Few sports broadcasters count both a master’s degree and a doctorate among their credentials, but superior education is just one qualification that makes Dick Enberg a special talent. One of the most versatile announcers ever to take the microphone, Enberg brings a professor’s logic to his preparation, having lent his voice to every major event, from the Olympic Games to the Super Bowl, over the course of his 50-year career.
“His consistency is probably his trademark,” says Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports. “Year after year of consistently covering the biggest events in the best possible way, along with his enthusiasm and his passion, makes him a great talent.”
Enberg began his broadcasting career far from the spotlight. Sitting in the bleachers of a high school football game between Mt. Pleasant and Shepherd, MI, Enberg was the play-by-play man, as well as the analyst, engineer, and lead technician.
“I had everything but the cymbals between my knees so that I could be the marching band.”
Before refining his skills in the broadcast booth, Enberg did plenty of homework. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Indiana University, where he also served as the first-ever football and basketball play-by-play announcer for the Indiana University Sports Network. He then made his voice heard at the front of the classroom, as an assistant professor at California State University at Northridge.
“He was a teacher by trade, and, consequently, he knows what it is like to prepare for and take a test,” says Billy Packer, Enberg’s long-time NCAA basketball broadcast partner. “His interest as a former teacher in acquiring knowledge and not overburdening you with his knowledge is the ultimate preparation.”
The professor lent his voice to the Northridge dugout as well as its classrooms, working as an assistant coach for the baseball team. To encourage his players for a base hit, Enberg and the coaching staff would yell out, “Touch ’em all!,” the phrase that Enberg later adopted as his home-run call.
Arriving at his signature expression, however, was a lesson in preparation.
“All good announcers have a punch line,” Enberg says. In 1957, however, options were limited — “Oh, doctor,” “Holy cow,” and “How about that,” were already taken (by Red Barber, Harry Caray, and Mel Allen, respectively).
“In the Midwest, ‘Oh, my’ is a common expression,” Enberg continues. “My mother used it often, and you can use it in many different inflections. After about three weeks of using it, my pals in graduate school would see me and say, ‘Enberg, Oh my!’ And I said, that’s going to be a good friend.”
That good friend has now been with Enberg for more than 50 years, 25 of them at NBC and the last 10 at CBS. The former radio and television voice of the California Angels, UCLA basketball, and the Los Angeles Rams went on to call NFL and NCAA football; NBA and NCAA basketball; four Olympic Games; the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon; the Masters, U.S. Open golf, and PGA Championships; the World Series; heavyweight boxing; gymnastics; figure skating; Breeders’ Cup horse racing; and track and field.
“Dick can not just cover an event but weave a story around it,” says legendary ABC/NBC producer/director Don Ohlmeyer. “He’s fantastic at being able to put an event in its historical context. For an event like Wimbledon, there was always that air of respect in his voice without in any way being obsequious, and that’s a tough thing to pull off.”
For an announcer who has covered every major sporting event in the world, there is no picking favorites.
“That’s like asking who’s your favorite child,” Enberg says. “They’re all in their own way, with different challenges that require different styles, research, and storytelling.”
The Professor has a steadfast formula for the research required for any event: for every hour he spends on-air, Enberg devotes a minimum of one day’s preparation — and that’s before he arrives at the game, speaks to coaches and players, and attends production meetings.
“If I’ve done less than that,” he says, “I feel I haven’t prepared properly.”
Enberg’s interests in life extend well beyond the field of play. A wine collector, he is also a travel connoisseur and a prolific writer, having penned two best-selling books and a one-man play. A father of six, he lives in La Jolla, CA, with his wife, Barbara.
Ever the student, Enberg continues to study at least three days a week, as he prepares for his Sunday NFL on CBS broadcasts.
“When you take a look at all of the sports that he’s been involved with and all of the different broadcasters that he has worked with, in every case, their best moments were when they worked with Dick,” Packer says. “Of all the guys that I’ve ever met, he is the greatest team player.”
A talented teammate, professor, and lead announcer, in his 50 years behind the microphone, Enberg has truly touched ’em all.
Oh, my, indeed.