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College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville

Saturday, March 12, 2005

By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor

ECU announcer a legend-in-process


Avant-garde artist Andy Warhol (1928-87) once said that each of us is destined for 15 minutes of fame. The edgy pop culture icon was alluding at least in part to that inevitable confluence of events that casts the sometimes friendly, sometimes harsh glare of the media on the unsuspecting.

Josh Spence’s unsolicited turn to bake in that hot spotlight came in a Friday column by’s Al Myatt. In his regular View from the East column, Myatt made light of the up-and-coming young broadcaster’s on-the-job learning experience as East Carolina’s baseball play-by-play announcer.

A number of readers interpreted Myatt’s column just as it was intended – a sharp but tongue-in-cheek critique of ECU bureaucrats for thrusting Spence into such a high-pressure role without the benefit of having first served an apprenticeship under a play-by-play veteran such as "Voice of the Pirates" Jeff Charles.

That take didn’t cut the mustard with other readers, whose complaints about the article included characterizations ranging from “mean-spirited” to “hatchet job” to “The editor should be fired.”

No thanks to yours truly, the editor, Myatt’s attempt to cast Spence’s limited knowledge of baseball jargon in a humorous fashion came across to some readers as bashing an emerging young talent.

Ultimately, it is my responsibility as editor to ensure that the intended overall message of an article doesn’t get lost in translation. Based on e-mail and telephone feedback, I fell short of fulfilling that part of my job with some readers and for that, I apologize.

The references in Myatt’s column to the Comedy Channel and to Abbott & Costello’s famed “Who’s on First” slapstick routine were intended to strike the reader’s funny bone. But more importantly, the objective was to spur serious analysis of the rushed manner in which ECU shoved Spence into the pilot's seat of the radio booth of one of the nation's top baseball programs with little advance in-flight training in the terminology of the sport.

If criticism was intended, it was meant to be productive and was aimed at ECU, not Josh Spence.

After all, Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean, whose butchering of the King’s English included such immortal accounts of the action as, “He slood into third base,” is as much a legend for his colorful broadcasting career as for his remarkable depression-era exploits as a pitcher for the celebrated Gashouse Gang.

In the final analysis, Spence’s over-the-airwaves depiction of a player making a catch “in the backfield” brings the same kind of chuckles to listeners that Dean's famous foibles generated long ago.

In many respects, young Spence is already light years ahead of the standards set by Ol' Diz in relaying the account of a game. Spence's language skills are unquestioned, which clearly wasn't the case with Dean, whose backwoods Arkansas vernacular once so unsettled a teachers' association that it lodged a protest claiming he was a bad influence on the children of America.

Responded Dean: ""Let the teachers teach English and I will teach baseball. There is a lot of people in the United States who say "isn't" and they ain't eating."

In contrast, Spence, unburdened by Dean's struggles with the English language, is learning the peculiar slang of baseball on the job.

Bottom line: Josh Spence, is one of the more talented young broadcasters in college sports and his baseball vocabulary will eventually catch up to his golden voice. The result is that his “15 minutes of fame” has the potential to stretch into a lifetime of professional accomplishments.

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02/23/2007 01:37:45 AM

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