This past week, Track & Field (or Athletics, as it would be known to the deceased) lost its premier voice for almost four decades. David Coleman, who provided commentary from the 1950’s through the early 2000’s passed away. Most race clips from that time period are accompanied by Coleman’s dulcet Irish tones, so it’s worth looking over a few favorites:
1974 Commonwealth 1500: I’ve covered this race previously, but Coleman’s call sets the race up perfectly — Bayi, “the tiny Tanzanian”, being reeled in by the “black shadows” of the two New Zealanders. He covers the history of great milers early on in this call, uses the metonymous “black vest” of New Zealand to make it seem as if Bayi is running against the country’s entire history, and lifts his voice to match the suspense of the race.
Moscow 800 and 1500 races (Coe vs. Ovett): The early 1980’s were a golden era for British middle-distance running, as Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, and Steve Cram were coming of age. Youtube has a lot of the Coe and Ovett races (mostly separate, they rarely raced one another, preferring to focus on world records), and Coleman is the announcer in nearly all the clips. These are just a sampling, but I think he does a good job with them.
1981 Oslo — the rabbit gets away: In this race, the American Rabbit, Tom Byers, does his job, but none of the ‘real’ racers go with him. Coleman catches on fairly early that Byers might just run away with the race, and does a great job of announcing the race while showing the right amount of disdain for the ‘real’ racers
1971 10,000 World Championship: There’s great context, too, for this race (in the video, but basically the Finns had lost their distance dominance — this was the beginning of a second resurgence, led in 1972 and 1976 by Lasse Viren). The absolute mayhem around the track as Väätäinen makes his break down the back stretch. “Beaten for speed”, and the way Coleman says it, delights. (Honorable mention for the fantastic facial hair shown by Bedford and Väätäinen — who seems to have drawn inspiration from civil war generals)
I’m sure you’ll run into Mr. Coleman more if you are watching any running clips from the back half of the 20th century. Races are more enjoyable when he’s announcing, in my mind, so thought I’d post.
One other quick thought:
Running Times ran has run one good and one great piece recently. The first was about Abiba Bekele and Buddy Edelen — both fascinating, but the piece (available here) splits the difference and tries to tell two different stories in the same article, so ends up being not quite what it could have been. The second is not available online, but is worth the price of the magazine — it’s about the Hungarian coach Mihaly Igloi and his effect on American running when he was coaching at the LA Track Club.