Longtime Philadelphia broadcaster Harry Kalas died unexpectedly yesterday in Washington at the age of 73. You can get complete coverage of the circumstances of his death and the reaction to it over at Philly.com.
Even though I am not a fan of the Philadelphia sports scene, when I heard the news of Kalas’ passing, I felt incredibly sad for the people of that city.
Sports fans today cannot appreciate how those in my era and earlier grew-up connected to their teams through their announcers. In New England I hung on every word of Ned Martin, Ken Coleman, and now Joe Castilione (Red Sox), Johnny Most (Celtics) and Fred Cuisick (Bruins). They were the teams for me. For Philadelphians Kalas was the team.
For those of you new to the site I grew up wanting to be a network play-by-play announcer. I got the bug after watching the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series. I knew I could never play baseball, but maybe I could call the game. Curt Gowdy (another former Red Sox announcer) was my idol. This was my way to be part of the team.
I also couldn’t wait to watch the NFL Game of the Week produced by NFL Films. To this day I try to catch some of the relays on NFL Network. Back then the Patriots were not a winning team. I was attracted to the program because of the announcers, John Facenda and Harry Kalas. The writing for these shows may have been good, but it was the voices of Facenda and Kalas that made them great. Many growing up in the 70’s and 80’s were connected to the NFL through Facenda and Kalas.
You don’t get many announcers like Kalas any more. Announcers of professional sports teams today rarely hang on in one place for an entire career. The quality of many of these announcers are also not up to the level of Kalas and his peers. Fans today cannot connect with their teams the way I did.
As much as I embrace the evolution of how we get our information, it’s equally sad to see the connections of the past go away. Harry Kalas was one of those connections. Rest in Peace.