Sportscaster Jack Whitaker: We won't see his like again. Here's what he meant

Sportscaster Jack Whitaker: We won't see his like again. Here's what he meant

Golf on TV

Sportscaster Jack Whitaker: We won't see his like again. Here's what he meant

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Jack Whitaker, who died Sunday, had one of those voices that just sounded like sports.

That voice — no-nonsense, a little nasally maybe, but always confident and knowledgeable — was the kind of voice that united fans. It made the game a kind of hearth for viewers that was welcoming and comfortable.

If you heard Whitaker, you knew: This was a game.

Or golf match. Or horse race. Or Olympic competition. (He got around.)

If you don’t know who he is, you should. Because, for varying reasons, there won’t be many more like him.

Whitaker was 95 when he died; some education might be necessary here, granted. He hadn’t been on the air with any regularity for 15 years or so, and he hadn’t been doing play-by-play for years before that. By that point he mostly was doing television essays, looks back at why this or that even was special.

Jack Whitaker at the 1964 Golf Classic matches at La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta, Calif., which were broadcast by the CBS. (AP Photo)

He was a terrific writer, so the essays tended to be better than you might think. And this was a guy who had been around — he worked on the first 21 Super Bowls, as well as all three races of the great Secretariat’s Triple Crown in 1973. Predating Gary McCord’s ban from the Masters golf tournament, Whitaker got himself banned for a time after calling the gallery a “mob” in 1966.

If that’s not a badge of honor, what is?

But, like with most broadcasters, it was his voice that mattered most, in tone and in authority.

Dick Enberg had one, too. So did Vin Scully, who’s still alive but stopped calling baseball games in 2016.

Who are the voices who will take their place? Not as announcers, whether calling a came or providing analysis.

Who will replace them as icons? Anyone?

It’s hard to come up with many likely candidates. Al Michaels? Marv Albert? Bob Costas? Eh. They’re all great, but … maybe.

That’s no fault of the talent working today — the play-by-play announcers are as good as and arguably better than ever. Sean McDonough and Dave Pasch could call a backyard home-run derby and make them worth watching.

Sports just don’t work that way anymore. At least, televised sports don’t. The fragmentation of media is everywhere, and nowhere more prevalent than in the way we watch and listen to games.

You can see everything all the time. On the one hand that’s great if you’re a long-suffering San Diego Padres fan living in Cleveland or something.

On the other hand, it makes everything just a little less special.

There are still appointment-viewing events, of course, like the Super Bowl. It rotates among the networks that own rights to it, so you get a different broadcast crew every year. Fair enough, because it’s still a huge ratings monster, so the networks share the wealth.

Jack Whitaker attends the 33rd annual Sports Emmy Awards on April 30, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Marc Bryan-Brown/WireImage)

We are overrun with options. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it dilutes the experience a little.

Look at “Monday Night Football.” Someone should. When it debuted in 1970, in primetime on ABC, it didn’t just change the sports landscape. It changed the cultural landscape. It extended the weekend.

Now it’s on ESPN, and it no longer attracts the marquee match-ups it used to on a regular basis. Plus, there’s also NFL football on Thursday nights, in addition to Sunday, because we live in an era where anything worth doing is worth doing to death.

There’s another reason announcers like Whitaker are remembered: Because they were everywhere. They called all kinds of sports. Whitaker certainly did. Michaels, Costas and Albert used to, but they don’t anymore. Now it’s so specialized, and there are so many broadcasts of so many games in so many sports, it’s difficult to find someone who, all least on a national stage, calls more than one sport. Joe Buck calls the No. 1 NFL game on Fox every week and calls the World Series.

And everyone hates him for his effort. So it goes.

Do yourself a favor. Go to YouTube and listen to Whitaker call the 1973 Belmont Stakes, when Secretariat ran away with the field to win the Triple Crown. Or listen to one of his televised essays, maybe about the 1982 British Open.

Then listen to Pasch call an Arizona Cardinals game, or Kevin Harlan call a “Monday Night Football” game on Westwood One Radio.

And wonder what Whitaker would have to say about all of it. RIP.

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