During the 1976
baseball season, Reggie Jackson, after his first game with the Baltimore
Orioles, reported that it felt good, because he was moving good and taking the
pitches good. The pitches Jackson took did not come from Mickey Lolich, because
Detroit had traded him to the Mets. After his second victory for the Mets,
Lolich acknowledged that he was old for a pitcher—35—but, he said, "I still
throw pretty good." Gus Ganakas, while basketball coach at Michigan State,
suspended 10 players: "I feel good compassion between us," he said. Bad
compassion, Ganakas must have sensed, had been the downfall of many basketball
A new generation
of broadcasters has already moved beyond good to better things. Consider the
former quarterback John Unitas. Unitas has three things to say about a player:
He did a fine job. He did a real fine job. He did a super job. About entire
teams or categories of players, such as offensive guards, he also has three
things to say: They do a fine job. They do a real fine job. They do a super
job. No mention of good.
Good shots are
disappearing from golf. If a player hits a nine-iron shot to the green, the
broadcaster will say, "That was a real fine shot." Sometimes, because
he believes the audience is confused about the ball and the green and thinks
the game on the screen is water polo, he will say, "That was a real fine
golf shot." In exceptional cases, "That was a super shot."
Will super last?
Not for long. Not with real super waiting to be waved in. Moreover, the golfer
Raymond Floyd has blazed a new trail. After three rounds in the 1976 Masters
tournament, he had a lead of eight strokes. Before the final round, Floyd was
asked how he had slept. "I slept terrific," he said. There is always
something grander beyond the horizon. When the 1974 World Series was under way,
in progress and continuing in California, Vin Scully said on NBC about Reggie
Jackson: "Granted he has a strong arm velocitywise, it's not so
accurate." This entire nation knows what is meant when an outfielder is
said to have a strong arm, but velocitywise adds a new dimension to our
studiology. California Angels Pitcher Nolan Ryan noted one day during 1976
spring training that he had good velocity. He understated it. Ryan has real
good velocity. He is very fast.
wonder—this may be regarded as a digression—whether there is not another
accomplishment players must have if they are to last in the major leagues. This
is the ability to spit with good velocity when the television camera is on
them. It seems clear that a method of communication has been worked out between
the television crews and the players. This is not necessary when a player is
close enough to see the red light that means that the camera is transmitting a
picture on the air, but when he isn't, I suppose that his instructions come
from somebody in the television crew, perhaps by Navy semaphore flags. As soon
as he gets the message, he shifts his tobacco or chewing gum and lets go.
All is not lost in
sports broadcasting. It is a matter of getting the right people on the job. It
is easy to find someone, almost always an ex-player or ex-coach, who will say,
"They're a very physical team" (this is why there are physical
injuries), and "I think they're up for this one," or a whimsical one
who will refer to the end zone in football as royal soil (royal soil used to be
pay dirt). Or refer to the linebackers as the containment committee and the
referee as the chief of the spheroid Shylocks. Those who tell you that teams
deck other teams, or slam, squeeze past, down, clip, rout, outlast, skin, rock
or thump them, while notching another win or upping their mark to whatever the
mark is upped to, are thick on the ground.
I learned early
about clich�s of sports. In the fall of 1941, I was a member of the Washington
bureau of International News Service (later to be merged with United Press into
United Press International). That puts it grandly. I was a copy-boy, a position
that would now be called at NBC News a desk assistant. I hope it makes a
difference. When credentials were available for sports events that INS had no
intention of covering, copyboys were able to use them. This meant that you
could sit in the press box and pretend to be a reporter, and then call in a
brief account of the game in case the deskman in charge wanted to use it.
That fall I was
given the credentials for the football game between George Washington and, as I
recall, Georgetown. It was a game of no interest between teams of no
distinction whatever, and it ended in a scoreless tie. I telephoned.
"What was the
score?" the deskman asked.
"There was no