For a few years, I was privileged to carry on a lively email correspondence with the late, great Phil Jasner, who diligently and eloquently covered the Philadelphia 76ers for the Daily News. I suspect a good many other Sixers’ fans also did that. At one point, we exchanged remembrances of the P.A. witticisms of Dave Zinkoff, whose memory is honored with a banner in the rafters of Wells Fargo Center and a street beside it that is named after him and Phil reminded me that Matt Cord honors the tradition of Zinkoff. At first, I didn’t know what Phil was talking about. Now I do.
During Friday night’s win over the New York Knicks, the working relationship of Ish Smith and Nerlens Noel seemed to come into full flower. Great feeds from Smith to Noel would culminate in a crowd-wowing play (as least such crowd as there was on a cold night with March Madness on TV). Watching the game on TV, I thought I heard PA announcer Matt Cord refer to the plays as an “Ish dish” or “a dish from Ish.” Can he be channeling the great Zinkoff? Malik Rose confirmed by calling a play an Ish Dish. Later a deep three-pointer from Isaiah Canaan was a “Canaan ball.” And then came another Canaanball. It harkened back to the days when Dave Zinkoff would refer to an “Ohl goal” (that was Don Ohl, boys and girls, who in the 60’s played for the Detroit Pistons and Baltimore Bullets) or a “Howell foul,” from the Celtics’ and later Sixers’ star Bailey Howell.
The tradition Cord honors lies not in the rhyme. It is the classy delivery, the witty, show-bizzy, just slightly understated punchline of the call of the game. Zinkoff would not recognize, much less appreciate, the carnival barkers in many NBA arenas today, those who just scream at the crowd in an effort to rev it up. Zink’s style got us going by offering just the right emphasis for the moment. A Steve Mix basket was followed by the simply stated “Mix makes.” Wilt gave us “Dipper Dunks,” and other Sixer hall-of-famers inspired “Grrr…….eeeeer” and of course “Errrvvv…..ing!” A waved-off basket prompted Zink to say “wait a minute – wait a minute! Nooooo basket!” I wish audio Zink-isms had been better preserved for reference on YouTube. Only a few are to be found there.
Matt Cord doesn’t follow in the tradition by simple imitation. His style is his own, with a recognizable nod to the great Philly tradition set by decades of Zink. He’s not just yelling at the crowd. He’s not one of the carnival barkers. Cord, like Zinkoff before him, is doing a performance that is part style, part league-mandated game information. That’s what the NBA public address announcer should do.
I’d like to see many more Ish Dishes and Canaanballs. Now if the Sixers could just re-establish the tradition of winning seasons.