Retiring Marv Albert is so much more than a broadcasting icon

The sound of Marv Albert as a sound belonging to us needs no explanation or examination.

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There are sounds that belong to us, to New Yorkers, and to nearby turf dwellers Ralph Kiner, on “Kiner’s Korner,” would call “your Tri-State Lincoln-Mercury dealers.”

Among those New York sounds: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” the shrill squeal of subways braking as they pull into stations, conversations in Shea ended by the sudden roar of jets headed to LaGuardia, Bob Sheppard’s “Leading off for the Yankees. …”, 20,000 in the Garden chanting “DEE-fense!”

And Marv Albert.

The sound of Marv Albert as a sound belonging to us needs no explanation or examination. After 55 years of calling Rangers, Knicks, NBC boxing, Ch. 4 sports anchoring, 53 appearances on David Letterman, then the NBA at large, we get it — soon to be “we got it.”

Monday, Albert will announce his retirement at the close of his call of TNT’s NBA Eastern finals.

What would you have me now do? Address his sound, his approach, his style? Why would I waste your time on what you know?

Yet none of us have experienced Albert in the past tense.

He was peerless as a play-by-play man in that he made all of his dozens of color analysts the best they could be. That was perhaps his greatest talent. He would kid, coax and question until his partners relaxed and delivered.

Marv Albert will announce his retirement Monday.
NBAE via Getty Images

He wanted everyone around him to be the stars, from Sal “Red Light” Messina, to John “Johnny Hoops” Andariese, to Mike “Czar of the Telestrator” Fratello, to stat man Art “The Dart” Friedman.

Consider that no-gimmicks Mike Breen, who in 2004 replaced Albert as the Knicks’ TV voice and credits Albert as an early and lasting inspiration, Friday was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Albert was inducted in 1997.

Albert made sure not to allow the announcement of his retirement collide with Breen’s induction, possibly diminishing its thunder.

In an egocentric business overly populated by the famous and insecure, Albert was what’s known as “a mensch,” a you-first gentleman.

If “Yes!” was shtick, as opposed to an excellent short-form description of a successful jumper, it was the only shtick he performed. It was copied and repeated in gyms, schoolyards and in office wastebasket games for decades — not as shtick, but as a salute.

Albert is surprisingly shy, a by-product of his modesty. He appreciates and politely responds to public recognition and admiration as it comes on the street, in cabs and in restaurants, but he’s more accustomed to it than comfortable with it or comforted by it. He even politely suffers fools.

He has never big-timed anyone, never thrown his weight around. In restaurants he routinely chose the table in the back, never needing to see how many could see that “Marv Albert is right over there!” He didn’t need any of that.

That was “a tell,” because many celebs choose to be seated facing the entrance, to watch people recognize them. Howard Cosell was infamous for dining with both eyes on the nearby front door.

Albert’s abundant sense of humor is a residual of his sense of the absurd. It can be described as childish, disarming and you-had-to-be-there funny.

At a restaurant one night, I was feted with a surprise birthday cake and “Happy Birthday” glitter strewn about the table. The nearby diners sang to me then applauded. Albert had let the maître d’ know it was my birthday. Except it wasn’t, not even close.

His wife, Heather, rolled her eyes, indicating she’d seen this before.

He loves games of any kind, from stoopball to tennis. At nearly 80, he’s still a kid waiting for you to come out to play. A party he threw included his ideal of top-notch entertainment: Lou Goldstein, a Catskills “King of Simon Sez.”

No one prepared for a game as thoroughly as Albert — as if 55 years in, his career depended on it, as if he might otherwise be canned.

Before he left home or a hotel to call a game he’d hunt down anyone and everyone who could provide a little more, a little extra, something worth noting when time allowed. He never disregarded an audience with vacant, time-killing filler.

He never knocked anyone on the record, not even Jim Dolan, who allowed Albert to leave MSG Network, but he was appalled by those who showed up to serve an audience without preparation or knowledge of what’s what with both teams.

In the end — and that’ll be soon — Albert treated broadcasting as a service industry. And he was at our service, and as much a sound of New York as any we’ve heard.

As an alleged journalist, I try to be, at most and at best, friendly, but never friends with those I’m assigned to cover. Albert made that impossible. And he never asked or hinted for anything in return. Marv Albert didn’t need me. And I confess: I cherish his friendship.

Carton ruins Roberts, can’t ‘sell’ free doorbells

During his years teamed with Joe Benigno on WFAN, Evan Roberts kept it clean.

Now, teamed with low-brow Craig Carton, and likely as a matter of unwritten obligation, Roberts spits out crudities and coarse phrases. More sad than surprising.

While we’re here, it’s unlikely Carton’s parole officer would approve of his personal, on-air endorsement of a product sold in a highly dubious manner, maybe even a con.

Carton has been pitching a home security company offering “free” doorbell security cameras “to the first 40 WFAN listeners” who respond.

Though it’s doubtful these cameras are up for grabs, no financial strings attached, the ads have been repeated on consecutive days.

Despite Carton’s personal endorsement, the company apparently can’t find 40 WFAN listeners eager to own a free doorbell security camera? To think Carton was imprisoned for fraud.

Francesa babbles about Baffert on Fox

Fox News last week was suckered into presenting Mike Francesa as a horseracing expert in view of trainer Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winner possibly being disqualified for illegal drugs in its system.

Francesa could offer nothing worth knowing, as he didn’t know any more than anyone else who read a newspaper. But he was always full of it as a self-anointed horse expert and accomplished tout, despite having never picked a winner on WFAN in scores of tries.

Mike Francesa
Getty Images

That he owns horses only qualifies him as also owning what trainers mockingly call “owners’ knowledge” — knowledge presented as bad guesses.

Francesa once raged on WFAN that Baffert should be sanctioned for conflicts of interest for training more than one horse entered in Triple Crown races. For all his knowledge, Francesa was unaware that this is not an uncommon practice. He just raged, on and on, calling Baffert a bad guy.

Later that week, Baffert was on with Francesa. Francesa kissed his fanny. He never even brought up what he’d said about him.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Phil Mushnick

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