Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chris Meketansky's New York Sports Broadcaster Hall of Fame: Walt Frazier

Introducing a brand new multi-part series that will be appearing here at tonyblogs.net, Chris Meketansky's New York Sports Broadcaster Hall of Fame. Chris is one of the original members of the "CortSide" radio team, along with myself, Josh and Stu, whom you've heard from before. But this is Christopher's first guest post. Today, and in the weeks to come, he gives us a closer look at some of the sports broadcasting icons of New York. The first, and perhaps finest, is an extremely well-written look at Walt "Clyde" Frazier.
On September 27, 2005 a production intern walks into MSG Network studios after an hour and fifteen minutes spent riding the L.I.R.R., delayed by electrical malfunction. Late by twenty minutes, with a coffee stain on his clearance khakis, the young man questions if hustling from Queens College to Penn Station four days a week is worthwhile. He runs into a segment producer, who despite forgetting his name scalds him worse than the java -- which his pants now wear like a badge of mediocrity -- did. Taking solace in the bathroom while trying to blot the stain to make it look less like a child’s nighttime accident, his entire career is being questioned. Exiting the restroom, out of the corner of his eye he sees a mythical looking figure walking his way; a purple velvet jacket draped over a pair of perfectly tailored slacks in the distance, and out of the blazer a mitt of a hand suddenly appears. The figure offers a handshake and says, “Welcome young man.” My path in life never seemed as clear as that first moment I met Walt “Clyde” Frazier in person.

Since beginning to broadcast Knicks basketball on television in 1997, Frazier has provided masterful audio to go along with video, which far too often, is unwatchable; the team hasn’t had a winning season since 2001. Style, swagger and foresight roll off his tongue with every piece of information and oracle-like prognostication he passes along. Most Knicks fans know a free throw is off-target in a clutch situation before it even hits the rim, when they hear the familiar “uh-huh” of the oracle-like Frazier.

The man possesses a vocabulary that would make Merriam-Webster jealous. His passion for instilling eclectic variety into sports fans’ vernaculars is evidenced with the release of his book, Word Jam: An Electrifying, Mesmerizing, Gravity-Defying, Guide to a Powerful and Awesome Vocabulary. Truly, a must-read for wordsmiths young and old. He regularly infuses colorful phrases into Knicks games such as: “percolating on the post,” “a little serendipity,” “bounding and astounding,” and “dishing and swishing” just to name a few.

Hearing Frazier broadcast a game is sufficient enough evidence to induct him into the New York Sports Broadcaster Hall of Fame, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Seemingly natural originality is a reoccurring theme in his career. As a player, he was known as a crafty defender, who would use a highly intelligent approach to lure opponents into giving up the ball. His goal was to make the man in front of him forget he existed, until he could capitalize and create a turnover. Similarly, Frazier’s broadcast style is smooth to the point you forget he’s there, until the perfect time to say something arises.

He is known for using a fresh approach to calling games without ever missing a beat. As he likes to say, “Basketball is a game of improvisation.” Clyde has developed an uncanny ability to adapt to any situation he’s presented. Frazier’s verbal counterparts present unique challenges he adapts to with unwavering confidence. Mike Breen’s low-key, logical play-by-play is always complimented by Walt’s titillating and accurate color analysis of the action. Gus Johnson, who has a way of getting overly excited at the smallest of occurrences -- whether its a Nate Robinson dunk in a blow-out, or Tyson Chandler stroking a three to cut the lead to single digits -- is saved by Frazier’s ability to act as a counterbalance. Clyde can be a truthful voice in the face of blind optimism.

Style on and off the court, a realistic voice and a scary good command of the English language make Walt Clyde Frazier the first deserving inductee into the NYSBHoF.

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