Among basketball fans in the Ohio Valley, Van Vance is widely known as the announcer who broadcasts Kentucky Colonels games over Louisville's powerful WHAS. But Vance has thousands of followers who are much more interested in sports other than basketball and many of whom live far outside his station's 50,000-watt range. They are the blind and physically handicapped who subscribe, through a program sponsored by the Library of Congress, to the "Talking Book" edition of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Early each Wednesday morning the entire editorial content of SI, from LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER to the 19TH HOLE, is recorded at the nonprofit American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville by a team of professional readers, including Vance, retired Sportscaster Paul Clark and Charlie Ryle, the announcer at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds Motor Speedway. A typical ears-only edition of the magazine takes up both sides of two 8? rpm, 9" flexible discs, whose combined playing time runs from three to four hours. By 10 a.m. the readers' tapes are completed and the process of cutting records from them has begun. Ninety-five hundred copies of the SI transcription are sent to direct-mail recipients, who get them at the same time as our regular print subscribers.
In 1962 Time Inc. granted permission to the Library of Congress to add SI to its recording service, which was established by Congress in 1931 to serve blind persons. The program was expanded in 1966 to include people with other physical impairments that prevent them from using standard print. Thirty-seven other magazines ranging from The Readers Digest to Natural History are recorded regularly by American Printing House for the Blind. Fifty-three regional and about 100 sub-regional branches of the Library of Congress circulate recordings of magazines and full-length books at no cost to eligible persons.
"Reading this material for the past 10 years has been one of the most enjoyable and challenging facets of my life," Vance says. "Concentration is the key to the type of reading we do. It is unusual in that the more difficult, esoteric or intellectual articles are often easier to interpret than those with short sentence structures, because the mind responds to a greater degree when you read more difficult pieces.
"The SI writer who probably has the most expressive style is Curry Kirkpatrick. He taxes the man who does interpretation, and that's ironic, because he often uses sound effects. I remember one article started with 'Ar-r-gh' or some such thing.
"But sounds are easy compared to some real words. Have you ever tried to pronounce Trigonostoma agassizi or Pleurotomaria adansoniana, even after you've checked them out in a reference book? Pat Ryan said there is a record cut especially for shell collectors in her story [A Gumshoe in a Shell Game, June 15, 1970], but the deadline we work under doesn't allow that easy way out."
For the benefit of those who cannot see the picture of Vance on this page, he is handsome, tall enough to have been a basketball player himself and athletically trim. And if you listen carefully, you might hear him blush.