Like the entire world right now, I am super into the World Cup. I’ve been watching all of the matches, even the less-good ones (looking at you Iran-Nigeria). I hear that God-awful World Cup jingle in my sleep (OHHHWAAYYYAAA), and I know all of Alexi Lalas’ on-camera idiosyncrasies (mostly looking bored).
But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed in all my match-watching, it’s that they never use their hands! It’s so crazy! I’m kidding, of course. I knew going in that the amount of hand usage will be restricted to players throwing them up in despair when they don’t get awarded a free kick for faking an injury.
Paying this much attention to the World Cup has led me to make a startling revelation: there are very specific types of announcers for these matches. Now, I’m talking about the play-by-play commentators here. The guys you hear for the majority of the game, not the color commentators who fill dead space during the game, and certainly not the guys in the studio who are the equivalent of Shaq mumbling his way through an NBA half-time analysis (“They play good. They score points. Me like Gold Bond”).
What’s more, the type of play-by-play commentator you hear is specific to the type of sport being played. For example, you’d never hear Al Michaels calling an un-AMERCIAN football game. Mostly ‘cause he’s a true Patriot (THESE COLORS DON’T RUN). But this is true for all types of sporting events. Here’s the breakdown.
Soccer, or fútbol, (personally, “fussball”), allows for literally only two types of play-by-play commentators. The first is some form of an older, fairly-accented gentleman from the UK like Ian Darke. The accent could be lowlands-Scottish. Could be a good Yorkshire. As long as it’s not a proper BBC-accent. This must be the announcer for every single match that doesn’t feature a Latin-American country. If it’s a Latin-American country, then of course you need a Latin-American or Spanish announcer, who is biologically hard-wired to at some point yell “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!” (if no goal is scored he’ll just throw a “NO” in front of that). That’s the second kind. In general, Americans are banned from being play-by-play commentators, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because they’d keep referring to the game as “soccer.”
As previously mentioned, the only play-by-play commentator for American football (or football, as a true ‘Muricans would call it) is Al Michaels. I know that there’re Mike Tirico and Jim Nantz, but they don’t count. Nothing against them, I’m sure they’re solid dudes (actually I don’t know that, they could both be major d-bags, for all I know), but there’s a definitive experiment to prove it is, and always will be, Al Michaels. Do this for me. Take your clothes off. No, wait, I’m typing in the window. Do this for me. Think of watching an NFL play being called on TV (“Russell Wilson lobs up the pass and it’s caught in the corner of the endzone by Percy Harvin!”). What did the voice in your head sound like? Was it nasally and with a slight Brooklyn accent? Congrats, you picked Al Michaels and proved my theory right. That’s science for you, son.
Baseball is Bob Uecker, hands down. Yes, I know that’s the guy from Major League. I don’t care that he’s an actual play-by-play commentator for the Brewers. It’s because of Major League (all of them) that I consider him the quintessential baseball voice. He’s so good he color-commentates his own play-by-play. He’s probably the only voice who’d be able to pull off doing play-by-play for any sport. Hell, I’d start watching the PBA if he did the play-by-play for it. Dude’s that good.
Basketball is the over-pronounced vowels and bad toupees of Marv Albert or someone similar. I would mark this as the least-specific of the play-by-play guys. It’s really just the over-pronunciation that does it, and there are plenty of terrible announcers out there who can pull that off.
Bob Costas owns the Olympics. He told me so.
But as for the Bedroom Olympics, specifically my Bedroom Olympics, there’s really only one play-by-play commentator. It’s the most specific type of play-by-play commentator of them all. In actually he’s not a play-by-play commentator. He’s more of a reporter. For the things that happen in my bedroom are far too dramatic to be covered by someone used to sports. There’s far too much weeping and awkward silence. No, for this I need a reporter of a generation. I’m speaking, of course, of Walter Cronkite. Cronks (as I call him) is the only person with the ability to both report on the events that took place, and use his soothing baritone to calm all parties involved. That’s why, at the close of these momentous games, I always (ALWAYS) play this clip.