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Sabino grad has a way with words

Citizen Staff Writer



Television announcers are identified and critiqued by the sparsest of words, the lines they utter when what we have seen mostly defies description.

“Do you believe in miracles?”

“I can’t believe what I just saw!”

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

NBC’s Dan Hicks, a Sabino High School and University of Arizona graduate who will be in the booth for the weekend coverage of the Accenture Match Play Championship, had his own signature moment last summer at the U.S. Open.

When Tiger Woods curled in a birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the championship to force a playoff against Rocco Mediate, Hicks watched the ensuing fist pump and simply reacted.

“I’ve never tried to come up with anything beforehand, anticipating a moment,” Hicks said Friday.

“I was just looking at the whole scene, and when the putt went in, it was just the first thing that popped into my mind.”

What popped into his mind, and then popped out of his mouth, with appropriate gusto, was this: “Expect anything different?”

Even recently, that call was dissected – and not necessarily favorably – on various sports blogs. He laughs when asked about it.

“Did you like it?” he said.

Actually, I watched a replay of it a couple of weeks ago, and thought it fit the moment just fine.

“It’s taken on a little bit of a life of its own,” Hicks said of the call.

“I like it. When I look back on it, I like it. It was fun.”

What Hicks will be doing this weekend for eight hours of coverage is the opposite of sound bites. He will be, more than is required for a regular Tour event, in storyteller mode.

By the time NBC executive producer Tommy Roy – a Salpointe Catholic graduate – gets the telecast rolling at noon Saturday, the Match Play tournament will be down to four players.

There will be lots of time to fill in between shots from the four golfers, not one of whom will be named Tiger.

NBC lost a ratings rocket when Tiger Woods fell in Thursday’s second round, the end of his much-celebrated first tournament after knee surgery.

“When we all found out Tiger was going to play in Tucson, it was celebration time,” Hicks said. “Now, there’s different feel and atmosphere. No doubt about it.”

Hicks, like any journalist, is rooting for the best story, and the best story on the course this weekend is Rory McIlroy, a 19-year-old from Northern Ireland who is playing in his first professional event in the United States.

There have been dozens of “The Next Tiger” in the past decade, and Hicks is looking forward to the possibility of presenting this TNT to a new audience.

“He’s a great story,” Hicks said of McIlroy, who won the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this month over a strong European field.

“It’s great any time you can infuse youth into the situation. I’m excited to introduce his story to the American public. He’s a good kid. Young, but mature beyond his years. Maybe we can give people an idea about what Rory McIlroy is about. That is my job.”

I’m partial to NBC’s golf coverage over that on CBS, mostly because I’ve been listening to Hicks do his job for more than two decades. I appreciate the guy analyst Johnny Miller calls “Mr. Smooth.”

Hicks, 46, got his start in Tucson in the 1980s. He was the public address announcer for various University of Arizona sports. He read the news for a local radio station. He moved up to host a local radio show – “Dan Hicks’ Sports Fix” and worked as a sports reporter for KVOA Channel 4.

He landed a gig at CNN in 1989, moving on to NBC in 1992. He said he recently signed a new deal that will keep him at NBC through 2012.

Hicks admits he just about has the best job in the business.

Two months after witnessing Woods’ magic at the U.S. Open, Hicks was behind the mic for Michael Phelps’ eight swimming gold medals at the Olympics. Hicks delivered another good line there, comparing the star athletes by saying Phelps was “Tiger Woods in a Speedo.”

“It was a phenomenal year. All that could have fallen into somebody else’s lap,” Hicks said. “We just happened to be there for two of the most memorable sports events of the year.”

It further became a good year because his wife, Hannah Storm, became one of the anchors for the morning SportsCenter on ESPN. Storm previously worked on the Early Show on CBS.

“I always watched ESPN, of course, but now I’m hearing the SportsCenter jingle in my sleep,” Hicks said.

Hicks knows he’s leading an absurdly charmed life.

“In this day and age, and in this economic climate, I appreciate what I do even more because of what I did in 2008,” Hicks said. “I’m absolutely blessed.”

Sounds like he found the right words again.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:


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