Vinathon: The One

Vin in booth

By Jon Weisman

By the time I was 10 years old, I wanted to be Vin Scully.

Why?

That might sound like the easiest question in the world to answer. Who wouldn’t want to be Vin Scully?

First, let me be clear. I wouldn’t have phrased my ambition as “I want to be a sportscaster.” It was, “I want to be Vin Scully.”

Why him, more than any other human being in the world? And why then? Partly, it’s because I never envisioned myself as a pro athlete, but on some level, it still doesn’t make sense.

In my mind, there is no one more talented, no one more expert, in the English language than Scully, but I wouldn’t have identified such a specific skill as a child. I would have enjoyed his broadcasts for the most straightforward of reasons — I was a fan of the Dodgers, and for the most part, he told me their stories, and he was great.

Nothing he said before 1977 sticks with me. I know I heard his voice often enough, considering how much of a baseball fan my father is and how many games we consumed on the radio. But all my memories of baseball up to that time are of moments, not his words.

Today, as the parent of three kids who won’t sit still for five minutes of a sporting event on TV or radio without snacks calling their names, I even wonder, why baseball? Why sports? What, at the core of it all, draws one person in, triggering a lifelong obsession, while pushing another person away?

I keep circling back to thrill of being the one.

For some, it’s a vision of actually becoming the champion on the field, in a moment or for a season — none better than you. For others, who make peace that they will be spectators, it is the thrill of vicarious victory.

Either way, it is to experience the mastery of moments, small or large.  And some people — probably wiser than me — don’t see what matters in sports.

For me, as a child, I watched Steve Garvey and Lawrence McCutchen with wonder, read about Tom Sawyer and Abraham Lincoln with awe, encountered thousands of different personalities of fame and accomplishment, real and make-believe.

Somehow, never was anyone more the one than Vin Scully.

Maybe my inability to explain why his appeal was so powerful to me as a child actually speaks to the strength of that appeal. Literally before I can remember, he began to speak to me so deeply, and never stopped.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

The accumulation of experience has taught me that Vin Scully can communicate anything, the ideal combination of Walter Cronkite, Robert Frost and Garrison Keillor. He operates in the seed of a moment and opens it like the most beautiful rose.

Is Scully better at his job than Babe Ruth was? You could argue the point — Scully certainly would — but when you throw in infinite extra points for durability, the debate ends.

The one.

As a kid, I soon decided that to be any other kind of sportscaster would be a disappointment, and so when I didn’t show any immediate aptitude for it, as a teenager practicing with a tape recorder in my bedroom, I abandoned the idea.

It’s funny: I started writing this piece days before I spoke with Joe Davis, whose lifelong ambition was formed at an age as young as mine, but without the peril of identifying so strongly with a single person. He didn’t fall into my trap.

Ultimately, I escaped as well. I moved in a different direction, sideswiping sportscasting (though I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed the chance to comment occasionally on the air in my various careers), carving out my own path, becoming my own self.

My best hope has been to become a one. As he has for so many of us, Vin Scully set that standard, by being so exemplary, so magnetic, so Vin. I’ll probably be chasing that as long as I live. Vin Scully is, and always will be, the one, and we’ll all be someone else.

Originally published November 13, 2015

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