Today is the anniversary of the first major sports broadcast. On July 2, 1921 in Jersey City, New Jersey, heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey met Georges Carpentier in what was billed as “The Battle of the Century.” Nearly one hundred thousand spectators witnessed the fight, and thousands more listened across the nation, including a crowd of ten thousand in New York’s Times Square.
The fight did not live up to its hype, ending in four rounds with Dempsey scoring a knockout, but the people who came to Times Square to listen to a fight, left wanting a radio of their own. According to Bill Bryson in his book Made in America, “The very notion of instant, long-distance verbal communication was so electrifying that soon people everywhere were clamoring to have a radio” (1).
The lone announcer that day was J. Andrew White, who probably never envisioned today’s sports fans who have access to sports broadcasts literally 24-hours a day. Today, in addition to a play-by-play announcer, who reports the who, what, when, and where, there are also color commentators, sometimes called color analysts, who give the listener or viewer the why and the how of what is happening in the ring or on the field. These expert analysts are especially important since the advent of instant replay, first used on December 7, 1963 during the CBS broadcast of the Army-Navy football game.
The relationship between the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator provides an interesting metaphor for writing. The play-by-play person provides what every good piece of writing needs: details, description, examples, facts, and statistics. The color commentator provides something else that good writing needs: the interpretation and analysis of the details. A good writer, therefore, must do both the job of the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator. This balance between the evidence provided to the reader (the proof) and the explanation of that evidence (the warrant) is a key to effective writing, especially argumentation. So, as you write, ask yourself whether or not you are providing enough of both in your own essays, speeches, or broadcasts.
The word broadcast originated in the 18th century as an agricultural term to describe the wide swing of the hand as it throws, or “casts” seeds over a “broad” area. With the advent of radio in the 1920s, the term was adopted as a metaphor to describe the dissemination of information over the air waves.
Today’s Challenge: Broadcast Your Claim
What are some claims that you can make that you can support with detailed evidence and clear explanation? Write a short editorial where you state a single clear claim. Then, support your claim with both details and explanation. Use the broadcaster metaphor as a reminder to provide both play by play and color commentary that makes your case. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
Quotation of the Day: Any good broadcast, not just an Olympic broadcast, should have texture to it. It should have information, should have some history, should have something that’s offbeat, quirky, humorous, and where called for it, should have journalism, and judiciously it should also have commentary. That’s my ideal. -Bob Costas
1 – Bryson, Bill. Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. New York: Perennial, 1994.