I’ve never met Tom Durkin and I likely won’t ever meet Tom Durkin. He’s the announcer at the New York tracks and is retiring at the end of August after a magnificent career. One thing you’ll notice on chat boards, twitter etc…is that racing fans love talking and debating about announcers. Go to any chat board and you’re likely to find an announcer thread near the top of the forum with thousands of posts. I’ve always said “Announcer’s are like Ice Cream Flavors…everyone likes something different”. Some folks like a boisterous and exciting call…..some people like quiet, accurate and timely…..and some people like the mute button (yes I’m talking to you Marcus Hersch!). But I think the reason people like to talk about announcers…is because when watching a race…particularly on television…the announcer is your main connection to that track. Watching Tom Durkin call a race in New York has a way of bringing you to New York.
Another reason we love Tom Durkin is because he’s called so many of our favorite horses and races. There’s an old adage that great horses and great races make for great racecalls. There’s some truth in that. It’s hard to make a $5,000 claimer anymore exciting than it can be. However, Tom Durkin rose to the big stage on such a regular basis it’s staggering. Right now on twitter people are debating what their favorite Durkin call is. And it could be one of literally a thousand races. There will be hundreds of different replies today and in the coming days as what is his best race call. Of course the Smarty Jones calls, the Real Quiet calls etc will be a majority of the nominations, but some people will nominate Derby calls…or Preakness calls…or Arrrrrrrr calls or Yuka duck haka dola calls…..or even no calls (Commentator).
One memory I’ll always have of Tom Durkin was a couple years ago watching Saratoga and listening to him doing the changes. I could hear he was very emotional…almost in tears and fighting to get through giving out the information. Then all of a sudden he wasn’t calling the races a few minutes later. I was worried for him and turns out a close friend of his had passed away. Tom’s emotion is one of the reason I think people connected with him. His humor another. His class another.
We connect with people who we respect. We connect with people who are passionate. We connect with people who we share moments and memories with. Tom Durkin’s voice is littered across so many memories horse racing fans have. I don’t know the man. I’ll probably never know the man. But his voice is part of my life. And if you’re reading this. It’s probably part of yours too.