“Report the time and score often. You must give the time AND score, because one doesn’t mean anything without the other.”
That was the very first thing I learned from a legendary broadcaster named Marty Glickman, and for many of the students who studied under him during the many years he mentored students at WFUV, it’s the one thing they still remember.
Never heard of Marty Glickman? If you’re outside the NY-NJ-CT area, you might not have. But Marty was one of the all-time greatest play-by-play announcers, and he’s generally credited with practically inventing basketball play-by-play on the radio. He revolutionized the court terminology, and many of his terms are still used today. And if you’ve ever uttered the word “swish” on a basketball court, you can thank Marty, the first to use that term in a basketball broadcast.
The list of announcers he influenced is a mile long. Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Bob Papa, Spero Dedes are just a few, including yours truly. And there are many others, play-by-play announcers and analysts that were schooled in the art of play-by-play by Professor Glickman.
Marty was also an All-American in football at Syracuse University and a member of the 1936 Olympic Team that competed in the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Only Marty didn’t get to run in front of Hitler and the Nazi’s and was replaced. This short video clip below has the story in Marty’s words.
But the most important thing I ever learned from Marty is also one of the simplest things, and one of the most forgotten these days by young broadcasters who have learned about play-by-play not by listening to transistor radios under their pillows, but by watching TV broadcasts that now prominently feature the score and time remaining somewhere on the screen for all to see. Play-by-play announcers on TV don’t have to give this information because it’s always there (although YES Network has been accused of removing theirs on Yankee broadcasts from time to time when the Bronx Bombers are getting bombed by the opposition.
I recently asked a number of former classmates and others that studied under Marty for a story or an anecdote from their days at WFUV Sports and I quickly received a number of responses. Not surprisingly, many of them came right out and mentioned time and score, but there were several others as well, including a lesson that many often do not learn until they’ve been around the industry for a while and that wide-eyed optimism is exchanged for a healthy dose of cynicism.
Author Mike Hayes recalled this exchange, “A listener complained once that sports on public radio was obnoxious and loud. Marty stuck up for us and said that sports was rowdy at times but we should try to accommodate to the station’s “sound”. So we did…and then people complained we weren’t lively enough. When we told him this he said, “I’m going to teach you the most important thing right now. It’s called ‘fuck’em’. That’s what you say when you realize you can’t please everyone.”
In an Internet driven, social media heavy environment, it’s a statement that probably means more today than when Glickman told Hayes that story over 20-years-ago. Twitter can be an evil place for a broadcaster. Back in the day an angry bitter fan usually had to make an effort to reach out directly to an announcer to spout their hate, while today it’s done with a click of a button. You can’t make it in this industry without a very strong backbone, especially when you not only have to please the fan base, but also the team or teams that you work for and most importantly, sign your checks. Walking the line between honest reporting and maintaining team loyalty is a thin one.
And while certain parts of the country both the fans and the ownership are on the same page with how they want their broadcasts fed to them (read: heavy dose of homerism), there are still areas where it’s important to be honest to your audience in a way that won’t displease a team ownership or you’ll be called out (usually by the fans OR the owners, but you’re not in good shape if you end up getting called to the carpet by fans AND ownership for sure).
Today female sportscasters are a fairly common occurrence, but when I was at WFUV we had one woman on the staff. Dena Fenza-Chelius is a restaurant owner on Long Island today, but back then she was like the rest of us, just a young kid who would get nervous before going on the air. Dena recalled some words of wisdom that stuck with her once she turned in her microphone, “I had told him that I was nervous before each time I went on air. He told me, “Honey, the day that you are not nervous is the day you should retire. You should always have jitters, cause if you dont you have lost your passion.” I still remember those words and use them all the time with many different situations!!”
As I sit here and write this, the number of things that I’ve learned from Marty start to hit me like a wave. Things that I haven’t thought about in years, even though they’re apparent in my on-air work, start to come back to me. I wouldn’t be in broadcasting today if not for all of the broadcasting and life lessons that were part of my studies at Fordham University, having learned more from Marty than I did in any of my official classes.
In regards to broadcasting itself, I learned the nuts and bolts of play-by-play from Marty. How to call a game, to set the scene at the start of the broadcast and to make the audience feel as if they’re sitting next to you watching the game, rather than announcing the game AT them as if they’re just part of a big group of people. As John Cummings recounted via Facebook, “Just say what you see”, which as a hockey broadcaster is pretty big, considering that you don’t have much time to do anything but that given the speed of the game.
I don’t have a “New Yawk” accent today because of some words of advice from Marty Glickman. He instructed me to simply sit in my room and read poetry aloud into a tape recorder, and then to listen back to it. The reason being that poetry was meant to be read aloud. I did that for years, and between that simple exercise and then eventually moving away from New York City, helped me to erase what was a very thick accent from my childhood.
These are just a few short stories and side notes about a broadcaster who not only influenced me personally, but many others. The stories are endless though and one day there will definitely be more of them shared, either here on the blog or elsewhere.
Unfortunately Glickman’s career ended before the advent of the Internet, and the ease of saving audio online. I am sure a deeper search would locate more, but a quick search didn’t find many clips of his actual broadcasting, but I did find a couple. This first one below is a great piece—one of those old Newsreels that Marty voiced over for many years, featuring a young Wilt Chamberlain.
I also couldn’t find much of Glickman’s radio play-by-play online, but an old WNEW fan site had this great montage of clips—a blooper reel of sorts. Not bloopers of Marty’s calls, but on-field bloopers from a rather sloppy Monday Night Football game between the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys:
For all of my fellow WFUV Sports brethren, Marty Glickman is certainly a major influence, but there are other announcers who read the blog from outside that circle who were influenced by other announcers. Who were your influences? Whether they were announcers that you simply watched or listened to, or those who mentored you, we’d love to have you share your comments here.
*Marty Glickman coined the phrase “a couple or three yards” when describing some of the runs of New York Giants fullback Alex Webster in the 1950′s-early 60′s.