Seriously, I couldn’t be happier for the guy.
Over 30 years as the voice of the Clippers, almost all of them dreadful, and he’s still there. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep people watching when your team is getting the living shit kicked out of them? Well, Ralph has had to make it work it hundreds of times, and he does it well.
I remember so many random Ralph moments, and not just of the “Bingo” or “oh me, oh my” (his favored catchphrases) variety either. Yeah, he’s got the old man vocabulary and the old school microphone (he refuses to use a headset like the whippersnappers) and he looks like the grandfatherly dude from those Werther’s original commercials, minus the creepiness. All part of his charm.
Listen, Ralph Lawler is my favorite living play-by-play announcer, by a mile. Maybe it’s a proximity thing, since I’ve seen (endured?) a ton of Clipper games over the years. Or maybe it’s just that Ralph is the best-kept secret in Basketball. Ralph Lawler is a deadly funny dude. Smart. Observant. Still sharp. Every year, win or lose, he’s out there making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Every year.
If you were lucky enough to live in LA in the 90’s, you might have had a chance to here Ralph and Bill Walton work their magic on otherwise hard to watch Clipper games, arguing about everything you can fathom. From Antoine Carr’s post game to Sam Perkins hairstyle to why Bill wanted Pete Chilcutt to replace Jerry West as the NBA logo ( you had to be there) and so on. They were the best Basketball team going until ESPN snatched Walton up in 2002. What a sad day that was.
Up until last week, Lawler’s announcing career has been one, long absurd journey spent watching some absolutely dreadful basketball teams lose, lose and lose some more. What a cruel fate to suffer for a man so noble and talented.
Now, after all the Benoit Benjamin’s and Michael Olowokandi’s and fat Baron’s, old Ralph finally gets a crack at announcing for a real team. One with a chance at something, anything resembling real success. If you caught the Laker-Clipper preseason game last night then you heard Ralph, professional as ever, plying his trade as always. But if you know him well enough, you could hear a little something extra in that voice. A little extra something, just like you’ve heard about once a decade, when the Clips had teams that were just good enough to get his hopes up before eventually letting him and the fans down.
This new team is something like that, only different. Better. This team is real, and really good. This team will give Lawler the chance he’s been waiting for forever.
No one is more deserving.