Kevin Calabro has always been the Murphy Brown of sports announcers; seemingly every time he arrives on the job, he is given somebody new to work with.
So it was no big deal when the longtime voice of the Seattle SuperSonics found himself paired with Warren Moon on Friday night. What was a big deal was that it was the first time in his career Calabro called an NFL game.
Since the Sonics departed for Oklahoma City in June, Calabro has signed on with Paul Allen’s sports enterprises and will begin announcing Major League Soccer games when the Sounders FC start play next season.
But since the Sounders and Seahawks are under the same corporate umbrella, Seahawks director of broadcasting Dave Pearson wasted little time enlisting Calabro for Friday’s preseason game in Minnesota when regular preseason play-by-play man Verne Lundquist had a previous commitment.
Seahawks fans may want to get used to it.
Although nothing has been finalized, there is a good chance that Calabro could announce the team’s three preseason games next year. (The fourth will be a national game.) Lundquist’s contract with the Seahawks is up after this preseason, and Calabro, a native of Indianapolis who has lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past two decades, is a natural fit.
“I would welcome doing more games wherever and whenever,” Calabro said. “That is what I do. I am a play-by-play announcer; that is what I do.
“If people have games to do, I will do them. Whether it is here, there, anywhere. My only thing is I can’t relocate my family to go do a job.”
Calabro said he has begun immersing himself in the world of soccer, watching a “friendly” match between Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls recently.
He used the same passion in preparing for the Seahawks broadcast, despite it being a one-time thing this season. He spent several weeks at practice familiarizing himself with a player roster more than five times bigger than he is accustomed to. He interviewed coaches to get their insights and some background information. And he pored over the bios of a coaching staff four times bigger than an NBA staff.
“I thought that all the production people and Warren Moon were extremely gracious and guided me through it and supported me and made it as comfortable as possible so that all I had to do was tie my necktie and go to work,” Calabro said.
An informal poll of Seahawks fans who watched the game received mostly positive reviews for Calabro, primarily because his voice is so robust and recognizable that it translates to any sport.
There were admittedly mistakes, most of which involved misidentifying players. But for the most part, Calabro slipped into his role seamlessly.
“There is slightly different terminology (than the NBA), different pace, players I was not familiar with, which is not uncommon for a preseason game, and not as much description of the play needed,” Calabro said. “I had more a role of a traffic cop, trying to get Warren in the best position I can on the air so we can explore his knowledge.
“But difficult is waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning (and) cleaning chewing gum off a showroom floor. I did that once. That was difficult. This is not difficult. I’ve had tough jobs before; this is not one of them.”
In some ways, Calabro said, the NFL broadcast was more enjoyable than an NBA game because the time between plays allows for conversation and analysis. Announcing an NBA game is an exercise in trying to shoehorn cogent thoughts between shots.
“I thought I handled it well because I am pretty good in conversational situations,” Calabro said. “I am not afraid to ask what might seem to be a rudimentary question for fear of appearing ignorant of the sport.
“I try to start from that basis; I don’t know anything at all compared to the Hall of Famer sitting next to me.”
Despite the new direction his stellar career has taken, Calabro said he still is stunned that the Sonics won’t be playing in Seattle next season. The NBA released its schedule last week, and Calabro said he still couldn’t believe he wouldn’t be accompanying the team on its road trips.
“The shock definitely hasn’t worn off,” Calabro said.
“It probably won’t for a while. And I think the hurt will be probably exacerbated when the season begins.”