Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler shares a laugh with stage manager Brittany… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
A tweet Thursday morning from Clippers voice Ralph Lawler — also known as @ohmeohmy — packed a wallop into 140 characters.
In what read as a casual comment, the 75-year-old broadcaster said the plan was for this season to be his last. Lawler, who has called Clippers games since 1978 and slides over to radio when the team's games are televised nationally, said he hadn't made a final decision but is contemplating retirement.
Fans' reaction was instantaneous: OMG.
"I was just planning to text-message a friend in Sacramento," Lawler said, "and it wound up all over the darned Twitterverse."
He pulled the tweet and explained he wasn't declaring this his farewell season, just voicing thoughts he has considered for probably a decade. But he acknowledged he's going year to year, weighing the joys of the job and the excitement of the Clippers' long-awaited ascent against the grind of living out of a suitcase and maintaining a relentless pace much of the year.
"It's a real hard tightrope to walk," Lawler said.
He has some distinguished company as he performs an increasingly difficult balancing act.
Hall of Famer Vin Scully, the voice of the last 64 Dodgers seasons, hasn't yet said if he will return in 2014, and the thought of the Dodgers without Scully is unimaginable. Scully, who will be 86 in November, usually announces his decision in late August and has worked under a series of one-year contracts for a while.
Unlike longtime Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, who nurtured a 36-year, 3,338-game broadcasting streak when he might have been better off resting, Scully has reduced his travel and is fresher for it. He has been superb the last few weeks, bringing a genuine sense of wonder and unique historic context to the Dodgers' 40-8 surge.
"There's not a broadcaster in the history of the world who I admire more than he," Lawler said of Scully. "To still be at the top of his game is pretty amazing."
Also going year to year is Kings voice Bob Miller, a Hockey Hall of Fame honoree who will be 75 in October, a week after he begins his 41st season with the team.
Miller's previous contract expired July 1, and he said he was asked by the Kings and Fox Sports how long he wanted his new deal to be. Ten years? Fine with them. Concerned about keeping up with a swift sport and not cheating himself or his audience, Miller decided on one year. He also agreed to tell them by next March 1 if he will return for the 2014-15 season or retire.
"I've thought more about how long I'm going to keep doing this in the last couple of years than I ever have before," said Miller, the father of two grown children and grandfather of two.
"I'll be 75 when this season starts and I'm torn. Sometimes on the road there's things that go on and you think, 'Do I still want to be traveling around and staying in hotel rooms and everything like that?' And yet I get to the games and certain games you just think, 'What would I rather be doing than this?'''
Like Hearn, who died at 85 in 2002, Lawler doesn't want to miss games. But Lawler is exhausted at season's end and he wants to be sure he and his wife, Jo — who accompanies him on trips — can enjoy a post-basketball life with their three adult children and seven grandchildren.
"I think of Chick, who I've known since I was literally a little boy in Peoria, Illinois. He worked right to the very end and well into his 80s and I did not want to do that," Lawler said. "My wife and my family deserve more than that from me."
"I couldn't be more excited or enthusiastic about this coming year. Like, wow," Lawler said. "The things that have happened since the end of the season, plus last season was so darned much fun too."
In that, Scully, Lawler and Miller are alike again.
"The funny thing is, especially for Ralph and myself and lately for Vin, all of a sudden all three of us have got exciting teams and there are years when that didn't happen," Miller said. "And now you think, 'Maybe now is not the time to leave.' We've got teams that are contenders. The Dodgers, the Clippers, the Kings — it's exciting."
Someday, Scully, Lawler, and Miller will retire and the news will spread via Twitter or the next media craze. In the meantime, remembering that they're working on a year-to-year basis is reason enough to appreciate and enjoy them however long each holds a microphone.