Broadcasters bring South Florida's pro sports to life

LeBron James leaving Miami wasn't really so shocking. Disappointing for Heat fans, yes. It's certainly a blow to the hopes of continuing the streak of NBA Finals appearances.

But shocking? That would be the Heat without the familiar voice of Eric Reid.

Imagine, a season with no "Kaboom!" Oh, my.

"To have shared every game of Heat history with our fan base and our franchise is a real gift as a broadcaster," says Reid, a constant through the team's 26 seasons, first as color analyst but mostly doing the play-by-play on television.

The native of Massapequa, N.Y., hasn't quite called every Heat game. By his count, he has missed four of more than 1,800 regular-season games, three because of deaths in the family and once because he had laryngitis.

Reid has a ways to go to catch Vin Scully, voice of the Dodgers for 65 years. But he is an example of how broadcasters are often as identifiable with their teams as many of the players and coaches. Their voices and personalities become as familiar to fans as family members.

Jeff Conine may be Mr. Marlin, but color analyst Tommy Hutton is the voice of baseball in South Florida, in his 18th season on Marlins telecasts. Conine's work as a studio host helps maintain his title nine years since he last played for the team.

The Dolphins' radio crew of Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Bob Griese are another rarity; they were teammates who played virtually their entire careers with the team they now broadcast. Their careers span the generations of Dolphins football, which Cefalo says enables them to provide perspective on the current team in relation to those of the past.

Florida Panthers radio voice Randy Moller played briefly for the team at the end of his career as a defenseman and has the distinction as the only former NHL player doing play-by-play full time. He has become widely known as a YouTube sensation for punctuating goal calls with pop culture references as well as spicing commentary with homespun Mollerisms.

Unlike national network announcers, local broadcast crews make no secret about the allegiance to their teams.

"I'm a homer. I have no compunction about that," says Cefalo, former partner of the late Jim Mandich, always the most passionate voice in the booth.

"Sometimes as a Dolphin fan you get frustrated. If they do something stupid you react like, 'What in the world are they doing?' But there's the forgiving nature of it. You try to find a way to say, 'All right, now what can we do to correct that?' Jim taught me that."

It says a lot about the Dolphins' past decade that the highlight for Cefalo, beginning his 10th season on the broadcasts, was when little-known backup receiver Greg Camarillo's 64-yard touchdown catch in overtime against the Ravens averted a 0-16 embarrassment in the 2007 season.

As Camarillo sped to the end zone, Cefalo's call was drowned out by the joyful shrieks of Rose and Mandich, with the latter proclaiming his love for Rich Camarillo, who had been another team's punter.

Cefalo recalls: "On NBC that night, [commentator Keith] Olbermann says, 'Listen to this call, these guys are idiots.' He said it was like the Hindenburg going down. I said, 'Yeah, it was for us. We weren't going to have our franchise have that stain of going 0-16."

But boosting the home team and entertaining its fans doesn't mandate a disregard for objectivity. This past season, when Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee blocked James' dunk attempt on the final play to preserve a Nets win, Reid didn't side with Heat viewers who wanted a foul called.

"We looked at the replays. I didn't think it was a foul. I thought it was one of the best defensive plays I've seen in a long time, and I called it that way," Reid says. "Did I feel a little weird that night walking on the plane? I walked right past LeBron and [coach Erik Spoelstra], and I realized what I had done. My Twitter has never blown up from something negative like it did that night from Heat fans being angry that I called it that way. But I slept OK that night because that's the way I saw it."

Hutton is known for going off on rants, and sometimes they are aimed at the Marlins. Such as last season when he took star Giancarlo Stanton to task for a base-running blunder.

"We're fortunate because we can be honest. We don't have to sugarcoat stuff. I think some places it isn't like that," Hutton says. "Our fan base is different because here you've got people from all over. When we play the Phillies or the Mets, we've got people from Philly or New York that are watching the games."

Being in a nontraditional hockey market is part of the reason for the comedic elements Moller injects into his play-by-play.