My five favorite of SI’s “32 greatest calls”

I will return to doing analytical posts in the next couple days.  For the past couple of days I’ve been the Courtside Commentator.  Commentaries are easier on my brain (not to suggest that any of my analytical posts are necessarily Rhodes Scholar material — if you’ve read them you will know they aren’t).

Anyway, if there is anything more thrilling in sports than a great call, I don’t know what it would be.  Therefore I was delighted by Sports Illustrated’s “32 Greatest Calls” post today.  The post includes some memorable gems and some sleepers.

Before I get to a few, I would like to note that as a Wisconsinite, my favorite local entry for best call would be Packer voice Jim Irwin’s chill-inducing call of Desmond Howard’s  electrifying 99 yard kick off return for a touchdown to virtually clinch the Packers first World Championship in two generations (“35, 20, 15, 10, 5… TOUCHDOWN FOR DES-MOND HOWARD!!!” with an interspliced note perfect color comment from the late great Max McGee “He… He.. He’s Gone Jim… He’s gone!!”).  Of course it didn’t make the list.

As for those that did make the list, I’ll start with a few I didn’t like, and they will surprise you.   I am thinking particularly of the basketball calls from the 90s, namely Bob Costas’ overwrought, seemingly scripted call of Michael Jordan’s “final” shot at Utah, and Marv Albert’s okay call of one of the most overrated plays in basketball history, Jordan’s unneccessary switch-to-his-left-hand shot (I know I’m going to catch hell for that opinion, and that’s fine, but I will stick by that until I die — there was no basketball reason that he switched hands in mid-air, and the shot wasn’t particularly difficult — provided you could jump like Jordan.  His hesitation dunk on Ewing was INFINITELY BETTER).

Now, here are my five favorites. not in any order, and they contain at least one surprise:

1. Jonny Most’s Havlicek call

The greatest basketball call in my book was, of course, Jonny Most’s (“Annndddd…. Havilicek steals it,… Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”).  But I always thought you have to hear the whole sequence to truly appreciate the awesomeness of the call, meaning you have to hear the desperate preamble featuring Bill Russell’s near blunder (“Russell threw it off the support… and the Celtics only lead by one!!”).

2.  Al Michaels “Do you believe in miracles??”

Obviously.  But again, its the unique, fully genuine lead-up that always stays with me and absolutely makes the call (“…Now you’ve got 10 seconds!…”)

3. Vin Scully’s “She is Gone!”

Just spine tingling.  Just a beautiful call of a magical moment.  I love Kirk Gibson’s fist pump.  Unforgettable.

4. Anonymous —  “Look at Mills!! Look at Mills!!

Here’s one I know you’ve never heard of, but it is beyond great.  The only reason I know of it is because somebody gave me “And the Crowd Goes Wild…!!” one year for Christmas and this call was on the audio CD that accompanied the book.  After I first heard it, I played the grooves off this particular track, even though I don’t follow track and field and had never heard of Billy Mills.  Apparently he was in the Marine Corps and took up running and somehow made the 1964 Olympic team as a long distance runner (I may be telling this wrong, I’m going from memory).  Anyway, this other fellow was supposed to just dominate, and Mills was a complete afterthought who wasn’t supposed to do anything.  On the CD you hear the staid announcer calling the race and then all of a sudden Mills makes this monster kick at the end to stun the crowd, and this unknown voice suddenly breaks in and it is filled with a mixture of excitement, astonishment, patriotic pride, and absolute voice cracking, trembling joy… “Look at Mills!! Look at Milllsss!!” That’s the only way I can describe it… but it is simply awesome.

5. Howard Cosell’s “Down goes Frazier!! Down goes Frazier!!”

The theme to all of these, with the possible exception of Al Michaels call, is their absolute emotional spontaneity.  Listening to Cosell’s call, you could tell that even the King of Hyperbole could not believe it when he saw the theretofore invincible Joe Frazier hit the canvas in the first round.  And once again, the surrounding comments are what give the famous comment its flavor.  In this case I love when Cosell follows it up with… “And there is George Foreman in the neutral corner… poised as can be!!!”  If you ever see the video of the call, which I saw as part of a documentary on Cosell, Cosell is standing up calling the fight, with a stogie in his hand, and when Frazier goes down, Cosell is so shocked he’s physically trembling and literally spitting the words out of his mouth.

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One Response to “My five favorite of SI’s “32 greatest calls””

  1. jeff Says:

    I agree about the Mills call. He came to our high school my senior year to give a motivational speech and as the intro they showed the last part of his race. What’s even more amazing is that with about 350 meters to go, Mills was pushed/elbowed completely out of the picture. He stumbled and may have even fallen. He doesn’t show up again until the last hundred meters of the race and he’s running so fast that it looks like the leaders are in slow motion.

    Still gives me chills thinking about it.

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