Great sporting moments can be made even greater by commentator's words. While a broadcaster’s main priority is to describe the action and keep the viewer informed of what is playing out, there are times when their words resonate with fans on a more emotional level. Here are five incredible sporting moments when the commentators got the tone just right.
5. Verne Lundquist: Alabama Crimson Tide vs Auburn Tigers, 78th Iron Bowl college football
Back in 2013, veteran broadcaster Verne Lundquist was covering this match between two of US sport’s greatest rivals when one of the most remarkable finishes to a football game in history occurred.
Auburn had fallen behind in the second and fourth quarters but rallied late to tie the scores at 28-28 with just seconds left on the clock. When Alabama reached the opposition’s 38-yard line, the clock ran out, and it looked like the game was headed for overtime. However, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban successfully challenged the timekeeper’s call and the clock was reset with one second added. Alabama decided to go for the win by attempting a 57-yard field goal. Alabama placekicker Adam Griffith's kick fell short and was caught by Auburn cornerback, Chris Davis who completed a 109-yard return to touchdown and win the game for his team.
Lundquist described the action in his own inimitable way: "On the way... no, returned by Chris Davis. Davis goes left. Davis gets a block. Davis has another block! Chris Davis. No flags! Touchdown, Auburn! An answered prayer!"
4. Tom Cheek: 1993 World Series Game 6, Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays
Tom Cheek was the "Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays" for 27 years and had a way of capturing the poignancy of key sporting moments with his articulate delivery. And that’s exactly what he did when Joe Carter hit a three-run home run to clinch the World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays over the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.
As Carter completed his run and his teammates spilled onto the field, Cheek delivered the perfect line: "Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life".
3. Ian Darke: USA vs Algeria, 2010 World Cup Group stage match
The USA was never going to win the 2010 World Cup but making the knockout stages would have been a massive achievement for a nation not known for its prowess at men’s soccer. With just four minutes of added time left in this Group C game against Algeria, the American team needed a goal to progress to the Last 16; a draw would not have been enough.
As the ball breaks to Landon Donovan in midfield and the US begin their blistering counter-attack, you can really sense the passion and excitement in the voice of English commentator, Ian Darke. The ball is eventually played out to the right and then delivered into the box before being pushed away by the Algerian goalkeeper. But US soccer hero, Donovan, is on hand to slide the ball into the back of the net.
As the net bulges, so do Darke’s lungs as he bellows: "And Donovan has scored! Oh, can you believe this? Go! Go! Go! USA! Certainly through! It’s incredible! You could not write a script like this!"
2. Al Michaels: USA vs Soviet Union, 1980 Olympic Ice Hockey Medal Round
When the US ice hockey team met the Soviet Union in the medal rounds of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, no one expected them to win. Their opponents were four-time defending champions and were clear favorites to win their sixth gold medal in seven Winter Olympic Games.
The game became known as the "Miracle on Ice". Not just because the hosts unexpectedly won the game but also because of Al Michaels' memorable call as the clock counted down to zero.
After the second period, the USA team, the youngest in the tournament, were 3-2 down. They then scored two goals in the final period to take a 4-3 lead. During the last minutes, the Soviet Union threatened to score an equalizing goal, but the American defense remained strong. As the clock counted towards zero, the whole venue seemed to be shaking. Then, Michaels asked (and answered) the question: "Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!" As he uttered the last word, the game ended and wild celebrations began.
1. Verne Lundquist: Tiger Woods’ 16th-hole chip at the 2005 Masters Tournament
It’s that man Verne Lundquist again. Tiger Woods’ putt on the 16th hole in the final round of the 2005 Masters Tournament is one of the most iconic moments in sporting history. But like many great sporting moments, it was made even more dramatic by the commentary that accompanied it.
Minnesota-born commentator, Lundquist, is well-known for his memorable calls. Back in 1986, he was the man who exclaimed "Yes sir!" when Jack Nicklaus sank his putt on the 17th in the final round at Augusta to move a step closer to his 18th Major Championship win.
At Augusta in 2005, Woods was gunning for his fourth Masters' title but was engaged in a close battle with fellow American, Chris DiMarco. Faced with a seemingly impossible shot at the 16th, Woods was in danger of losing his one-stroke lead. The consensus amongst the commentators was that he would do well to get the ball within 15 feet of the hole.
Then the impossible happened.
The sight of the ball traveling towards the hole and then pausing before dropping in was magical, and it had the crowd and commentators in a frenzy. And no one could have scripted the words that came out of Verne Lundquist mouth better:
"Here it comes... Oh, my goodness! Oh, wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?"
But it’s not just the words, it’s the way he delivers them. And few could manage it better than Lundquist. Without that putt, Woods may have never featured in the play-off that led to his ninth Major win.
There are many more examples of great sporting commentary from all over the world. The style of commentary can vary from one country to another and from individual to another but it is those who are able to eloquently put into words what the players and fans are feeling in that moment of glory who stand above the rest.