He was supposed to call at 11, but it was 20 minutes before that and the phone was ringing. The caller ID display said it was from “Enberg, Barbara,” so I readied my recorder and answered the phone.
“Hi, is this Ed?”
“Oh good, this is Dick Enberg.”
“Uh, yeah... I recognize your voice.”
That was an understatement. The voice was crystal clear. This was the play-by-play voice I remembered from NCAA basketball, from eight different Super Bowl broadcasts, the World Series. He was the host of the game show, Sports Challenge, which I loved to watch as a kid. I talked to him for about 15 minutes, and listened as he regaled me with stories of traveling with Al McGuire and Billy Packer during the college basketball season, and his enduring friendship with the former Marquette coach. It was a very nice conversation with a charming gentleman.
I'm not generally affected by celebrities. I've met more than my fair share. In this job, I've interviewed all sorts of folks, including a big chunk of the performers who have played here in town. I have finished many interviews thinking the artist I've just talked to is a very nice, bright person, but it didn't really register with me that this person was a celebrity.
That was how my talk with Mr. Enberg was as well. Almost. You see, the voice of Dick Enberg took me back to my youth. The voice that brought NFL football games to me. The voice that described college basketball games during my high school and college days. The voice that helped my enjoy Major League Baseball games. That voice! It was a little like being young again.
The last time I had felt like that was when I had a chance to do a phone interview with impressionist Rich Little. Growing up, Rich Little was my favorite performer. Talking to him was not so much getting to know a celebrity, but letting him take me back to a simpler time. He even did a couple of impressions while telling me stories, and when the interview was over, Mr. Little just kept going. He was obviously having a good time talking, and I was lapping it all up. I was 13 again and was a private audience with my favorite entertainer.
I've tried to think of other celebrities that have had a similar effect on me, but for the life of me I can't come up with another one. No other performers, no other announcers, no politicians. Nobody. Earlier today, I did go through a bunch of old voicemail messages on my phone here at The Times Bulletin and found one from country performer Charlie Daniels. I remember my interview with Mr. Daniels. He was entertaining, funny, and all I ever wanted from an interview. I even had a few of his records back in the 70s. (Kids, if you don't know what a “record” is, go ask your grandparents.) But talking to Charlie Daniels was not like talking to Dick Enberg or Rich Little. Maybe if he'd launched into a chorus of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” it would have been different, although, I have always been amused by the concept of me having a voicemail message from Charlie Daniels somewhere in the phone system.
I have tried thinking of other people who could have the same kind of effect on me, but I can't really come up with any. Of course, as with Dick Enberg, I probably wouldn't realize it until I heard the voice. Well, I'm sure Howard Cosell's voice would do the same thing, but considering he has been dead for more than 15 years, hearing his voice would probably have a quite different effect on me!
I've heard it said the voices of the past are heard in old photographs and other such memorabilia. As it turns out, voices of the past are also heard in voices of the past.