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Bill Worrell tees off one last Rockets win

Rockets 122 - Clippers 115, btw.

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets
So long to the Last of The Gentleman Homers
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

This game marked the end of an era in Rockets basketball. Bill Worrell, the Rockets television play by play announcer called his last game. He’s retiring at the end of this season, and this is the last Rockets home game. There obviously won’t be playoffs to call for the Rockets for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Worrell got the job in 1983. Rockets fans approaching 40 years old will have known only Bill Worrell calling Rockets games. Bill Worrell is Houston through and through. Born in Houston in 1947, graduating from Lamar High School and the University of Houston, and announcing Rockets and Astros games, it’s difficult to be MORE Houston.

And it showed. While Worrell was always gentlemanly, and appropriate, he was also 100% in the tank for the Rockets.

I’ve called him The Last of The Gentleman Homers, and he was.

In recent years it’s become popular to lambaste the Rockets announcing team, with those complaints largely lead by people who cover the NBA generally, rather than following a single team.

I believe those people have a weird sense of entitlement regarding the presentation of the game, and what they’re “owed”. They seem to want a national sort of broadcast, where (in theory) the announcers don’t favor one team over an another. Where the crews are committed to making sure the neutral fan has a window into the proceedings.

That’s exactly what a national broadcast should do. But what about a local one? The dear, fond, old Rockets broadcast, running along like a well-worn favorite LP, skips and all, was anathema to that “for neutral fans” mindset.

I strongly disagree with what the NBA Kommentariat thinks about Bill Worrell and the Houston Rockets broadcast. What does it matter whether Zach Lowe was entertained, or enlightened, or felt personally cossetted? A thoroughly east coast individual like Zach pretty clearly has no frame of reference, or actual experience, of an Old Texas personage (in the best sense) like Worrell, anyway.

It’s not to say there weren’t some shortcomings in the Rockets broadcast. It was a bit creaky, to be sure. It’s just that those shortcomings never seemed terribly relevant to me. The Rockets broadcast is like time capsule, a fragment of an older world where everyone treated sports, mere entertainments that they are, considerably less reverently.

The Rockets crew complains about calls, makes silly jokes about their opponent, nurses grudges, goes off on tangents, will go any length for a pun, and expresses only the mildest interest in the inner workings of Rockets opponents. They focus more on personalities, and fond memories, than stats. Their worldview begins and ends with the Rockets, and perhaps, former Rockets.

Such a goofball attitude tends to detract from the awesome gravitas of the proceedings of tall men putting a ball through a metal hoop.

This is not a message a generation of self-serious NBA commenters want to hear.

Neutrals, parachuting in, aren’t spoon-fed anything to bring them up to speed, poor darlings. It’s almost as though the Rockets broadcast was for Rockets fans, or something. Houston-centric.

Teams are part of their cities. so I’d suggest their teams present themselves least a little bit like those cities, rather than importing people who sound just like everyone everywhere else, or more accurately, like no place in particular.

As good as Joel Meyers is at his job, there’s nothing about him, or the Pelicans broadcast that calls to mind anything specific to New Orleans. (Now that the terrifying version of Pierre is gone.) If you changed a few names, they could be calling the Cavs, or the Suns. That was never the case with the Rockets. With Bill and Clyde, it was always about Houston.

A local crew, despite the existence of League Pass, and fans of other teams possibly watching, needn’t conform to a blandly competent, disinterested, anonymous, anodyne national rubric.

There’s plenty of that everywhere. In fact, there seems to be less local character, less idiosyncratic identity, by the day in the United States and elsewhere.

It seems as though, more and more, the spaces around us could use a bit more of the genial, kindly, goofy, corniness Bill Worrell always represented to me.

So long Bill. It’s been fun. You don’t know me, but we’ve shared a lot of memories. When I hear the Rockets, I’ll always hear your voice (and Gene Peterson).

There was also a basketball game tonight. The Rockets beat the Clippers 122-115. The Clippers didn’t even really play their “B” team, so it was a fair contest with the GLeague Rockets. The GLeague Rockets wanted it more, shot it well, and never let the Clippers bench back into the game.

I suppose we could analyze this contest more, but how many of these players will be Rockets next year? The Rockets just want to close the door on this miserable season in a positive way. The Clippers want to get to the playoffs with no more injuries. It was that kind of game.

Stephen Silas presented the game ball to Bill Worrell.


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    Goodbye, and best wishes, Bill! We’ll miss you.
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