Sounders find voice: Kevin Calabro
When Kevin Calabro raised his trusted voice Monday, he spoke of hope. His golden tongue, formerly used to broadcast Sonics games, turned...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Age: 52 (born June 27, 1956)
College: Butler (1978 graduate)
Awards: Washington Sportscaster of the Year seven times, including past six in a row.
Sonics: Play-by-play announcer for 21 years, moving exclusively to TV last season.
NBA highlights: At 26, he became one of the youngest announcers in NBA history for the Kansas City Kings in 1983-84. Play-by-play contributor for TNT, TBS and ESPN Radio.
Other highlights: He broadcast Team USA men's games at 2000 Olympics for Westwood One. Also has done Missouri and Purdue football and basketball. Started career at WIBC in Indianapolis doing minor-league hockey.
Personal: He and wife Susan have four children.
When Kevin Calabro raised his trusted voice Monday, he spoke of hope. His golden tongue, formerly used to broadcast Sonics games, turned his new soccer venture into a fantasy, a chance to "embark" on a journey with "the world's game." Calabro made moving on — c-ya, NBA; greetings, Major League Soccer — feel more like a chic opportunity than a drab fallback.
Only Calabro could've sold the thought with such gusto. On Monday, the Sounders FC and Belo Corp., owner of KING-TV, announced a five-year partnership to televise all of the new franchise's matches on KING (Channel 5) and KONG (6 and 16), and then they threw the treat of Calabro's voice atop the big news.
For this burgeoning team, it's another shrewd move. For Calabro, it's a chance to soothe the sting of losing the Sonics. He can stay in Seattle, which was always his intention, and help create something new. It sure beats prolonging the grief.
"It hurts," said Calabro, who spent 21 years broadcasting Sonics games. "It still hurts. But we have to move on. You keep moving on. That's what you have to do. As one team moves on, another one is here on the horizon. This is very exciting stuff."
So for you, the distraught Sonics fan, it's time to do what you've done for years: Listen to Calabro. Follow the sound of his voice down a path of solace.
There is no replacing the Sonics. You can't play musical chairs with sports, either. But there is an opening to try something new, something fresh. When the MLS season starts next spring, there is an opening to diversify your sports résumé.
And Calabro will be there to assist.
"He is awesome," said Tod Leiweke, the Vulcan Sports & Entertainment chief operating officer. "The ability to have this guy call our games, it's just extraordinary."
Over 21 years here, Calabro often transcended the Sonics. As Leiweke put it, "The Sonics are leaving, but they're not taking all their assets."
Calabro's voice became its own treasure. He became a personality that helps brand Seattle in the sports world. Basketball was just his material. His style, wit and the simple brilliance of the way he calls games suggest he has the potential to be more versatile. Now he must prove it.
Calabro doesn't hide that he has much to learn about soccer. His experience has been limited to watching his children play and observing the growth of the MLS from afar.
He references the late Jim McKay as a multiskilled sportscaster that he can use as inspiration. And Calabro will prepare for this challenge. He will work until he figures out all the tricks, and then he will work to perfect the craft. Though he's a hoops nut, he has an appreciation for soccer.
"I think there's a lot of commonality between the two games," said Calabro, who veered into stories of Hakeem Olajuwon and Steve Nash using their soccer backgrounds to become elite basketball players. "It's a game of angles. It's a game of passing, a game of teamwork."
Calabro began serious talks with Leiweke about this job two hours after the city and Clay Bennett reached a Sonics settlement July 2. The two had engaged in some what-if conversations before then. Calabro, whose Sonics contract was expiring, understood Seattle's dire NBA situation and knew he'd have to pursue other opportunities to remain in the area. He informed the Sonics during the past season that he would not accompany them if they moved to Oklahoma City.
Calabro and Leiweke have known of each other since the early 1980s, when Calabro called games for the NBA's Kings and Leiweke worked with a professional soccer team called the Comets. It was a natural partnership.
"This couldn't have worked out better for me personally and for my family," Calabro said.
Well, it could have. The Sonics could still be here. But since that didn't happen, now he can help launch a team. It sure beats free-falling.
"I hope I'm not putting words into his mouth, but some of this has been therapy for Kevin," Leiweke said. "I don't think you're the voice of a team for 21 years, and not experience the heart pangs of losing a team. But he's such a student of sports, and you can hear his enthusiasm today. It's fantastic for us, and it's great for him."
Later, I asked Calabro if this move was truly therapeutic. He said he hadn't thought about it like that, but after a few moments of reflection, he nodded yes. This is good for him. He's healing, slowly, but he's healing.
He remains "hopeful" that he will do some NBA work, most likely on ESPN radio and NBA-TV. His new bosses support those aspirations. If he does NBA playoff games in the spring, his schedule could be a little hectic, but soccer will be his priority.
"You plunge yourself into the work, and the hurt will pass," Calabro said.
It will be more difficult than that. But on this day, as his voice ricocheted off the walls of a Qwest Field suite, moving on sounded significantly more promising.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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