Tom Durkin: My Favorite Announcer in Sports

Tom Durkin: My Favorite Announcer in Sports

Guys love to talk about the best announcers in sports and I'm no exception. In my experience there are two main varieties of the topic. 1) People who are unfamiliar with horse racing fail to come up with a consensus, and 2) People who know who Tom Durkin is and agree he is in the Top 3 at the very worst.

He's the horse racing announcer at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct, and he did the Breeder's Cup and Kentucky Derby for several years.

His knowledge of the sport is extensive, and he always manages to mix in just enough silliness when necessary, to remind us all that we are watching horse racing for the purpose of having fun. And given that he's awesome, it isn't surprising he's from Chicago.

In a way, I feel sheepish about posting these because they're basically his funniest moments. After decades of near-flawless announcing these moments of whimsy are anamolies, but colorful and enjoyable all the same.

This is in my top 3 favorite of his calls. The 2004 Belmont Stakes where the horse racing world was positive that Smarty Jones was going to win the triple crown and everyone was cheering him on. He was a feel-good story for a lot of reasons and everyone was thoroughly prepared to explode with delight. I was there for the race that day, the attendance was 120,000 which broke the previous record of 100,000. If I recall correctly, as I always do, that was the day Ronald Regan died. Anyway, you can hear in Durkin's voice how exuberant he is when it looks like Smarty will win ("..it's been 26 years...."), and how crestfallen he is when he utters, "...Birdstone wins the Belmont Stakes." This and the call in the last clip of the bunch are masterpieces of race calling.

A horse with a stupidly long name

"No need to call it" a good example of a less humorous call, but one that illustrates his appreciation for the sport.

Finally this is my favorite sports announcing job ever, and it was done by Mr. Durkin. Allow me to put this race in context for you. The race is the Breeder's Cup Classic which is the biggest horse race of the year, monetarily, in North America. Horses come from all over the world for this race, and this is the one race every single trainer wants to win.

Also note that it was on 10/27/2001, making it the first major international sporting event hosted in the United States post 9/11.

Furthering the patriotic undertones, several of the favorites for this race were European horses, with Tiznow being America's hope, basically. Tizow won this race last year, and if he could somehow manage to upset the favored European invaders, he would become the first horse to repeat as winner of the BC Classic. Oh, I forget to mention that this race took place in Belmont Park, a track located in New York City. It was almost the horse-racing vesion of Rocky against Drago, but on American soil. I think you'll find that Tiznow showed determination of Balboan proportion in the race as well. Here is Tom Durkin's call, my favorite call in the history of sports, just ahead of "Do you believer in Miracles?". Tiznow's jockey is the one wearing pink silks.

Comments

Leave a comment
  • Normally I love your articles, but I have a serious flaw to point out in something you said. This right here:

    "Also note that it was on 10/27/2001, making it the first major sporting event after 9/11. While baseball and football regular season vailiantly played immediately after 9/11, those were regular season games."

    This is completely untrue. The baseball postseason was well under way by 10/27/2001. In fact, the first game of the World Series was played on 10/27/2001, which means the rest of the playoffs had already taken place before this race. They started on October 9, 2011...less than a month after 9/11. Postseason baseball was immensely popular that year because the Yankees were in it and they were a "cinderella" story because of 9/11 (Cinderella is in quotes because the Yankees were favored in almost every matchup, but they were the feel good team because of the events of 9/11).

    In closing, baseball postseason always starts at the beginning of October so I don't see how you even thought that a horse race at the end of October was the first major sporting event after 9/11.

  • In reply to jewilson919:

    Thank you so much for your research, Jewilson919! I would tell you that I forgot to fact check that one, but you cleared that up for me. It was the first international sports competition we had hosted in the US, at least on TV, anyway. I "remembered", to quote the Yankees Game 7 starter in the 2001 World Series. Thanks again.

Leave a comment