Super Bowl

Decades After the Final Overtime, The Voice of the NFL Rises Phoenix-like From the Ashes of the Past, and the Lethian Waters of Forgetfulness Recede Like the High Hopes of Tom Landry's Cowboys


Having problems jumpstarting your Super Bowl fever? Troubled by a nagging sense that a game which is in every way more gargantuan than ever before seems to have gotten so small? The Onion AV Club's appreciation of the NFL Films Super Bowl DVDs suggests a reason why: We don't have John Facenda narrating the highlight films.

Although I hadn't thought about Facenda's stentorian readings of the weekly NFL wrapups for a long time, the AV geeks pay him a telling tribute by singling out "Memorable John Facenda narration" on each disc, but not even bothering to name his successor (the able but less stirring Harry Kalas). It says something that a man who died more than two decades ago is still the unchallenged poet of professional football. Some samples:

Memorable John Facenda narration: "The clarion call of the Kansas City trumpeter went… unanswered."

Memorable John Facenda narration: "The third quarter was dying… and so were the Colts."

Memorable John Facenda narration: "A Niagra of gold and black… poured down on Roger Staubach."

Memorable John Facenda narration: "By day, the Rams' sparkling spirit kept the game close… but by night, it faded into the black reality of the Pittsburgh Steelers."

If you're not familiar with the vocal stylings of Facenda, a man who must have eaten nothing but leeks, you can listen to samples (not football-related, unfortunately) here and here. And if you think these phrases didn't just flow naturally from his lyre, that the great Facenda alexandrines were crafted by some nameless South Jersey writing team, read this account of how Facenda got the job. (It's in Wikipedia, so you know it's true.)

Maybe there's just something in the water in the City of Brotherly Love, the same stuff that produces the incomparable sub rolls; but why hasn't professional football been able to come up with another great narrator in more than 20 years? (Though some have apparently tried.) How is it that this supposedly post-ironic era can't muster up a decent Voice of God? Isn't there some underutilized baritone at the Philadelphia Opera willing to read Stan Lee-style descriptions of draw plays?

But this is no time for kvetching. One of the great dynasties of the Facenda era is back in the Bowl as the sentimental favorite (and to my surprise, the Vegas favorite), so reminisce with the DVDs for Super Bowls I-X and Super Bowls XI-XX—taking you up to the 1985-86 season, when Ditka's Bears clearly demonstrated that Facenda's heroic age had come to an end.

Update: Independent worm sends in this must-hear clip of Facenda reading "Autumn Wind," the fabled Raiders poem by NFL Films librettist Steve Sabol, complete with an old-school musical track (not "What do ye do with a drunken sailor earl-aye in the mornin'," but still stirring enough to make you want to go out and sack Bob Griese).