Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dancing on the radio

My mother always used to laugh about Edgar Bergen, who was a ventriloquist on the radio.

Of course, he was a comedian, who used his dummies (Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd) as his foils. Or they used Edgar Bergen as their foil. Or whatever.

Anyway, the idea of a ventriloquist on the radio was pretty darned funny. After all, you couldn’t see whether or not the ventriloquist’s lips were moving, could you?

It’s no wonder that when we saw Edgar Bergen on TV shows on Ed Sullivan, his mouth was pretty obviously moving. How skilled a ventriloquist do you have to be on the radio?

(This is, at least, how I remember Edgar Bergen. Maybe I’m confusing him with Rickie Layne and Velvel.)

I guess dancing on the radio would have been even worse.

At least a ventriloquist could conceivably have been funny and entertaining…

Anyway, stuff-that-just-doesn’t-work-on-the-radio came to the fore when I saw an article in The Wall Street Journal on golf on the radio.

Unbeknownst to me, XM Satellite Radio has been broadcasting PGA tournaments since 2005.

Now, I do understand that sports on the radio can work.

Personally, I love listening to baseball.

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of listening to games with my father when I was a kid, but I really enjoy a game this way.

But golf?

If there’s a televised sport that’s more boring than a hush-hush golf match, I don’t know what it could be. So wouldn’t radio just make it worse?

Seriously, 0r is it siriusly, I’d rather watch Candlepins for Cash. Cricket. Badminton.

But at least if you’re watching golf, you get to check out just how many colors and styles that the classic golf shirt comes in. Wonder what’s going on in the caddie’s head, or better let, the guy walking around carrying the leader board. And scan the crowds for a non-white face. (Now that’s entertainment.)

Golf on the radio?


This is really not the sort of description-action sport that lends itself to radio announcement, I would have thought. Don’t you have to see the swing, and the way the ball curves toward to cup?

I just can’t imagine listening to it.

I guess I’m not alone in asking the “why” question about radio golf. 

Golf on the radio may seem like a dumb idea, but remember: People thought the same about golf on television 60 years ago. BBC radio first broadcast golf at the British Amateur Championship in 1927, and it has been at it in a limited way ever since. This year BBC radio will cover the four majors and three other events. Starting in the late 1990s, the PGA Tour tried syndicating play-by-play radio coverage of its events, but it never achieved true national coverage until it teamed with XM in 2005.

Yet radio brings an added dimension to following the game. Television discovered that watching the little ball sail through the air for several long seconds, to land who-knows-where, was inherently suspenseful. Radio announcers, many of them former Tour pros, have figured out how to milk the tension, too. They describe worried expressions and tetchy preshot routines, and make home-run-worthy calls when long putts fall. If you must be in your car, it's an appealing alternative to watching on a screen.(Source: WSJ Online)


I still don’t see it. Or hear it. Or see it and hear it.

But this is, perhaps, because I’m not exactly a golf aficionado.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that this was not always the case.

When I was in high school and college I even went to a few PGA Tournaments when they were held at Pleasant Valley CC outside of Worcester. Back in the day, I saw Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Sam Snead…


Actually, it was kind of fund charging around the course, even if I didn’t really care what I was charging around for.

Anyway, there are only so many PGA Tournaments to broadcast in any given year, so golf radio offers a lot of game improvement shows, too.

This is yet another thing I would have thought worked better in a more visual medium.

The instruction shows have been getting "crazy numbers," Scott Greenstein [SiriusXM's president and chief content officer] says. Hank Haney on a recent show offered a fearless critique of the swing of his former student, Tiger Woods ("He's not practicing enough"), then answered listener questions about increasing club-head speed and overcoming social distractions on the course.

Golf on the radio.

Who knew?

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