The Shocker in Soccer

Calabro shuns Okies for Sounders.

Can the bard of the hardwood make the switch to the pitch?

Can the bard of the hardwood make the switch to the pitch?

When my friends Anthony and Mary got married last September, I had the great honor of officiating at the ceremony. Nevertheless, I wasn’t my first choice—legendary ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson was. I figured whose voice says “exciting Saturday in September” more than Jackson’s? (If I had to choose someone to call a wedding night, it would of course be Bill Raftery, the coiner of SW‘s Buzzer Beater column title, “The Bounce to Ecstasy!”)

That we become conditioned to associate the voices of our favorite sportscasters with happy experiences is no novel observation. In Seattle, we’ve been lucky to have some particularly good game-callers, local treasures like the Bobs (Rondeau and Blackburn) and jovial Cliff Clavin–channeler Ron Fairly, as well as bigger names like Cooperstown inductee Dave Niehaus and Jackson, a Wazzu alum who sharpened his broadcast teeth on Husky and Seattle Rainiers games. But one broadcaster deserves the title of Seattle’s favorite: Kevin Calabro. He has chosen home over ducats, flown high the “fuck you” flag so that it can be seen from Clay Bennett’s offices in Oklahoma City, and now signed on to be the play-by-play voice of Seattle’s expansion Major League Soccer franchise, Sounders FC. There might not be another example in sports where fan excitement over the signing of a team’s announcer matched or exceeded excitement over the team itself.

Of course, loyalty’s not the only, nor even the primary, reason to love Calabro. Where most sportscasters win fans with folksiness, and others try mightily to flaunt wit and erudition, Calabro coolly narrates the game while tossing off brilliant, allusive catchphrases with uncanny ease. A quick survey of some of his famous calls reveals a familiarity with George Clinton (“Get up for the down stroke!”), Stanley Kubrick (“Flying chickens in the barnyard!”), French oaths (“Sacre bleu!“), oft-cited but rarely practiced sexual maneuvers (“Two in the cake, one in the pudding—Brent Barry with the shocker!”), and The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (“Ali Baba, that Kemp is strong!”).

Can the bard of the hardwood make the switch to the pitch? Can the balding baritone bring the shocker to soccer? Sonics fans may be hopeful. Soccer fans may be skeptical. We think he’s simply too good to fail.

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