By Neil Horowitz
Vin Scully is a unique legend. Known and loved by fans from every generation — from the radio generation to smart phones and social media.
So how has Scully been able to develop that same sort of connection and relationship for viewers of all ages through his 67 years of Dodgers broadcasting? There are a few things that stand out, timeless traits and techniques to absorb for today:
Convey the emotion of the game and the atmosphere
Whether it was sharing the sound of a collective sigh of the crowd or delving into the confidence of a pitcher who knows he has it, Scully has always naturally understood the power of affecting emotion and conveying emotion to fans listening to his commentary. Watching or listening to sports is, at its best, an emotional experience, where a fan welcomes the highs and lows of investing their heart in a team. Appeal to emotion, let fans feel it, and you’ll build fans that are more deeply engaged and whom will hang on every post and piece of content.
Social media pros will spend a lot of thought and effort into how things are expressed. A post with good copy can take a great result to an epic one. [Not to mention the need to make sure nothing in the language can be misconstrued or reflect poorly on the brand or potentially allude to confidential or controversial information.] Scully is a poet. He has been behind the mic for some of baseball’s most memorable moments and, every time, delivered the goods. Just listen to his call of Kirk Gibson’s famous gimpy home run in the 1988 World Series. He is using language to put into words the feelings of fans.
When you can say what the fan is thinking or enhance that emotion they’re feeling, the connection formed is that much stronger.
Telling the stories
Those that work in social media and sports are living the dream. Their normal is most fans’ dream. The small interactions and observations, the little layers of player personalities and relationships that are revealed are things fans love. Scully was a treasure trove of tales from generations of ballplayers and games and everything in-between. He never needed a color commentator because of the way he weaved in slices of life with the players. The way a star player posed for pictures with fans upon arrival at the team hotel, the time a guy had his luggage lost in New York, a birthday prank on a rookie, a game of catch with a player and his kid…Look around and tell the stories of all the things fans don’t get to see. I’ll miss Scully’s stories more than anything.
Telling player stories
I, like Vin Scully, love biographies. Everyone has a story and their paths are always interesting. Scully goes into each game with new player stories to tell – how they got to the big leagues, the hometown they’re from, their playing days back in high school or little league, and more. Every pro team has built-in, compelling stories to tell of its players. From first playing the sport to improving and ascending, other interests growing up, families, high school, college, minors, setbacks, successes. Every player is living out a dream with a pathway to reach that pinnacle. Scully was a biographer during at-bats.
Find something interesting
Listen to Scully closely each game and you’ll pick up so many quirks, fun facts, and things, well, you never would’ve known or needed to know about players and the game. It may be something that adds to color to a player’s character, gives historical context to a memory or town, something about a sibling or spouse, and so much more. Find just one thing about each player that is, well, unique. And tell about it. Scully always found a little gem in a player bio or media scrum from over the years, and it has been fun hearing him uncover them over the years.
He never made it bigger than him
Even as fans, players, and media have celebrated his career and legacy, Scully has always shied away from the attention. This was true in his broadcasting, too. Oftentimes, he stepped back and let moments and sensory elements speak for themselves. It was about the team, the fans, the cheers, the jeers, sounds, and the sights. In age of overbearing brands and personalities, sometimes it’s as simple as stepping aside and letting the magic of the moments take over. There’s definitely a lesson in there for today’s social media and sports pro.
Now that Scully has hung up his mic and uttered his familiar refrain, “It’s time for Dodgers baseball”, one last time, we already miss him in so many ways. But let his legacy also be a lesson to those of us that work in fan engagement every day. He knew how to capture and captivate fans. We can all seek to create relationships that are passed down from generations, one story at a time.
Neil Horowitz is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Hopscotch and founder of DMZsports.net, an industry publication highlighting many aspects of the sports business. His Digital and Sports Media podcasts can be found here. Follow him on Twitter @NJH287.