Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hey. let's not forget about Dick Enberg

The deserved outpouring of appreciation for legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully overshadowed the retirement from play by play of another outstanding broadcaster, Dick Enberg. Enberg has only been doing San Diego Padres games for a few years, and despite a lengthy stint as the voice of the Angels in the 1970s, he's more known as a national guy and not even really for baseball, but more for being an all-around guy.

(Scully, of course, did many sports as well for many outlets and was the national voice of MLB for years on NBC, but calling the same team's games for 60-plus years gives you a certain identity.)

So consider this an appreciation of Enberg, who didn't quite maintain his standards into his 80s like Scully did (to no one's surprise, a self-effacing Enberg has acknowledged this in recent days while paying homage to his colleague), but who still had a tremendous career. I don't have one standout moment I associate with Enberg, as I do for Scully, and in fact I am embarrassed to admit that I started to read his memoir a few years ago, had to put it aside, misplaced it, and am still waiting to read it. But I'm still a Dick Enberg guy!

I grew up as an NBC guy for some reason. It was my favorite network, and that extended to sports. Even though Enberg was pushed out of its baseball coverage in the early 1980s (when they snagged Scully!), I considered him the top guy at my network of choice because of his two big jobs: PBP guy at Wimbledon, and #1 guy on the NFL's AFC package.

Wimbledon was a fascinating experience, one of the only international sporting events that really appealed to me (most of the others were also tennis), and there was something exotic yet comfortable about the setting and the ambience. Really, though, when you have athletes like McEnroe, Lendl, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf...it didn't matter that the environment was so cool. It was, though, and a big part of that was the amiable but enthusiastic team of Enberg and Bud Collins.

And even though my favorite team (America's Team, the Steelers) wasn't good enough in the 1980s to draw NBC's top broadcast team on a regular basis, I still loved watching games on WJAC and hearing Enberg and Merlin Olsen. For some reason, one thing that sticks out is seeing, say, the Raiders playing the 49'ers in the 4:00 window and hearing Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" as bumper music as Enberg threw to commercials. I'm not sure how much I would enjoy Dick and Merlin as an adult watcher, but as a kid, I loved them even if I hated the Broncos and probably got sick of seeing them on NBC all the time.

It never seemed right to me when Enberg went to CBS; though he continued on NFL and tennis for years, I still considered him an NBC guy. In recent years, I discovered his work as a game show host. Thanks, ESPN Classic, for resurrecting "Sports Challenge," a great series pitting actual athletes against each other in trivia competitions...and not playing for charity, either!

I always found him polished and an ideal television personality, someone who drew me in and never sought to overwhelm what he was calling. I'll miss Dick Enberg, and I swear I'm gonna find that book he wrote and actually read it this time.

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