When I was growing up in LA, I loved basketball so much that my dream in life was to be Chick Hearn.
(Even then, you can tell that my athletic ability was non-existent, since I was dreaming of being an announcer, not a player.) Somewhere in the bowels of my mom’s house are hidden a few audio tapes of a 12-year-old girl vainly attempting to provide the play-by-play for a Lakers game. I used to watch the game, turn down the sound and use an old tape recorder to practice.
Even then, I knew that no one could replace Chick. By the time I was 12, Chick had already been calling Lakers games for 37 years and was in the midst of what would become a streak of calling 3,338 consecutive Laker games from 1965-2001, stopping only because you know, he needed to replace an aortic valve in his heart. (Take THAT, Cal Ripken, Jr.!)
No one had his unique way of bringing a game to life. No one else could tell you that “this game is in the refrigerator. The door’s closed; the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the jello is jiggling” without sounding absolutely ridiculous. No one else would even try.
As we face a shortened season, I was just thinking about all the things I love about basketball, and to me you simply can’t talk about basketball without including Chick Hearn. I don’t watch much basketball anymore, and I miss it. (Too hard to follow the Lakers in Boston…)
Anyway, I’ve already given you the life lessons I’ve taken away from one sports-related figure, so I won’t wax too philosophical on you here. Instead, I’ll narrow it down to one thing that I remember from Chick Hearn.
Love what you do. But don’t be afraid to be creative. Because without Chick Hearn,the world would have no idea what a slam dunk, an air ball or a no-look-pass was, and the phrase “No harm, no foul” would never have made it into common lexicon. And no merely ordinary but perfectly capable announcer would be as beloved as Chick Hearn was.