PADUCAH, KY. – I’m devoting Super Bowl weekend to making a 1,770-mile drive from the Twin Cities to Fort Myers, Fla. There’s a reason for this that will not be explained in this space.
My goal on departure Friday morning was to reach Paducah, for two reasons: A) That would be a sizable first hunk of the drive; and B) It’s the hometown of Phil Roof, a Twins’ backup catcher from the ‘70s, a long-time manager in their minor league system, and a place of which The Babe has always spoken with affection.
Plus, I’m guessing this would be the only chance I will ever have to put a wonderful dateline such as Paducah on some writing.
The best decision made on Friday was to look into a drawer of old CDs before departure, see “The Greatest Hits of Warren Zevon’’ in the front and grab that, to go with a couple of Sturgill Simpson CDs already in the vehicle.
As old-time rock ‘n roll goes, you have to drive a long way to find anything better than Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.’’
The second-best decision was to spend a couple of hours listening to the home broadcast of the Atlanta Hawks on the NBA’s satellite station. The Hawks won their 18th in a row by overcoming Portland and LaMarcus Aldridge’s 37 points before a roaring, sellout crowd in Atlanta.
The folks in Atlanta are proving once again that they will provide a large and loyal fan base, as long as the home team hasn’t lost a game for a month or two.
What made the game compelling for an outsider was the masterful execution of homer-ism by Steve Holman, the Hawks’ play-by-play man. He does the bulk of the game by himself, with some input during timeouts or period breaks by an analyst or a statistician.
I never had occasion to listen previously to Holman. I looked him up and found out this is his 30th season as the voice of the Hawks. And I wasn’t surprised to learn that, as a lad of an announcer, Holman cut his teeth with Johnny Most, the legendary, gravel-voiced homer of the Boston Celtics during days of yore.
Remember Alan Horton’s “Ed Malloy’’ bellow when the referee failed to make a call that would have put Kevin Love on the line at the end of a Timberwolves’ game last winter? That was Johnny Most, bellowing at officials every night for their perceived mistreatment of the Celtics.
I’ve had a good time belittling the homer-ism that is part of the job description for play-by-play people and analysts on all team telecasts for Fox Sports North. Mike Dimond, the major domo at FSN, would do well to bring in Holman for a seminar as to how to turn homer-ism into artistry.
Holman tosses in a suggestion that the Hawks are getting short-changed during most every possession. Those suggestions range from subtle hints that a Hawk was “run into’’ with no charge called, or “hacked’’ with no call against an opposing defender, to overt demands for officiating justice as a game is being decided in the final minutes.
Referee Tom Washington was called out on Friday night for his failure to be even-handed when it came to the Hawks’ chances.
Earlier, Holman kept insisting that Portland coach Terry Stotts was going to get a technical for his constant complaining. Stotts is a former Hawks’ coach, and I’d guess Holman had a more generous view of his pleas to the officials in those days.
Meantime, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, already a lock to be the Coach of the Year for Atlanta’s amazing revival, was the lovable “Coach Bud’’ – infallible in both his coaching decisions and his protests to officials.
It was such a masterful effort in homer-ism that I was shocked to learn from the statistician that, after three periods, the free-throw attempts favored the Hawks 20 to 1.
Clearly, if Steve was a one-man officiating, the margin would’ve been 35 free throws for the Hawks and none for the Blazers and their whining coach, Stotts.
Try as he might, Holman will never be the most-famous homer to work the Georgia scene -- not as long as generations still exist to remember the work of Larry Munson, the Minnesota native who became the long-serving voice of Georgia Bulldogs football.
My friend Gerry Fraley had a stretch as an Atlanta sportswriter and always referred to Munson as a “reverse homer.’’
Meaning, Munson perpetually feared horrible things awaited the ‘Dogs if the defense didn’t stand up right now and stop this vaunted gridiron machine from Auburn (or Vanderbilt, for that matter), or the Georgia offense didn’t convert on this critical third down in the middle of the second period.
Munson didn’t mess with precise lines of scrimmage or yards to go in his play-by-play. He was more concerned about the emotional state of the 11 ‘Dogs who were on the field at that very moment, representing all that was wholesome about Dixie.
Munson was magnificent. I’d rate Holman as more of a hoot.