Longtime NFL radio announcers a rare breed
By Kent Somers, The Arizona Republic
When Myron Cope retired after 35 years as the Pittsburgh Steelers color analyst, it marked the end of an era, and not just because Cope was a western Pennsylvania icon.
His departure also highlighted the changes in broadcasting over the years, and how differently the public regards NFL radio broadcasters from their colleagues in Major League Baseball.
The average career span of an NFL player is less than four years. It's not much longer for broadcasters, it seems.
Now that Cope has left the booth, just three current radio broadcasters have called games for the same team for more than 25 years. Seventeen of the 32 play-by-play men have spent fewer than 10 years with their teams.
Contrast that with Major League Baseball, where 12 current broadcasters have been with their teams more than 30 years.
"The announcer in baseball is extraordinarily important," said Curt Smith, who has written several books on sports broadcasting. "He's the director, the producer, the script writer, and he's the star. That simply is not true in any other sport."
That's part of what made Cope's popularity and tenure so unusual. In football, a broadcaster has just 16 games to endear himself to a listener. In baseball, he has 162 chances to become part of a listener's life.
The nature of baseball ? its pace and its nuances ? lends itself to announcers painting a picture for someone driving a car, cleaning the garage or falling asleep in bed with the radio.
"In a three-hour baseball game, the ball might be in play for eight to 10 minutes," Smith said. "You get a chance to inject a sense of yourself that you don't in other sports."
Because NFL games are played weekly, each is an event. The sport is driven by network television, which makes Steelers fans' proclivity to turn down the TV and turn up the radio even more unusual.
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