Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #593 - George Blaha, voice of the Pistons

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #593 - George Blaha, voice of the Pistons

Hi Mom,

I had been planning to post an original entry (mostly) that I have been working on for some time on the best comics of 2016 according to EW but it's just not completely baked yet.

AND I am posting this Monday morning because I took the day off yesterday, at least off from the blog, and didn't even load the pages in my browser. I had work to do to catch up, as it seems I am always trying to catch up, so I just did that work, took the dogs foe walk, and then aside from several household chores, I logged time resting and reading, which is what I like to do on Sundays.

Tonight (as in Sunday night, you get it) is the NBA All Star Game. If the season ended today, the Detroit Pistons, my favorite NBA team, would have the last wild card slot, like they did last year, and would face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs, just like last year. I hope to see them in this same spot or even one or two slots better in April. My other favorite team, the Golden State Warriors, has the best record in the NBA and home court throughout the playoffs, again I hope this situation remains static. The Dallas Mavericks used to be my favorite team in the west, and I do still like them as I like their owner (see yesterday's blog), and so I root for them, but they are not doing so well this year, despite a recent surge. Cuban says the Mavs are a playoff team. They're only three games off the pace, but they have a lot of teams to battle. Stranger things have happened.

Reflecting on the NBA is fun. I am rooting for my team. I know the players need a break, but I really hate the break in constant games. It makes me less interested in sports news. I turned off Sports Center this morning (and now I mean Monday) after only about 20 minutes.

Anyway, this article about George Blaha caught my eye, and I wanted to save it on my blog for my posterity and maybe sharing it with the few readers who might be interested, other than you, of course, Mom. You were kind enough to watch a lot of Pistons games with me and Dad, Mom. I appreciate that.

George Blaha has been the voice of the Pistons my entire life (even though I am over 40, I was not listening to or watching the Pistons until I was 18 or 19), and so I am very fond of the man and his dulcet tones.

Thanks for all the great years, George.

FROM - https://sports.yahoo.com/news/the-game-according-to-george-blaha-211049845.html

In his 40th year with the Pistons, the game according to George Blaha

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – On Oct. 23, 1976, George Blaha sat courtside at Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit to broadcast an NBA game for the first time. As he prepared to go on the air, he watched the Pistons’ Bob Lanier and Washington’s Wes Unseld take the floor and marveled at their size.
Until that moment, working locally in Lansing, Mich., he’d never called a basketball game above the high school level (although a couple of those did include a kid named Earvin Johnson).
“I remember thinking, ‘Boy, I better buckle up my seatbelt. This is a grown man’s league,’ ” Blaha said.
Washington won that night, 98-97, getting 21 from Elvin Hayes and 17 from Dave Bing, who would later become the mayor of Detroit. Blaha, then 31, was thrilled at the chance of a lifetime, calling NBA games on the radio. He was so excited that when he drove home he kept replaying the game in his head until he realized he’d driven 20 minutes in the wrong direction.
“My focus was on doing the job to the best of my abilities so Year One could turn into Year Two,” Blaha said.
Well, this is Year 40.
Last Friday the Pistons honored Blaha for one of the longest-running streaks in professional sports, four decades and counting calling one team’s games on radio and television.
There are a few things to know about Blaha, the first being that if you don’t live in Michigan you may not know him at all.
That’s the point. The 71-year-old with no plans of retiring has always been the definition of professionalism, a good voice and a keen eye simply letting the game speak for itself. He’s been content in one city, with one team, and not making a spectacle of himself or pushing relentlessly for national jobs.
He’s long overdue for some big honors, say, the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but he sure isn’t going to bring it up. His career has been everything of which he could have dreamed.
“I wanted to broadcast games in a working-class town where people worked hard all day and maybe I could entertain them in the evening,” Blaha said.
The second thing is, despite all his years with the Pistons, Blaha is not a classic homer. He is known throughout the NBA for playing it about as down the middle as a team-specific broadcaster can. His style is a three-pronged testament to his love of the game, his preparation about opposing teams, coaches and players, and his appreciation for their abilities.
“I believe it’s my job to describe the game as it is,” Blaha said. “I know that 80 to 90 percent of the people who listen are mostly concerned with the Pistons. So you don’t want to miss a beat on the Pistons.
“You also have to let people know about the opposition. There is a reason someone scores 30 and he’s not wearing a Piston jersey. The guy is making great plays. Someone is setting him up beautifully. If someone beats the Pistons, I want to explain why that happened and not just that the Pistons messed up or the officials didn’t make the right call.”
From those days in the mid-1970s to the current season, Blaha has had, literally, a front-row seat to the history of the modern NBA. He’s been everywhere and met everyone. He has called some of the most classic games, gotten to know the best players and even witnessed the wildest moments, such as 2004’s “Malice in the Palace” when the Indiana Pacers went into the stands at a Pistons game.
So we decided to let Blaha do what he does best: talk. We offered up some topics and let him go. Here is a mildly abridged-for-space discussion of 40 years of NBA memories.

The NBA was viewed differently in the 1970s. What was the key to its spike in popularity over the last few decades?
It was downtrodden then. A lot of people didn’t know what the players were like. They just didn’t warm up to the guys in the NBA.

Julius Erving was important for that. He was a salvation for the league at that point. A lot of people had misconceptions about black players then. Yet here was a wonderful guy, someone people realized they’d like to hang around with, get to know. He was also someone with a big Afro. I think people thought, ‘If this is what he is like, maybe these other guys aren’t what I think they are either.’ Then they gave them a chance.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are credited with doing that, and they did. They made it mainstream, and Michael Jordan took it to another level after that. But someone had to start it, and I think Julius Erving was that guy.
How soon into Isiah Thomas’ career did you know he was going to be special?
I’ll tell you how soon: When the Pistons played Milwaukee on opening night of his rookie year (Thomas scored 31). The way he played early in the game, I said, ‘Hey, this kid could be an All-Star someday.’ Next time out (28 points at Chicago) I said, ‘This kid could be an All-Star this year.’ Then he hit a halfcourt shot and I said, ‘He could start as an All-Star.’ That’s how quick I knew what the Pistons had.
Besides talent, what set him apart?
Great competitor, as everybody knows. He went after you if you were out there against him. And if you weren’t in Piston blue, you were against him. His main focus was to win. What I always liked about him, as a point guard he had to figure out what to do every night for his team to win. He’d have a headache after almost every game. Some nights he’d have to score 28, and some nights he’d have to score 16 and pull some guy out of a slump or feed somebody who had a hot hand. A lot was on his shoulders.
That team had a lot of big personalities and a lot of players who would have been a captain on other teams. Isiah was the captain of them. That was the Pistons, though. They had guys, such as Vinnie Johnson, who would have been an All-Star if he played for any other team, but was the third guard for the Pistons. He sacrificed whatever he needed to help make them better and win championships.
With Isiah, as Kevin Loughery, who was broadcasting games with me at that time, said, ‘George, until I started broadcasting games I didn’t really realize how tough he was. I could see he was a great player. Ray Charles could see how great of a player he was, but his toughness is off the charts.’
He may be the best “small” player in NBA history (6-foot-1, 180 pounds). How would he have performed in the current NBA where freedom of movement is a priority?
He did everything he did when you could still be knocked around and knocked down. I think you have to add five more points to his scoring average (career 19.2) and a couple more assists (9.3). And no offense to the guys today, the league has made a decision on how it wants the game played. I would like to see a little more physical style of play, but I don’t get to make those decisions.
In a hands-off league, he would be completely and utterly unstoppable. I think most people who saw what he had to go through in terms of getting beaten on by defenders would agree with me.
Do you ever marvel that they used to allow play to get so physical? Hard fouls that would draw a suspension now were common. Even fights were common. It was completely different than today.
Before flagrant fouls, they were just fouls. And I guess every once in a while someone would get thrown out because the officials thought they went above and beyond. As physical as it was in the “Bad Boys” era, it doesn’t even compare to how it was before. They began playing like guys did 15 years before. [Former NBA player and coach] Don Chaney told me that if a guy went to the lane in the late 1960s, early ’70s, and he scored three times, they shut down the lane. He was going down and hard. So guys thought about that. The Bad Boys brought that back so at least you had to think before you went pirouetting in the lane for some fancy dunk.

OK, how about Bill Laimbeer?
Misunderstood. He is really a great family man and great friend to any number of people and the guy who took all the heat for the Bad Boys. There were guys who didn’t like Isiah, but it seemed that nobody liked Bill Laimbeer (laughter).
Show up at a different arena, and they’d be doing things like using a chainsaw to cut up a cardboard cutout of Bill. That happened in Chicago. And he took all of that. I don’t care who you are or how tough you are, every once in a while that stuff has to turn your head. When everyone would boo, he’d just raise his arms and say, ‘Bring it on a little louder.’
He was as responsible for the Pistons winning those championships (1989 and ’90) as anyone else. There were some guys on those teams who you don’t win without, and I’m not going to go through the whole list, but you don’t win without Bill Laimbeer.
Joe Dumars?
The thing you had to like about Joe was he came in as a guy who was ballyhooed as a great shooter and scorer from McNeese State and right away he proved himself as an excellent defender. Not that everyone doesn’t play defense because you have to or you’ll get embarrassed. But he played it at a different level for a shooting guard. A lot of time, shooting guards have to focus mostly on shooting and scoring. Joe did both.
Dennis Rodman?
Great athlete. Our players used to say if Worm had 60 days to train he could go to the Olympics and win a medal in almost any sport. The 400-meter or whatever. As a hurdler or something. He could do anything at an Olympic level. He was such a great athlete. When he came to us he was totally unspoiled as a person and did nothing but work. And that showed on the court. He gave everything he had. He was a very emotional player.
He was responsible for wins. On some nights, his defense was so good he was the guy responsible for the win, not Isiah, not Rick Mahorn, not Adrian Dantley, not Vinnie Johnson, not Bill Lambeer. It was Dennis Rodman.
He was a good guy. He was kind of shy, a country kid. His background is a little different. He’s from Dallas but he went to junior college in Oklahoma and he moved in with a family there, in rural Oklahoma, and they sort of became his family. So he had kind of a different background. When he came to the Pistons he was more of a country boy than anything else, and because of that he was very easy to deal with, although he was shy. He didn’t say much.
Magic Johnson?
Magic is always great to me. He was friendly beyond what you’d ever expect from someone of his stature. As a player he would do whatever it took to help his team win, but he was such a nice guy. It’s hard not to pull for Magic Johnson.

Larry Bird?
I got to know Larry a little bit (through a mutual friend, former longtime NBA coach Dick Harter). He is a funny guy in a dry sort of way. As far as Larry Bird as a player, he is on the short list of the greatest players to ever play the game. He’s an incredible competitor. And I don’t know if there were two or three other guys who were in his league as a clutch shooter.
Detroit is the only place where Michael Jordan gets booed. And that’s because for some reason, when the Pistons finally got past Boston, I’m not saying there was a love for the Celtics but there was a healthy respect for the Celtics. I think sometimes the Pistons and their fans felt the Bulls didn’t really respect them. The Bulls always talked about how the reason the Pistons were able to win is because they were so physical.
I think these days, if Michael sat down and talked with Isiah and the Pistons people they’d get along better and they’d understand. Michael is certainly a well-liked guy and he’s always been gracious to me. And he’s certainly the gold standard for talent in our league.
LeBron James?
Bill Lambeer was broadcasting games with me and he told me very early on that LeBron was going to be one of the game’s all-time greatest players. I said, ‘Where are you coming from with all of this?’
He said, ‘He’s a great competitor, he plays like Magic, and he’s going to become a good enough shooter when the time comes.’ At this point, with the football body that he has and the athletic ability that he has and the mental toughness that he has, he is a winner. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins another championship. I don’t know if he has enough help this year, but don’t count him out.
The Detroit games of the Bad Boy era against Chicago and Boston were not just some of the most intense in NBA history, but were full of true animosity. At any point a real brawl could break out. They also included two of the league’s most classic arenas, Chicago Stadium and the Boston Garden. What was it like to broadcast in those environments, with the fans, the hatred, the high stakes and history?
Unfortunately, both those buildings are gone. Chicago Stadium’s floor used to absolutely shake. And in Boston, with all the funny ways the ball would bounce and the noise, it felt like it was shaking, too.
To broadcast in those two buildings was an experience that was almost indescribable. You could feel the hostility in Chicago and it came from everyone in the arena except a few hundred Detroiters who were there to root the Pistons on. This was not a sedate group of Chicagoans who came to be entertained. This was a riled up group of Windy City people who wanted to figure out a way to put the Bad Boys in their place. They did their best to help. Finally the Bulls beat the Pistons (in 1991), but it took lots and lots of years and lots and lots of screaming in Chicago.
As far as Boston, I think their fans, as much as they did not like the Pistons because they saw the Pistons as a team that could take away their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference and pull them out of the throne room, they were more confident. They were an almost arrogant group. They were noisy in their own way. We all know Boston fans are very emotional.
The wildest game you ever broadcast had to be the Malice in the Palace (on Nov. 19, 2004)? How did you remain calm and describe that?
Well, first of all I had (then-color commentator) Bill Laimbeer next to me. The best part of having ‘Lam’ there is, first of all, he wasn’t afraid. And second of all, he was nonplussed about the whole thing. He just watched.
I think Laimbeer thought the Pacers were silly and that something bad happens to you when you run up into the crowd. But he also felt like the Pistons fans that came down by the bench didn’t know what was good for them and whatever happened to them, they deserved it. So we pretty much had it figured out almost as it happened.
As a broadcaster, you think you’ve seen it all … and then you see something like that.

The 2003-04 Detroit NBA championship team?
They were all guys who had their abilities underestimated elsewhere. Then they came together and they found a way to win. Every guy who started for that team was essential to winning. I think if you pulled any of those guys off the team, they don’t win.
Rasheed Wallace, people wanted him to average 30 points and 15 rebounds in the league, but all he wanted to do was make sure his team had the most points at the end. And Ben Wallace, how tough was he? He was Isiah tough. There was no backing down, ever, if you were Ben Wallace. All of those guys had a prizefighter’s mentality, but Ben, undersized, amazing how he led the team.
Chauncey Billups, under (then-coach) Larry Brown’s guidance, became a great all-around point guard. He could always score. We called him Mr. Big Shot, but with such creative passes he got all his teammates involved. And Rip Hamilton, the constant movement was reminiscent of (former NBA player and coach) Doug Collins way back when and Reggie Miller. It seemed he was always open.
And there was Tayshaun Prince’s ability to play defense. That block that he made on Reggie Miller in the conference finals of 2004 was the greatest defensive play in the history of the Detroit Pistons. Then there was Larry Brown, who probably forgot more basketball than most coaches know. And he did a great job winning the championship.
I wanted to say, setting the table for that team was Rick Carlisle. He turned things completely around. He won 100 games his first two seasons as coach there and the Pistons thought maybe to guarantee a championship they had to get Larry Brown. So Rick moved on and won big in Indiana and then a championship in Dallas. So he got the ball rolling. He and Kevin O’Neill, who is just a great defensive coach, got it going.
Tell me about a cool moment you only get to see as a broadcaster?
The Pistons (in 1984) are playing in San Antonio (at the end of a long and tiring road trip). The game went to overtime and was tied (at 140-140 with the Spurs’ Mike Mitchell scoring 47 points). The Pistons called timeout to set up the last shot and everyone just wanted to win and go home. Radio guys sometimes sat right next to the bench. Now they sell those seats and move you down a little bit, but that night I was right next to the bench. I could look into the huddle.
(Then-coach) Chuck (Daly) said, ‘We can do this or this.’ Kelly Tripucka was on the team then, and he and I were always very good friends. Kelly stopped Chuck and said, ‘Why don’t you just run this play, and I’ll knock it down from the corner and we’ll get out of here?’ So Chuck said, ‘OK, let’s do that.’ Chuck was such a great coach and he understood that if someone was that confident, you call the play.
So they got the ball to Kelly in the corner, he knocked down the shot, the Pistons won and we left town and got to go home.
What’s the best NBA city to visit?
You mean other than New York?
If you could broadcast one game from any NBA arena, still standing or not, what would it be?
I’d have to go back to the old Boston Garden. They gave us a terrific spot to broadcast, midcourt, across from the benches. The history there was something.
One time I was walking through a mall in Boston and I saw this panoramic shot of the Boston Garden. And they were playing the Pistons in it. I said, ‘I had to have been broadcasting this game.’ So I look down and I saw the back of my bald head. I had to buy that. Now I have it in what I call the “Blaha Bar” in the basement of my lake house.
What’s the most money you’ve ever seen gambled on a team plane?
I’ve seen hundred dollar bills stacked up, let’s put it that way. I don’t sit with the players anymore, but I don’t know if I see as much gambling now, which is crazy because there is more money than ever. The guys with the most money could always win because they could keep raising you.
Is the NBA better, worse or as good as ever?
The really good teams play every bit as hard. The talent level offensively is terrific.
It’s just the 3-point shot. (It was) was a great idea from the ABA and added some excitement. I do fear that with analytics and everything, it might end up being more than the fans want to watch. It’s OK to take all those threes but have the guys take them who can make them. I don’t think anyone wants to watch a team shoot 4 for 26.
I think that is the only thing that bothers me in the league right now.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 595 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1702.19 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
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