Chuck Swirsky is back in the front row. But if you didn’t know any better, you might have thought he was there the whole time.
Last season, the Bulls’ radio voice on 670 The Score called games at the United Center from atop the 100 level to keep distance from the players. He called road games from a makeshift studio in Chicago. Neither kept him from calling the action with his usual enthusiasm and precision.
When the Bulls play in their home opener Friday night against the Pelicans, Swirsky and analyst Bill Wennington will be back where they belong: courtside.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” said Swirsky, who also is traveling for road games and was courtside for the season opener Wednesday in Detroit. “We connect with the fans by being on top of the action.”
Ah, yes, the fans. They return to the UC for the first regular-season game at full capacity since March 10, 2020. Based on their excitement during three entertaining preseason games, Swirsky might sound more amped up than usual.
What’s certain is that he’ll be calling a faster-paced game. It’s no secret the Bulls are going uptempo, and a lot of fans and outside observers are excited to see it. Swirsky is, too, but he and Wennington will have to keep pace, as well. Swirsky, 67, certainly has the energy.
“An NBA game is so fast, my role is to maintain the integrity of the broadcast with score, time, ball location and be as descriptive as I possibly can,” he said. “The beauty of working with Bill is the fact he knows how to ease in after a basket and allow things to breathe, as well. Bill is egoless, and that’s one of his best qualities as a basketball analyst.”
You won’t find a more prepared announcer than Swirsky, who’s starting his 24th season calling NBA games and 14th with the Bulls. He loves the league so much, he doesn’t give himself an offseason.
He has a veritable library of player information, he watches “tons” of video – “and when I say tons, that’s an understatement,” he said – and he voraciously reads NBA stories. Being the people person that he is, Swirsky connects weekly with fellow broadcasters, too.
Swirsky also connects with fans, even during games. You can find him on Twitter providing updates and exhorting reactions. If he isn’t the most encouraging or positive person on Twitter, he’s in the team photo. It’s nice when he urges followers to be respectful, eat ice cream and read a newspaper.
But broadcasting is Swirsky’s medium. In fact, he was one of the first sports-talkers in Chicago, even predating the late Chet Coppock, the Godfather of Chicago sports radio. Swirsky debuted on WCFL-AM (1000) on Aug. 27, 1979, hosting the first Monday-Friday sports talk show in town from 7 to 11 p.m.
“We had zero commercials for the first two months,” he said, “and two calls the first night were the wrong numbers.”
The show, and the industry for that matter, eventually picked up.
“I knew sports talk would work because of the passion of the Chicago sports fan,” Swirsky said. “Chicago is the greatest sports market in the world. Period. I love the drive, energy, knowledge and heart of the Chicago sports fan. I am humbled to look back and realize that perhaps a brick or two in the foundation of Chicago media history belongs to that era of sports journalism.”
Swirsky is stoked – when isn’t he? – for this revamped Bulls team. After calling postseason games in eight of his first nine seasons with the Bulls, the team hasn’t been to the playoffs in the last four. Will the drought end this season?
“I’m excited about the Bulls because ownership and management made a major commitment to bring in proven NBA players who know how to play the game,” Swirsky said. “This team will score and will be a better defensive club. I’m not one to give out win-loss records, but this team has re-energized me.”
As if he wasn’t energized in the first place.