Today is the anniversary of the first major sports broadcast. On July 2, 1921 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Heavyweight Champion of the World Jack Dempsey met Georges Carpentier in what was billed as “The Battle of the Century.” Nearly one hundred thousand spectators witnessed the fight, and thousands more listened across the nation, including a crowd of ten thousand in New York’s Times Square.
The fight did not live up to its hype, ending in four rounds with Dempsey scoring a knockout, but the people who came to Times Square to listen to a fight, left wanting a radio of their own. According to Bill Bryson in Made in America: “The very notion of instant, long-distance verbal communication was so electrifying that soon people everywhere were clamoring to have a radio” (1).
The lone announcer that day was J. Andrew White, who probably never envisioned today’s sports fans who would have access to sports broadcasts literally 24-hours a day. Today, in addition to a play-by-play announcer, who reports the who, what, when, and where, there are also color commentators, sometime called color analysts, who give the listener or viewer the why and how of what is happening in the ring or on the field. These expert analysts are especially important since the advent of instant replay, first used on December 7, 1963 during the CBS broadcast of the Army-Navy football game.
The relationship between the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator provides an interesting metaphor for writing. The play-by-play person provides what every good piece of writing needs: details, facts, and statistics. In addition, the color commentator provides something else that good writing needs: the interpretation and analysis of the details, facts, and stats. A good writer, therefore, must do both the job of the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator. This balance between the evidence provided to the reader and the explanation of that evidence is a key to effective writing, so as you write, ask yourself whether or not you are providing enough of both.
Today’s Challenge: Colors of the Sports Rainbow
The color provided by the color commentator is mostly figurative, but there are literal colors that relate to sports terms you hear while listening to or watching sports broadcasts. A green, for example, is a common golf term, meaning the short grass that surrounds the hole. Given the sport and the color below, see if you can come up with the missing word for each sports term below:
1. Football – Red _____
2. Soccer – Yellow _____
3. Hockey – Blue _____
4. Boxing – White _____
5. Olympics – Silver ______
6. Horse Racing – Dark _______
7. Tae Kwon Do – Black _________
Quote of the Day: Trying to sneak a fastball past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a roster. – Joe Adcock
Answer: 1. Zone 2. Card 3. Line 4. Hope 5. Medal 6. Horse 7. Belt
1 – Bryson, Bill. Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. New York: Perennial, 1994.