Commentary: Play-by-play man Dick Enberg was willing to let TV analysts be the stars

Enberg, who died Thursday at age 82, had a knack for making his broadcast partners better.

On a Sunday afternoon in February 1989, Duke and Arizona played a basketball game in the New Jersey Meadowlands that was telecast on NBC.

Dick Enberg and Al McGuire worked the game. It was their 12th season together, and they had become close friends. After the game, they went into New York to have dinner at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse.

I tagged along, knowing the food would be excellent and the stories and good wine would flow into the night.

It was late when Enberg began telling the story about how he had met his wife, Barbara, and how she had transformed his life at a time when, as he put it, “I doubted whether I could fall in love again.”

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Al and I listened, and after a few minutes, we noticed something: Dick was crying. He didn’t stop talking, just kept on: still crying, saying again and again how grateful he was that, somehow, she had found enough good in him to marry him.

I’m guessing, but I’m willing to bet when Dick Enberg died Thursday in San Diego at age 82, Barbara Enberg was still finding plenty of good in her husband of 34 years.

More than anything else, that genuine goodness may explain the magic Enberg brought to a telecast.

Oh, sure, he was the consummate television pro: His preparation was meticulous; his understanding of every sport he ever took on always had depth. Even when NBC asked him to add golf, a sport he wasn’t that familiar with, he made it sound as if he was born to sit in an 18th-hole tower.

That’s why it’s no surprise when word of Enberg’s death began to spread Friday morning, Pinehurst Resort sent out a tweet that included Enberg’s call of Payne Stewart’s historic putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open.

“We’re saddened to hear of the passing of the great Dick Enberg, who had the classic call of what is perhaps Pinehurst’s…

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