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Say That Again: 9 Iconic Voices That Shaped Pro Sports

by: Howard Cosmell On  Friday, January 7, 2011


Thanks to the phenomenon that is Ted Williams (the homeless internet voice sensation, not the half-frozen headless Red Sox hall of famer), people have been discussing what makes a voice great. Does it have to sound good, or is originality the most prized attribute? Well, this list has voices that sound great, voices that sound like a Bob Dylan chipmunk and some in between. An iconic sports voice, for whatever reason, moves your mind to another place. Here are the good, the bad, and the fugly: 9 Iconic Voices That Shaped Pro Sports.

9. Harry Caray

It’s not the most harmonious voice on this list, but the title says iconic, not “pretty.” So Caray makes the cut for his close affiliation with all things Cubs, as well as his ability to reach out to people from beyond the grave through Will Ferrell’s inaccurate, but hilarious impression. He sounded like he had a mouth full of nickels, but he sounded that way for so long, it became the voice of the Cubs.

8. Vin Scully

If you know the voice of the announcer of any baseball game in The Simpsons, then you know Vin Scully. The longtime voice of the Dodgers is considered one of the greatest, most iconic baseball voices of all time. Scully had a voice that seemed to fit hand in hand with baseball during an era when people would regularly listen to games, not just watch them. I hear Scully’s voice, and I think of the Wonder Years house, someone fixing a car in the garage, listening to the game with a glass of lemonade. And that was 15 years before I was born.

7. Mike Tyson

Never has a man’s body and voice been so incongruous. The hulking man-child was killing opponents at the age of 19, but his voice was more appropriate to a dwarf in a helium factory. Combine the goofy voice with his affinity for using SAT prep-level vocab and you’ve got a walking punchline. Of course, no one would ever say it to his face.

6. Howard Cosell

His stint at ABC allowed or forced him to cover every sport under the sun. If there was a big moment in sports, you could bet dollars to donuts that Cosell would be in the booth. Of course, my describing the voice is a little silly considering you can click above and hear for yourself, but he became the voice of all sports for a couple generations and is probably the most parodied voice on this list.

5. Pat Sumerall

While Madden got most of the glory, Summerall was the glue that held every game together with his methodical, almost robotic voice. He became the voice of the NFL for a generation of “Madden” fans, who where haunted by utterances like “flag on the play…” or “Bo-niol, lining up to kick.” Listening to him was like enjoying the control to Madden’s chaos.

4. Michael Buffer

If there’s something big to be said, send out a search party, kidnap Michael Buffer and get him to say it. The voice of every important boxing introduction of the past 25 years has lent his stylings to other sports, but “Let’s get reaaaaady to ruuuuuuuuummmmmmmmble” comes at a price. Rumor is he charged Jerry Jones a cool million to perform before a Cowboy game.

3. Muhammad Ali

I don’t know how to begin describing not only Ali’s voice, but his cadence. I don’t think I would be going out on a limb by deeming him one of the first rappers to appear on the cultural radar. His rants sounded like soft-spoken songs that managed to sting despite being easy on the ears. The quintessential iron fist in a steel glove. Whatever. Just watch the video.

2. Keith Jackson

The voice of college football differs greatly from the voice of the pros. NFL teams are mostly cosmopolitan affairs, while college games take place in Ann Arbor, Austin, and Baton Rouge. Keith Jackson was able to turn every play into a home-spun yarn filled with southern idioms that felt like we weren’t watching a nationally televised game, but rather a TV in a rec room with a gregarious southerner.

1. Dick Vitale

Vitale has always been a divisive character in college basketball. Many loved him years back, but it seems recently that his exclamations (which sound like someone is squeezing the air out of him) seem a little desperate and played out. He constantly sounds like an air horn running out of gas, but the problem is – he never does. He keeps going on like that. Year in and year out. Great. Now I’ve depressed myself.




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