Joe Turpel creates the most divine press box poetry, sets the scene with astonishing accuracy!
I recently had to drive ten hours miles through the great state of California. Traversing coastal planes, rolling hills, fertile valleys, scorched desert and urban gridlock, I have the privilege of making this drive about ten times per annum.
The best part? That lovely stretch where the German sedans and Italian sportsters of bayside tech millionaires and clairvoyant LA business mavericks cohabitate with lifted American diesel trucks toting confederate flags, all hell-bent on cutting the five hours from SF. to LA down to three.
They all drive like assholes. Why? Because they all drive the way above-average surfers navigate a crowded lineup. Only instead of trying to pluck a set wave from the pack, they’re seeking out that 200-meter stretch between big rigs where they can accelerate to the limits of their 2016 engines and an equally turbocharged sense of self.
Of course, like getting waves in competitive lineups, you gotta burn some motherfuckers if you operate an expensive automobile. You see many a near-death-by-forced-lane-change when driving distances on a major California interstate, and there are exponentially more quattroporte LEDs burning your pupils than there are indicators.
I like to imagine that for the sedan and sportster drivers, visibly more affluent than I, clearly in a hurry, and maybe famous, such haste is because there’s a big eighter of cocaine at the destination and a world-record cock to snort it off of. Or an orgy, preferably on a boat somewhere. Also with pure drugs and huge cocks.
The lifted bro trucks? I like to imagine that the confederate crowd — proudly of desert or valley parentage —a re urgently off to a Tea Party meeting. But with meth and cute trailer chicks.
And then there are dudes like me, the Bede Durbidge of distance drivers, guys who’re just trying to get the job done and end up on the right side of things at the end of the ride: for Bede, heats and requalification.
For me, not bumming out my in-laws or employers. But ten-plus hours down and back practically every month? There’s not a soundtrack in the world that can make passing Coalinga for the umpteenth time this year even remotely desirable.
Now, here in America, early autumn is the most exciting time to be cripplingly addicted to sports media. Like the emergence of a batch of the most ebony of black tar, the rabid sports follower finds himself at the spectatorial verge of overdose.
Late-season baseball characterized by pennant races and wildcard hopefuls. College football upsets abound, rife with narratives of rust-belt mid-majors stuffing the pigskin powerhouses of the former Confederacy while East Oakland and South Central’s fastest and most furious represent universities who would have escorted them from campus for loitering were it not for a 4.4 second forty-yard dash.
For four hours, everyone’s favorite Val-twinged monotone ejaculated some kind of unexpected, divine press box poetry, setting the scene with astonishing accuracy and even a hint of emotion!
But on the day of my drive? It wasn’t a weekend, so no American football. It was far too early for a midweek pitching battle between San Francisco and San Diego.
It was just right, however, to catch the final day of the Hurley Pro, live to the good ol’ mobile device while descending from Fresno to LA!
Now, the bitch about watching a surfing contest and driving is that it’s actually quite difficult to watch television and drive at the same time (drinking and driving is, strangely, much easier, but maybe it’s a practice thing). Even harder when what settles for ‘television’ is an undercharged cell phone placed on the dash at a less-than-ideal viewing angle.
So I had to settle for the experience of radio.
Unlike Matt Warshaw, I didn’t grow up in LA listening to Vin Scully and Chick Hearn. As for my knowledge of greater Los Angeles, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Burbank and Bell Gardens if my life depended on it.
What I do know is that the play-by-play from Trestles was delightful from a radio perspective. Mere weeks after Warshaw “wrote a hurtful piece barbecuing the brave men and women who front the WSL broadcasts”, I had the unanticipated experience of hanging on Turpel’s play-by-play for every paddle-battle, every turn, every punt, and every score of the last seven heats.
And I’ll be damned, but with the predictable (you said boring, not me!) style and trademark of each quarterfinalist so clearly engrained in the collective memory of the surfing world, Turpski’s commentary was spot on, painting an aural portrait of every wave ridden at that ever-so-iconic-if-overhyped SoCal venue.
The sets on the horizon! Mick’s deep bottom turn-to-wrap! Filipe’s corked reverse and the heartbreak of defeat! The very mechanics of the runner-up’s claims! For four hours, everyone’s favorite Val-twinged monotone ejaculated some kind of unexpected, divine press box poetry, setting the scene with astonishing accuracy and even a hint of emotion!
And although I can barely tell Turpel’s voice from Ross Williams until Ross refers to some long-forgotten trouncing by Kelly decades past (context clues!), I have to hand it to him.
Joe Turpel braved the “color” commentary of the most whitebread media team ever assembled to lay down a mean day of play-by-play, providing an enrapturing radio account that transported this commuter-listener onto the very cobblestones of the San Mateo Creek.
For this, I hesitantly —I’m told it’s a faux pas to speak nicely of the WSL without overwhelming irony — say, good on ya, Joe Turpel!
Somebody get that man some drugs and a phallus, because he’s going places fast.
Mariano Landa – 25/9/2015