"The L-Train was Johnny on the spot, catching himself a bird deep in the Q. That's how you do it, young man. Right, Fred? Heh heh heh."
If you were playing the Austin Carr drinking game, that would be ... one, two, five, carry the one. Let me stop typing for one second so I can use both hands to count. Ah hell, it's a lot of drinks.
Let's just get this out of the way right now. Don't play the drinking game. You will be too drunk or dead to enjoy the game. Austin Carr says so himself. "Well, I heard about it, and I thought, if there's a lot of dunks and hammering down, there's gonna be some intoxicated people," he says, followed by that warm, hearty laugh you hear during every Cavs broadcast.
"Throws the hammer down" is AC's favorite dunk call. It's also one of the classic Carr lines that equals one drink. The game has shown up in a couple of places now. First, on RealCavFans.com, then ESPN 850 WKNR host Kenny Roda posted a version on his blog, and WaitingForNextYear.com adapted one as well. Variations abound, but the common lines include: "L-Train"
"Throws the hammer down"
"Caught himself a bird"
"Johnny on the spot"
"Get that weak stuff outta here"
Austin saying "Fred" and laughing
"Deep at the Q"
TheAustinCarr.com, which is not affiliated with Austin in any way, has a helpful soundboard with bits of every Carrism.
Some of these are variable from game to game. Others are regular. Carr refers often to LeBron as the "L-Train" and he's bound to say "at the Q" dozens upon dozens of times during any broadcast. Maybe hundreds. Who knows. I tried counting, but I was too drunk.
So what does Austin Carr - a Cavs legend, one of only six players to have his number retired by Cleveland, a 10-year NBA veteran, Mr. Cavalier, the 1971 Naismith College Player of the Year and 12-year broadcaster - think about the game and recent attention?
"I think winning has a lot to do with that," says Carr. "My kids told me about it. They haven't played it and I don't understand how it goes. I heard Kenny [Roda] talking about it."
Gracious. Honest. No-nonsense.
Sometimes you get the feeling watching games this year that Austin is acutely aware of his linguistic popularity. The lines roll off the tongue amidst laughter, the bouncy cadences unforced. Austin is the fan's representative in the on-air duo; Fred McLeod is the play-by-play guy, the nuts and bolts of the operation. AC, well, he's one of us. That chuckle while watching the Cavs run out to a 37-9 record as of February 2, that's the same chuckle that's coming from our mouths at home. He's down to earth, one of the nicest men you'll ever talk to, and quickly admits there are no laurels to rest on when you're on the job. Which is why he was open to some catchphrase suggestions.
"I was actually talking to the trainer and I had been looking for something to describe the way the team's been playing without two of their starters," says Carr. "And we were talking, and he said, 'This team is going to be battle-tested when Z and Delonte come back.' And I thought that was perfect. That's kind of how things happen."
Or I brainstorm for a night with friends and call you while you're in Orlando trying to get some rest on a quick two-day road trip. Either way.
What about, "The L-Train, over the Terminal Tower in a single bound!" "Hmm," says Carr, and then he rattles off my line with that on-air Austin Carr flare. "'The L-Train … over the Terminal Tower … in a single BOUND!' That would be a little too long. Like, 'deep in the Q,' that's fast. Gotta get in and get out. I can't run into Fred."
What about "from the banks of the Cuyahoga!"
"I could use that one," Carr says, no laughter this time, just serious consideration (at least, I think so) that gives this writer, who dreamed of being a sportscaster when he was younger, the slight hope that one day Carr would use the phrase on the air.
Think you could get Fred to say, "Yabba dabba doo!" for a dunk?
Austin's laugh comes roaring back. "I think he would do that. We're working on coming up with a new name for LeBron and Mo Williams, instead of calling them Batman and Robin. You know, it would just have to happen. I don't think he likes to preset things. It has to fit and flow."
I was too excited to ask, but I think that means you can expect to hear Austin and Fred referring to LeBron and Mo as Fred and Barney in the near future.
At least, that's what I think it meant. How many times did LeBron "throw the hammer down" last night again?