Vail Daily column: Get real with listeners
October 1, 2016
Vin Scully, baseball broadcaster for the once-Brooklyn and now-Los Angeles Dodgers, and Donald Trump share an effective communication skill. "They sound real," say fans, because Scully and Trump connect with their listeners.
This is the only strong trait Scully and Trump share. Vin is a humble practicing Roman Catholic. Trump is a brash Presbyterian whose Christianity is sketchy.
Scully broadcasts his final Dodger game this Sunday. After 67 seasons in the booth, he's calling his final strike. Vin's voice sooths radio fans. They're eager to hear more. He relaxes viewers, taking away jitters caused by their hard days at work.
Fans tune in to Vin because "something magical happens," writes sports pundit Tom Verducci. "I see it in his eyes. Vin is about to go on a trip. It's the kind of trip that is heaven for a baseball fan: Vin is about to tell a story. For a listener, it's like Vin inviting you to ride with him in a mid-century convertible, sun on your arms, breeze on your face, worries left at the curb. Destination? We're good with wherever Vin wants to take us" (Sports Illustrated, May 16, 2016, p. 53). In an antagonistic, uptight world, Scully's voice calms us.
My first car was a 1952 Buick that Dad purchased for $100 at a used-car lot. In the 1950s, with the Dodgers slugging it out against the New York Yankees in classic World Series match-ups, I'd cruise in my beat-up Buick with the radio on. Scully's voice on a crisp October day made me feel happy and secure.
His voice didn't hog space from drama on the baseball diamond. When Henry Aaron whacked his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record, Scully created a word picture over the radio and then let it sink in as Aaron circled the bases. He said nothing for several seconds as cheering fans rocked the stadium. Scully is humble enough to know when not to use his vocal talent.
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Writer Verducci captures why Scully makes you feel as if he's in your living room, reclining in an easy-chair alongside you. His honeyed voice sweetens life, like a mug of hot chocolate on a frosty fall morning.
"Vin is America's best friend," announces Verducci. "('Pull up a chair…'). He reached such an exalted position not by talking about himself, or, in the smarmy terminology of today, by 'branding' himself, but by subjugating his ego. The game, the story, the moment, the shared experience…. They all matter more."
Donald Trump is real to his fans, too, for several wrong reasons. He speaks in short sentences that surge with powerful verbs. Sometimes, he thinks out loud and garbles syntax. But his fans don't mind these verbal misssteps. They identify with The Donald's verbal stumbles because fans have been inarticulate, too.
Who cares if Trump fudges on accuracy, as long as what's said connects? If he pays minimal taxes, who's going to question motives? As Trump admitted in the first presidential debate, he's too "smart" to pay his fair share to the U.S. Treasury. The tax system is rigged, anyway, isn't it?
Trump has practiced connecting with fans through promoting Atlantic City Casinos, hyping Miss Universe pageants and getting into juvenile tugs-of-war with World Wrestling entertainment.
His most valuable training ground for sounding "real" comes from hosting "The Apprentice." Reality TV invents an alternative world where we'd like to live when we feel cornered in our real world. Who doesn't want to tell the boss to get lost and blurt out what's politically incorrect?
Reality TV lets viewers flush from their guts anger and rancor that eats at them. "The Apprentice" legitimizes sounding abrupt, like a smart-aleck who's always right.
If you're down-on-your-luck mining coal, with unpaid bills and Main Street shops shuttered, why not listen to someone who "tells it like it is?" Be consoled by a voice that connects with your plight. Live in a simpler world of zero-sum business deals that make you a winner rather than a pathetic loser. Trump's tough banter convinces fans, who feel life's in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and a losing score, that they can knock it out of the park. This is what reality TV has conditioned us to believe.
Trump is real but not humble. Doug Sosnik, a Democratic Party strategist, tells why lack of humility doesn't matter. "You have a reality-TV star who's in a presidential debate. There's an element here of people going to the stock-car races to watch an accident."
Like Vin Scully, Jesus spoke humbly to people life passed by. "And the great throng heard him gladly," (Mark 12:37). He's really "real," crowds affirmed. Then Jesus tore into religious officials with bloated egos who had all the answers and occupied premier seat in synagogues.
Vin Scully signs off for the final time, but his message connects with our hearts. Was it luck that he was blessed with such a warm, up-beat voice?
"Oh, no, not lucky," he responded. "Lucky is too cheap a word. I really feel blessed. I truly believe God has given me these gifts. He gave it to me at a young age, and he's allowed me to keep it all these years? That's a gift. I say this because I believe it: I should spend a lot more time on my knees than I do."
Vin Scully's humility is real. He hits it out of the park. The pompous Donald strikes out.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling.
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