My response to the question has stayed almost the same since I was little. One of my friend’s would ask, “Did you see the game last night?” and my response would invariably be “No, but I listened to it!” I would then be told how I missed seeing an amazing play develop and how all the replays were so amazing as well.
When I was in elementary school, this would sometimes make me feel disappointed that I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. But I had heard it described to me over the radio, and I felt like that was good enough. I feel even more so now today.
Listening to the Minnesota Twins games and Minnesota Vikings games were my first loves of radio broadcasting. My family didn’t have the fancy ESPN or the FSN machines on their TV, so I was forced to listen to the games on the radio. The Vikings were on the main TV networks often, so I did watch my share of their games. If we were on the road, I would beg for the game to be tuned in to hear the manic announcer yell in both joy and frustration. I would often respond in kind, becoming animated during the good times and despondent during the not-so-good times.
Back when I recognized and loved every single team member on the Twins squad, I listened to their efforts being described by Herb Carneal and John Gordon. Their voices remind me of summer. Each home run call to “Touch ‘em all” harkens back to a nostalgic time for me.
I see myself standing up near my mom’s flower bed on a concrete path leading to our front door. I hold a baseball bat and swing lefty. I toss pitches to myself and send the baseball up near the clear blue, late afternoon sky. In the background I hear the radio, tuned in to a station with not a lot of static, but just enough to give it that comforting crackle. I can’t believe my mom actually allowed me to bring the radio outside on the front step, so I had better enjoy it. I pitch the ball too far outside the bat’s range. John Gordon yells, “Swing! And a miss!”
But the Twins are winning.
Brad Radke is pitching a solid game and Torii Hunter has hit a home run. Just like the summer day surrounding me, the game has settled into a lull that is pushed and prodded now and then by the commentators. They let the listeners soak it in. The whole scene is as if the Reminisce magazine is describing the nineties.
Radio is one of those things in my life that is always present, but taken for granted most of the time. Intermittently, my enthusiasm for radio reawakens, and this column may very well be an example of one of those moments. However, I have more than enough personal examples to prove to myself that radio is an integral part of my life and not an increasingly dated media I use to make myself appear more sophisticated (although I apparently did that with magazines).
In a world where on-demand sports, web-streaming music, and instant news feeds dominate, there is still a demand for radio. Cars do still come with them, correct? This is lame reasoning, but what is it that keeps radio hanging on? Maybe we are just waiting for time to take its course and for future generations to slowly eliminate radio. If that is the case, I will always be in the minority, along with those who pledged their $10 a month support for the coffee mug and tote bag.
Perhaps what keeps radio programming on the airwaves is the same thing that kept it going in the mid 1900s. It has something to offer. It serves as a backdrop to many memories and acts as a trigger for old feelings to come rushing back. Not many of my ESPN.com updates bring old feelings rushing back, but remembering listening to the Twins regular season game number 163 in 2009 sure does. Updating my Spotify playlist doesn’t exactly get imprinted on my brain, but having a deep-voiced deejay introduce classic rock songs while I’m riding in a car during a mild rainstorm sure does.
It all comes down to people. Radio can be very personal. The way a radio show host says a phrase, a news anchor tells the news, and a sports announcer rejoices and laments, influences current emotion and past memories in a way that cannot be replicated by an automatically updated website. There is an almost direct human connection between listeners and the people on the radio. It makes unseen images that are real also real in our imaginations. Nothing is lost, unless you have poor sports play-by-play. Only then would I be upset to say, “I listened to it, you know, on the radio.”