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Day 10: Who can possibly replace Bob Rondeau?

It might have to be play-by-play-by-committee

Courtesy UW Athletics

How many days ‘till the Rutgers game?

I knew we could count on Bo Derek to help out with the countdown.

One of the frustrations for any sports fan is to be at the mercy of a sub par play-by-play radio announcer, or even an average one. When you can’t see a game or part of a game on TV for whatever reason —nowadays pretty much meaning you are in the car— trying to piece together a play as someone finds the words to describe it can be maddening.

It’s almost as bad as these 30-day countdown pieces.

The Mariners’ Rick Rizzs has a nice voice and is a terrific storyteller, but I never really know what is transpiring until the play is over. Often it requires the classic “Re-Explain.”

The following is a dramatization of how a former and current Seattle Mariners’ radio description of the same play might sound:

Dave Niehaus: “Swung on and lined DEEP into the gap in leftcenter field, that’s gonna get down... Jones can’t get to it, it’ll go all the way to the wall... Edgar on his way for two... Jones up with the ball on the track .. the long throw in... will... NOT be in time. Edgar slides into second with a leadoff double.”

Rizzs: “Swing and a drive.... deep... moving over is Jones... racing after it and he’s not gonna be able to get to it. Edgar rounding first...digging for two... the throw in... Edgar with the slide in to second base.. and he is going to be SAFE.. Holy Smokes. Edgar hit it hard into the gap in left center and Jones tried to cut it off but he couldn’t get to it and it went all the way to the wall. Jones picked it up on the warning track and made a strong throw in but Edgar was able to beat the throw in for a leadoff double”

I knew from the raise in Niehaus’s voice on the fifth word that this was about to be an exciting play. Rizzs would give us roughly the same delivery for a ball that hung up for Jones to catch. Niehaus also rarely had to go back and re-tell the details of the play. He was somehow able to tell us the important events that transpired as they were happening. Incredible.

I think you all know where I am going with this. Yes, Bob Rondeau is neither poor nor average. He is one of the greats when it comes to play-by-play announcing. His descriptions are not only legendary, but you can listen to a Bob Rondeau called play and know by the octave he chooses the very essence of the play.

He tells us the Dawgs are moving left-to-right... that McClatcher comes in motion to the near side. In my mind I can see it. Ross makes a short grab...he has some room... Rondeau starts talking a little faster.. “Across the 35 to the 40... has room to the 45...John Ross racing far side of the field now inside Trojan territory to the 40... Ross has one man to beat at the 30.... AND JOHN ROSS WILL DO IT. He’s to the 20, the 10, and IN to THE END ZONE. Touchdown Washington John Ross 69 yards.”

Whew. He didn’t even really say that and I get chills.

It’s the same thing with his basketball announcing. He sets the mood. I can turn on the radio with 5 minutes left in the first half, listen to Bob for 30 seconds, and pretty much tell how it’s going. I think to myself: Hmmm, sounds like Rondeau’s “we’re down 13 voice.”

UW Athletics did this great piece on Rondeau two years ago:

So who takes the job?

First, let’s rule out guys like George Costanza who simply do not have the resume:

Secondly, UW is replacing it’s football AND men’s basketball play-by-play voice. Experience in both sports is a must if we are to choose one broadcaster for the two jobs. Could we really find another guy that can do both so well? We might need one for each sport. There is also the possibility of having a couple guys share both jobs (and send Damon Huard packing). I’m not sure any one announcer can do what Rondeau has done for so long anyway. He is unique.

Finally, this has to be a true play-by-play announcer, so color commentators like Brock Huard simply do not have the skill set to keep up with the action and describe it as it happens in front of them. Ex-jocks who make the transition to play-by-play are rare, though Seahawks’ announcer Steve Raible is one of the exceptions.

There is a decent chance that the person calling UW football next season is someone we barely know, or have never even heard of. For that reason, it’s hard to throw a poll out there with a bunch of candidates. I simply don’t have a Rolodex of talented young play-by-play broadcasters from across the country. Instead, I will provide the only choice that makes sense to me. Hopefully we’ll get some good suggestions in the comments below.

The Pick - Kevin Calabro

Former Sonics Radio/TV, Current Portland Trailblazers TV

Probably not very likely, but this is my pick.

If you’re old enough to remember the transition years from Bob Blackburn to Calabro, this new guy Kevin just wasn’t cutting it. He wasn’t Bob Blackburn. He didn’t say “Rim-Skimmer-Tough-Lucker.” He didn’t have the pizzazz. But over time as Blackburn would do less and Calabro more, I started to realize that I could follow the game every bit as well. This fast talker from Indiana had his own style. And when he told us that Gary Payton “whirled into the lane” and “got off a corkscrew-hopper from 15” we could see GP fading away with that leg extended.

I like the way Calabro calls a game. He matches emotion to gameflow. Right now he is the Portland Trailblazers’ TV broadcaster. I have no idea if he would even take the UW job. But the challenge of returning to radio and finishing his career doing what he does best might be appealing.

Calabro is only six years younger than Rondeau, so this is a short-term solution. A transition to a younger announcer might be easier on local ears if he is ushered in by a familiar voice. Calabro for five years, then pair him up with a youngster for two more, then Calabro steps away and we grow to love this new guy.

You got a better idea? Maybe Jason Gesser?

Let’s hear it.


What will replace Bob Rondeau?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    One announcer doing both sports
    (61 votes)
  • 79%
    Separate football and basketball announcers
    (235 votes)
296 votes total Vote Now