"But club talk is taking over the country. Sports announcing is basically just amplified club talk now. The corporation man is spilling over into it. For instance, symptomatic of the organizational man in both sportscasting and writing is the overemphasis with the damn coach. You must glorify the executive, not the performer. Everything is concentrated on the managerial aspects. I want to talk to the players. I want to bring these kids onto television and show that they are not jockstraps with numbers on their backs. Tell about them—not just what they did, but who they are. Those are people out there playing games. They have parents and girl friends. They run out of money, flunk courses and occasionally get in trouble. Don't give me statistics. They appeal only to the 5% lunatic fringe of sports fans who know all the damn statistics and records anyway. An announcer is covering an event—the complete scene. He should tell you what you're missing. Paint the whole picture. Tell 'em what the band is playing, how the hot dogs taste and what color drawers the cheerleaders are wearing.
"Now I don't think it is all the announcers' faults. Primarily it is the directors, the real organization men. They are technicians. That is how they develop. They have no concept of entertainment. Just techniques. What they try to say on television now is this: look at us, we have all this fantastic equipment and incredible technique, and we are going to show you sports fans this afternoon that we can use every goddam bit of this equipment, incidentally bring you the game and not mess it up.
"This is heresy, I know, but I question the rationale behind using the instant replay and the isolated camera and all those things all the time. Now who on God's green earth really wants to see, in slow motion, how the tackle moved out? Now you think about that. People have been going to football games for 100 years, and no one has yet watched a tackle. Why? Well, tackles are dull things to watch. Television says, now we have this isolated camera and we are damn well going to show you how the tackle moves out. They say it will heighten your understanding of the game. Maybe, but not of the event. All this wonderful equipment, and they concentrate on the wrong, dull things. Maybe I'm wrong, but it bores me. It bores all the women and a lot of men not in that lunatic fringe. The best way to execute me is to bore me. No wonder everybody drinks so much."
Of course, as Currie accuses others of not being entertaining enough, his detractors accuse him of being too entertaining, at the expense of the action. "If I ever neglect something on the field, then I admit it, and I am wrong," he says. "Don't mistake what I say. I don't pretend that my style, my banter is anything but the glockenspiel in the band. It is nothing but the dingdong in the din."
Currie's rule of thumb is the later the game, the closer the score, the fewer the jokes. But if it is a rout, there is no telling to what lengths he will go to avoid getting too involved with the insipid action. He'll recite a poem, say hello to somebody in an Elks Club somewhere, speculate on his chances of reaching the men's room soon or just plain entreat his audience to bear with him and this awful contest. "Hang on," he'll say, "and I promise to tell a funny soon." Or, "Don't y'all leave now folks, 'cause I'm liable to goof up something soon, and you shore don't want to miss that."
For that matter, Currie enjoys his flubs as much as anyone else does. In his office, on a wall across from his funeral portrait, he has posted this sentiment by a fellow North Carolinian, Josh Billings: "The glory consists not so much in winning as in playing a poor hand well." For a guy who earns his living talking all the time with a voice that sounds like it just dropped the reins and stumbled out of the furrow, this is a very apt motto.
It is also, really, a very moral expression—as, in fact, Currie is a much more moral man than he likes to let on—just a cool, card-playing restatement of that corny old saw that decorates the office walls of corny old coaches everywhere. In Bill Currie's case that would read: "When the great scorer comes to mark against your name He writes not whether you won or lost, but how you called the game."