The marquee event during NBC's prime-time Olympics coverage on August 11 was swimmer Michael Phelps' (successful) attempt to win his third gold medal of the 2008 games -- a race that was tape-delayed in these parts for an hour, which explains why I saw the results on ESPN in advance. (The "LIVE" icon on the screen included an Eastern Time Zone reference in tiny print beneath it. Tricky...) But before then, the focus was on a volleyball contest featuring American powerhouses Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh -- and fans of the Denver Nuggets no doubt recognized the man calling the match with assistance from beach-bumping legend Karch Kiraly. It was Chris Marlowe, who's handled Nuggets play-by-play ever since Drew Goodman signed on fulltime with the Colorado Rockies.
Unlike many announcers at the Olympics, Marlowe doesn't have to rely on color commentators to help him comprehend the particulars of so-called minor sports. Indeed, Marlowe's firsthand understanding of volleyball trumps his b-ball experience by a long stretch.
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Marlowe tells the surprisingly star-studded story in an NBA.com post that commemorates the week he was named the league's broadcaster of the week. Here's his account:
In my first three years with the NBA, I've called seven of Carmelo Anthony's last second, game-winning shots, Kenyon Martin has bought me and my friends' dinner in Arizona, and (despite the trade) Andre Miller still refers to me as "El Presidente." I'm not sure if that last one is good or bad, but I do know this; I must be the luckiest guy in Denver, Colorado.
Once upon a time I was the luckiest dude in California, captaining the United States Olympic Volleyball Team and winning a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. We celebrated for weeks; riding in ticker tape parades in New York and Dallas, and enjoying photo ops with the President and First Lady [see above].
When I finally got home, it was my Mom who brought me back to reality. She said, "Congratulations now get a job."
I'd tried sports broadcasting once a few years earlier, as a TV analyst for ABC's Wide World of Sports coverage of NCAA Volleyball. It was UCLA Volleyball Coach Al Scates who got me that first job. He'd been the analyst the previous year, but this time around his Bruins were in the championship final. When ABC execs asked Al to recommend another analyst, he told them "I know a guy with a big mouth and a loud voice who might be perfect." Turns out, he was right, but I took a few career detours along the way.
For a while, I considered entering the family business. My grandfather, three time Academy Award nominated director Sam Wood found success directing films like Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Pride of the Yankees, and Kings Row. When I met President Reagan during the '84 Olympics, I asked if he remembered my Grandfather directing him in Kings Row. He paused and said "Ah yes, Sam Wood. He once made me do 14 takes of biting into an apple." I later told my mom (Sam's daughter) the story and she quipped "He probably didn't do it very well!"
My mother K. T. Stevens and father Hugh Marlowe both enjoyed successful acting careers, with Mom perhaps best known for playing Vanessa "the woman behind the veil" on the daytime soap Young & the Restless and my father for films like All About Eve, Twelve O'clock High and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Despite a reasonable amount of success in acting myself, including a one year stint on the day-time soap opera Love of Life, small parts playing myself in films like Rounders, The 6th Man, and Look Who's Talking 2, and kissing former supermodel Christina Ferrare on TV's Love Boat, I finally decided the kissing was good, but my acting was bad.
Twenty-five years and hundreds of broadcasts later (including the rare trifecta of Acapulco Cliff Diving, The World Series of Poker and the XFL), I'm living out my dream, calling play-by-play for the Denver Nuggets on Altitude Sports and Entertainment Television...
As I get ready for the good the times to roll, I remember what LA Broadcasting Guru Lou Riggs used to tell me long ago, "Be prepared, never say 'we' and get the names right." That's exactly what I plan to do.
Clearly, Marlowe knows his digs from his kills. Now if only we could find that Love Boat clip... -- Michael Roberts