Expat Jack 2: Radio Free Europe

Expat Jack 2: Radio Free Europe

Here’s the encore of our new staff writer, Expat Jack. Hope you enjoy reading BHB!

Expat Jack 2:

Radio Free Europe

It’s early ‘80s, Lake Allatoona, on the last good day of the year. There’s a battery-powered Panasonic AM/FM mono radio cassette recorder with a broken antenna placed on the center console of a Pro-line fishing boat, struggling to pick up the signal.

The radio is unsteadily churning out the white-noise of the crowd, and the gravely voice of legendary Dawg radio announcer, Larry Munson is barking, and howling praise on the Dawgs as he makes the play-by-play call against some hated orange-colored team, saying something like: “We hand it off to Herschel, there’s a hole….5….10…12, he’s running over people! OH YOU HERSCHEL WALKER!…My God Almighty, he ran right through two men! …They had him dead away inside the 9. He drove right over those orange shirts, just DRIVING and RUNNING with those big thighs. My God, a freshman!”

Larry Munson was our own personal crackling, and popping turntable needle that belted out the greatest hits of the Dooley Dawgs era: hits like, “THERE GOES HERSCHEL, there he goes. HERSCHEL’S GONE! Herschel’s gone”. Or how about, “Hunker down, guys! Hunker it down one more time!”.

Or even this beauty…

“The stadium ROCKS and SWINGS and the Dawgs are at Clemson’s 45 and it’s 23-23. 64, 63, 62 seconds! We’re trying to make something happen. Look at the clock! It’s saying No, No, No! …There’s just no time. But, do you realize that we’re in this thing? …Clock’s stopped with 17 seconds. So, we’ll try to kick one from 100,000 miles. We’re holding it on our own 49-and-a-half. Gonna kick it 60 yards and… a foot-and-a-half, AND BUTLER KICKED A LONG ONE!!! A long one. OH MY GOD! [crowd roars]… The stadium is worse than bonkers. Eleven seconds…I can’t believe what he did. [crowd still roaring] This is ungodly.”

But live streaming killed the legendary radio announcer, right? Those unapologetically biased home team radio broadcasts are now just echoes that have disappeared through the verdant foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Or have they? Here in Rome, Italy, radio is most often the only reasonable way for me to enjoy a Georgia football game live.

Come September, every Saturday, very late at night (I’m 6 hours ahead over here), I open up the ESPN gamecast—which gives me real time statistics, put on my earphones, and as soon as I hear the white-noise of the crowd, and the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network play-by-play man, Scott Howard, and analyst, Eric Zeier, I tell my hometown friends on social media, “I’ve got my ears on!” And, poof! For those few hours, the 5,000 miles between me and my Georgia home vanish.

Unlike my friends back home watching the game on TV, I have both my hands on the keyboard. I’m able to belt out the most sensational play-by-play calls, and game analysis in real time, “Holyfield’s got nothing but room, 20, 15, 10, FIVE, HE DIVES near the PILE-on. Touchdown!!” … “Second down and 8 now. Play fake Fromm, sets up the throw, looks down the middle, nothing there. Pump fake. Throws. HE THREADS THE NEEDLE. It’s caught at the 13!”

The game is never too fast for Scott Howard. Whatever energy is on the field, it is directly channeled through his play-by-play. Sometimes, Howard’s call is so frenetic, that when the play ends, he just hands over the microphone to Eric Zeier, “What happened there, Z?”. And then Zeier goes full-on Jeopardy genius of football, from the planet “Former First Team All-American Quarterback and All-Academic,” “Yeah, Great play fake. He really held that football in the belly of his running back for a long time, and just sucked up the defensive backs, forcing them to commit. And as soon as you commit even just a little bit, that’s gonna give a good quarterback a chance.”

In addition to capturing the real time action and energy on the field, and providing analysis that teaches average fans like myself the nuances of the game, between plays and television timeouts, Howard and Zeier carefully craft the personalities, aptitudes, and development of each Georgia player, creating “characters” which over the course of a game, and the season allow for situational drama to unfold.

Unlike the slow pace and rhythm of baseball, which moves in fits and starts, the action of football is driven by the clock, and is usually too fast for us spectators to reasonably identify the situational drama at play, and so it’s only after the fact— in the replay, that we discover the mismatches and skill sets that made the play what it really was, a thing of action and calculation and effort.

Through his craft, Howard artfully constructs the situational drama that is available, and allows us to anticipate what we hope will happen before it happens,

“Dawgs on the 25. Going to the I-formation, Chubb is the tailback, Payne is the fullback, everybody’s in tight between the hashmarks, moving to the right, toss sweep to Chubb to the left. Chubb looking for room. He’s got a block to the corner. Across the 30, 35 to the 40 breaks a tackle to the 45. STILL DRIVING all the way across midfield. Twenty-five yards for Nick Chubb on the far side of the field.”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s difficult to imagine that a spectator like myself could identify all the moving parts that Howard describes in real time in the play-by-play above, just watching the game on TV with a given, vanilla “face-for-television” announcer. So, from my perspective (again, y’all, I’m 5,000 miles away), Scott Howard and Zeier are already super epic radio legends.

Every week, they bring to life the story and drama of the Smart Dawg era.

Editor’s Note: This is so dope!

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