Voices of the Game

Emily Neumann and Vijay Homan

The announcers who devote their lives to calling games for our entertainment are an essential part of almost every major sport in the world. Many legendary announcers have worked to solidify the field, and newer members of the community are breaking barriers every year.

LA Dodgers announcer Vin Scully (above) poses for a photo during his final season with the Dodgers. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Steph Curry dribbles the ball up the court prepared to score against Oklahoma City Thunder as precious seconds runoff the overtime clock. With the game tied, he pulled up from beyond thirty feet, sinking a three pointer and putting his team in the lead with 0.6 seconds remaining. This moment lives on as one of the best shots of his career, yet it wouldn’t nearly have been as incredible if not for the legendary call from Mike Breen, a sports announcer. As the ball was released from Curry’s fingers, swishing into the net, Breen belted out his infamous call, “Bang! Bang!” as the crowd went silent. This phrase has become a threshold for important and memorable moments in the NBA resulting in accelerating Breen’s announcing career. The game against the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder was a normal regular season game, but Breen’s call had such a lasting impact that some people now consider Curry’s shot his most famous three. Stephen Curry is a world renowned NBA player who has shot many buzzer beaters from beyond the three point line, but that moment goes to show that a call can completely change the shot’s outlook.

The influence that announcers have on games is immeasurable, but many fans don’t realize how drastically different games would be without them. Every game is impacted by announcers even though their importance isn’t typically recognized by fans. Not only do announcers easily recall how a certain call immortalized a shot or basket forever, but they also explain the game play by play, making it relatively understandable even if you’ve little to no experience with the game. If unable to catch the game, radio channels broadcast the sports announcer live, making it crucial for the commentator to narrate the game with enthusiasm.

One call can make an announcer a legend in the realm of the sport showing the lasting impact just a couple words can have.

They may come and go, but announcers are remembered for how they transform the game for the viewers. Recent technology has allowed games to be watched virtually anywhere, racking up views for cable companies and making it the announcer’s job to keep the audience’s attention. Games aren’t always extremely entertaining and exciting to watch, yet sports announcers find innovative ways to amuse fans. This may include small talk or poking fun in hopes to encourage fans to continue watching. Sports channels owe much of their success to sports announcers given no one would settle for an increasingly silent game. 

Some people in recent decades have begun breaking barriers in the announcing world, most notably Doris Burke in professional basketball. In 2017, Burke became the first woman to serve as a full time network NBA analyst, and this year she made history as the first female to ever announce in the NBA finals. Formerly, she worked as an analyst for WNBA games and college basketball ESPN and ABC. Prior to that, she played college basketball for Providence college, and was selected to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as an honor for her pioneering work. There have been very few women sports announcers, and Burke has paved the way for women in this career field. Delaney Ball, a Sophomore at Palo Alto High School and member of the girls varsity basketball team, shared some insight on her opinions about Burke as an announcer. 

“Doris Burke is an outstanding commentator, one of the best in the field…  she does an amazing job” – Delaney Ball (’23)

 Burke’s accomplishments and knowledge of basketball has inspired many as she continues to represent females working for the NBA. 

Max Bonnstetter interviews Paul George (above) at the release site of his new shoes, the PG4s. Photo courtesy of Cassy Athena

Sports announcers have to begin somewhere, and Paly junior Max Bonnstetter has his sights set on becoming one in the future. At the age of 11, Bonnstetter won a competition to become a Sports Illustrated Kids Reporter. An avid fan of basketball, Bonnstetter began his career covering the NCAA Tournament and other basketball related events. Through these opportunities, he was able to interview some incredible athletes and coaches. The interview that made him go viral was with South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, boosting his career and landing him a segment with Kobe Bryant on the Tonight Show. From there, the NBA reached out and asked Bonnstetter to become a Junior NBA reporter where he has continued his career covering events such as the NBA Draft, NBA All Star game, and other key games and events. Bonnstetter hopes to continue a career in broadcasting and announcing at games, while continuing to work with the NBA and Sports Illustrated. One other sports announcer he looks up to is Jim Nace, a legendary multi-sport commentator who Bonnstetter has interviewed in the past. 

“Nace is one of my biggest role models. Ever since I was young watching sports, I’ve always been hearing his voice in the background commentating. I hope to be like him someday,” Bonnstetter said. 

While there are many skilled announcers who fans love to hear, there are others who fans choose to heckle and make fun of because of their lack of skill. One in particular, Joe Buck, has seen lots of hate from MLB fans over the past few years. Fans even show up to games with signs reading “I drove 800 miles so I wouldn’t have to listen to Joe Buck call this game.” These types of actions from fans can seem harmless, but they can also drive many people out of the scene. 

Despite some hatred towards specific announcers, for the most part, they are highly thought of. A junior at Paly, Ryan Lykken is a big sports fan who constantly keeps up with sports news and games. 

“I always listen to their comments to help me grasp what’s going on. They change the way I look at different plays,” Lykken said.

He too is very fond of Doris Burke as well as Dick Vitale, an announcer that continued his career despite his age. 

“It’s so cool that Vitale is 81 years old and still commentating at games. Doris Burke is also really good at analyzing the game, both of them I find are really interesting to listen to” Lykken said. 

The announcing world has only grown as more fans have begun watching games online, and more and more diverse people are becoming fan favorites. They make the game more enjoyable and interesting for everyone watching, and they allow the common viewer to relate to people close to the game. Sports announcers should be cherished instead of completely looked over. Whatever role they serve as part of the everyday fan’s life, one thing is certain: they are an irreplaceable part of almost every sport.