game and portrayed it to the audience. He wanted to tell you what he saw on the floor. And it was refreshing. “
Tait’s life involved a transformation in sports media. He grew up when radio was still a force, even with the advent of television. He began his career calling Ohio University Games for WOUB in the mid-1960s, when radio was still established as the primary broadcast medium for local teams, colleges, and professionals.
When he retired, fans had the opportunity to watch every game in real time on multiple devices from anywhere in the world.
Gone are the days when you leaned out of your bedroom window with a transistor radio.
John Buccigross, a SportsCenter anchor and hockey play-by-play announcer for ESPN, grew up in Steubenville. He remembers how his father used the family car to find a hill where Boston Bruins games could be pulled. With Bob Wilson on the call.
“I grew up with Bob Prince in Pittsburgh,” said Buccigross. “Man, there was a voice fueled by Marlboros and Bourbon. It had gravitas. If something was important, you knew it.
“You have to remember that the radio had all kinds of programs before the television. There were dramas, soap operas, sitcoms and everything else. Its roots were theater and show style was essential. When it came to sports, you had to have those gravitas, usually with a phenomenal bass or baritone voice, to drag the audience in and lose them in it. “
Buccigross called it “a unifying experience”. In today’s world, the passivity of that experience has largely been lost in a landscape of thousands of television broadcasts – produced and directed by teams and leagues, the very units that play-by-play announcers are supposed to “cover”.
Few teams want another Marty Brennaman, an experienced hand who called Reds games as he saw them. Cheap homers are more in demand. Teams should be promoted, even if it means offending the intelligence of the watching fans. Who is even listening?
Columbus is fortunate to have someone like Paul Keels, the crisp, alacritic baritone voice of Ohio State football and basketball on the radio. Keels grew up in Cincinnati listening to Dom Valentino bring the Cincinnati Royals to life. Valentino wasn’t a classic baritone – but he was a classic.
“When the Royals left in 1972, a Cincinnati station hosted the Cavs and I was introduced to Joe Tait,” said Keels. “It is right to recognize him when he dies. He really was an all-time great. “