By Jeff Munn
This is an awfully tough time for a lot of people my age who grew up here.
We’re saying goodbye to another part of our youthful innocence. Vin Scully is leaving the Dodger broadcast booth.
More than a few people who grew up in 1960’s Phoenix adopted Scully as their baseball announcer on long, hot summer nights when Dodger games were broadcast here, first on KOY, then for many years on KTAR. “Pull up a chair” became as much a part of our summer soundtrack as The Beach Boys or The Beatles.
It’s next to impossible to let these last few games go and treat them as just ball games. Mr. Scully would like us to do that, but we just can’t. We also can’t imagine a Dodger game without that unmistakable voice urging us to try Farmer John Dodger Dogs.
Yet, Father Time continues to be undefeated.
Here in Phoenix, traditions are not as plentiful as they are in Los Angeles, but we can boast of a man who means as much to our winters and springs as Vin Scully has to California summers.
Al McCoy has been the longest-tenured NBA broadcaster for more than just a few years. He embarks on his 45th season of calling Phoenix Suns games on radio in a few weeks, and for his many admirers, the good news is his exit from the stage appears to be nowhere in sight.
That doesn’t mean, though, that each night he takes the airwaves from whatever venue the Suns are playing in shouldn’t be treated like a fine wine, something to be savored, not just consumed.
Okay, I understand, Al has spent the last 12 seasons on radio only, and we’re a society that, more and more, thinks television first. But c’mon, you do have a radio somewhere in the house, right? You do know how to use the radio in your car, don’t you?
You’ve probably read the tributes to Mr. Scully talking about his amazing ability to paint word pictures. The same is true with Al. It’s not a good idea to close your eyes when driving, but while you listen to a Suns game, you’re never at a loss for the essential information – what’s the score, how much time is left, where is the ball and who has it.
Those of us, and I count myself in this group, who attempt to do basketball play-by-play on radio need only listen to Al do one game, and you’re reminded that he’s Michael Jordan, and you’re a ballboy. It doesn’t matter what Al’s age is, he offers broadcasters young and old a textbook on how to broadcast a game, any game.
Prepare, know your subject, develop the storyline of the contest, and if you’re working for one of the teams, be sure to let the audience know that you would like to see the team win, all the while realizing the mark of a professional is doing so without sounding like a fan.
Not much has changed in a McCoy broadcast since his Suns debut in 1972. What has changed are the names of the players, the coaches, his on-air partners. Heck, even the name of the guy signing Al’s paycheck has changed. But the broadcast? Nope. Al McCoy is as dependable as a Starbucks. Same great product, day in, day out, regardless of location.
I readily acknowledge I use two different forms of reference when talking about these two legendary broadcasters. It’s just as hard to refer to Mr. Scully any other way as it is to call The Voice of the Phoenix Suns anything other than Al. He’s not just a broadcaster, he’s your friend. I’m proud to say he’s been more than a friend, he’s been a mentor to me and countless others who wear a headset.
Seventeen years ago, I thought I’d like to try moving from being a public address announcer to doing play-by-play and Al was a main inspiration and influence. After 12 years as ASU’s women’s basketball radio announcer, all I’ve determined is I’m about as close to Al McCoy in terms of ability as Burger King is to formal dining. And I’m not alone.
For you, the fan, you need to treat any game that Al McCoy broadcasts like timeouts in a basketball game. Waste one, and you’ll regret it when it matters most.