You can’t replace Hearn – and please don’t try
But Hearn had something everyone in the Chicago area dreamed of and talked about with blind hope: a winning team. He watched one of his own players, Magic Johnson, change the world of basketball and the world in general. Most of my memories of Magic are backed with cheering crowds and a mild-mannered Hearn, monotone as if he’d seen it a thousand times.
He probably had. His team has won three straight NBA championships. But watching the Lakers win wasn’t offensive, largely due to Hearn. The voice behind the championships wasn’t boastful (Hearn wanted to be a baseball announcer in his early days), even as Mike Bibby or Allen Iverson failed while playing their best. Even when he closed out wins with “You can put this one in the refrigerator. The door’s closed, the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling,” I didn’t become irritated, like I did after seven seconds of banter from Dick Vitale.
But I’m no Lakers fan. You know why? Because I’m a Cubs fan. I am a part of the gullible elite, the ones who don’t figure the Cubs completely out of the pennant race until September, even though they’ve been 12 games down since June. It’s like voting for Ralph Nader. You know he won’t win, but it instills a new morality to the situation.
In other words, I root against St. Louis and the Yankees and approve when Shaq misses a free throw by three feet. But Lakers fans can relate to this. I became less of a Cubs fan when Harry died four years ago.
And I expect, in the same way I still don’t listen to Cubs games the way I used to, I will feel impartial, at first, to the new voice of the Lakers. In the midst of a classic championship run, with all the talent and all the history needed, I hope, in all respect to Mr. Hearn, that they fill his spot not with a chipper, off-his-chair, side-parted descendent of Marv Albert.
But rather they allow the new voice of the Lakers, like Hearn, to let the game and a team Cubs fans dream about, to speak mostly for itself.