Did he, a few short months ago, deliver the greatest call in sporting history?
Sporting history is littered with amazing calls by equally amazing broadcasters. Vin Scully describing the last batter of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, “He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin’ up. … So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the ninth, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch … a fastball for a strike. He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed…”
Bill King describing an Oakland Raider fumble, “The ball flipped forward is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock. … Casper grabbing the ball … it is ruled a fumble … Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it’s real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There’s nothing real in the world anymore!”
Vin Scully, again, describing “The Catch,” “Montana … looking … looking … throwing in the end zone … Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! (Crowd noise for 29 full seconds)It’s a madhouse at Candlestick”
Chick Hearn drawling, “This one’s in the refrigerator, the door’s closed, the light’s are out, the butter’s getting hard and the jello is jiggling…” near the end of every Los Angeles Laker win.
I could go on all day! But do you want to know a call that gets finer and finer every time I hear it, and I’ve heard it many many times recently? Joe Turpel describing the Mick Fanning shark incident of ’15! The cool calm in his voice, his refusal to get rattled, and that initial priceless description, “As we look at Fanning on the rankings. Oooh we can see a little splash…”
I’ve written about his work that day once before, right after the incident, likening his use of “Mick gets back on the ski to reset” to Edward R. Murrow’s “Good night, and good luck.” But these things take time to enter the historical pantheon and, months later, I think it is very clear that Joe Turpel delivered the greatest call in sporting history. And it is the front half, the initial sentence, that soars. The “oooh” so delicate, air sucking slightly in, placing the word “little” before “splash.” I mean, seriously, does a call get any better than that? Does it? I have to say no. I have to say Joe’s calm juxtaposed against the very clear enormity of what was happening on screen makes it the greatest of all time.
Turn your speakers loud. I dare you to disagree