We've never met anyone who loved the game of baseball more than Eric Nadel, which is quite a thing to say given that Nadel has spent the last 20 years of his life watching every single Texas Rangers game. Don't they give out Congressional Medals of Honor for such acts of heroism?
It seems like only yesterday we were young children with our Realistic transistors tucked beneath our pillows during late summer nights, listening as Nadel and his old friend (and ours) Mark Holtz called a West Coast game featuring the Oakland Athletics and Don Zimmer's lowly Rangers squad. It didn't seem like summer without the voices of Nadel and Holtz in our earphones; it could have been 100 degrees, but without those two guys on our radios, it might as well have been football season with snow on the ground. Now, a year after Holtz's death from leukemia, Nadel carries on without his partner; so do we.
Before a spring-training game in Port Charlotte, Florida, Nadel stood on the roof of the press box at Charlotte County Stadium and said he could never explain how much he misses his old friend and mentor. He looked out across the ballpark, the wind to his front and the alligator swamp to his back, and said only that "I think of Mark every day during baseball season, and most other days too." But Nadel's new partner is no lump of coal to Holtz's perfect gem: In Holtz's place is the affable Vince Cotroneo, who spent the last seven years calling Houston Astros games--and surely he misses that right about now, with Randy Johnson setting the armpit of Texas on fire with shutout after sublime shutout. Cotroneo and Nadel have spent this season guiding us with patience, intelligence, and humor through some of the best and worst ball the Texas Rangers have ever played. Never in the history of the sport has a team with such high expectations performed to such low levels, and the boys in the booth make little effort to disguise their own frustrations with the Rangers--or their delight when something goes right.
One day, Nadel will be looked upon as one of the all-time broadcast-booth greats; Cotroneo, for his part, sounds delighted to sit next to him, learn from him, and pretend he's not filling a legend's seat far too big for him or, really, anybody. An honorable mention goes to Dallas Stars play-by-play man Ralph Strangis and his partner, color analyst Daryl Reaugh. Strangis has the hardest job in all of sports media--trying to explain to the listener what the viewer has trouble following. He'd win this award if listening to hockey on the radio wasn't so damned dull and annoying; it's not his fault.
BEST SPORTS ANCHOR
Dale Hansen, WFAA-Channel 8
KXAS-Channel 5 advertises Brian Jensen as "The Sports Guy," when he's really just a Dale Hansen starter kit. He must shop at Hansen's garage sales--where else you gonna find a sports coat in that shade of blinding blue? And Scott Murray, well, we like him well enough, except for his rather annoying habit of pronouncing athletes' names wrong; take a deep breath, Scott, and say it with us: No-VIT-sky. Take Max Morgan (please). Or Babe Laufenberg--and just what is the deal with local stations hiring ex-Cowboys to read the TelePrompter? Oh, well--better that than a playbook. (There are more homers on local TV than in the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa race.) And Mike Doocy is literally the definition of a talking head. No offense, Mike, we still think you're good-looking, but you just don't fit on our 27-inch TV.
We like Dale--no, we absolutely adore Dale, love him like he was kin--because he's a royal pain in the ass, because he's so cynical he makes us feel good about our lives, and because he realizes this is just sports we're talkin' about, fellas, so lighten up and have a shot. He's the one local desk jockey who could never be accused of being a home-town cheerleader, and if he too often slants the other way, well, that's just a welcome relief from the rah-rah-sis-boom-blah that clings to the other sports desks like so much Cameron Diaz hair gel. Dale's a cranky genius, prone to go off like a time bomb and force Tracy and Chip to clean up his mess. More often than not, they look at him like he's an idiot--or just drunk. Which he is, on himself and on this game we like to call sports anchoring.
Best SPORTS MOMENT OF 1998
Dallas Mavericks 104, Chicago Bulls 97
It happened as though in a dream, a barely remembered engram long since faded. Even now, reading about it in an old notebook kept while watching it unfold before our very own eyes, it seems as though the moment never occurred. We recollect it almost as though we watched it out of the corner of our eyes, unsure whether we saw what we thought we saw. No--must have been smoke, a ghost, a trick of the light.