Josh Lewin’s voice begins the countdown, a sequence that might have accompanied any of his UCLA radio play-by-play calls over the years.
“Twenty-four seconds on the clock … ” Lewin starts, before it immediately becomes evident that this broadcast won’t end with a Joshua Kelley touchdown run or a Jaime Jaquez Jr. three-pointer.
“ … the Old El Paso taquito almost ready,” Lewin continues, his voice narrating a video that pans across the front of a microwave. “A giddy sense of anticipation here in Josh’s kitchen, this crowd — the wife, the dog — everyone waiting for the Maytag microwave to produce these 180 calories of abject perfection.”
The camera moves back toward the clock panel, revealing the final countdown, the tension building.
“Seven seconds left, it’s happening,” Lewin goes on. “Delirium in Solana Beach. Do you believe in afternoon snacking? Yes!”
The door opens, revealing a single taquito atop a paper towel.
“Oh, my, does that look good,” Lewin concludes. “A perfectly microwaved taquito.”
The longtime Bruins broadcaster playfully posted the video on his Twitter account in mid-March amid the nearly universal shutdown of sports because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and quickly discovered that almost everyone could use a little Lewin levity.
His followers started retweeting the video en masse, spawning copycats and a widespread call for more content from Lewin and other broadcasters, including Fox’s Joe Buck.
Lewin happily obliged, adding his own humorous spin as the soundtrack to videos depicting mundane everyday occurrences.
There’s somebody tying his shoelaces into a double knot (“We are tied!”), cars and trucks navigating an intersection (“Madness in Solana Beach!”), the stacking of soup cans in a cabinet (“A double stack of minestrone! We haven’t seen that one since mid-July!”), cutting the crusts off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (“Oh, the diagonal slice!”), pulling asparagus and potatoes out of an oven (“It’s outta here!”) and accidentally flinging an ice cream carton onto the floor while scooping chocolate chip (“It ends in heartbreak for Lewin!”).
As the interest in his videos mushroomed, Lewis sought submissions from others. Some wanted him to add his voice to footage they shot; others sought a critique of their own play-by-play skills.
The content became so voluminous that Lewin started a YouTube channel titled “PlayByPlayOfAnythingAtAll.” Yes, he’s having fun, but no, he has not stumbled upon a new calling that will sidetrack him once sports resume play.
“It’s just something to keep everybody hopefully halfway sane at a really difficult time,” Lewin said, “including me.”
Lewin was in Las Vegas preparing to call UCLA’s basketball game against California in the Pac-12 Conference tournament in early March when sports seasons started teetering on the brink. He stayed up until 2 a.m. doing his usual prep work before receiving the call several hours later that the tournament had been canceled. Soon the NCAA tournament would be gone as well.
Lewin headed home to be with his wife and Dachshund at their Solana Beach home, preparing for indefinite uncertainty. Struck by the solitude while pulling out of a nearby CVS parking lot, he flipped on his camera phone and narrated a black Toyota preparing to exit the lot.
“Camry, looking, looking,” Lewin said, the car shown inching forward in the distance, “no one coming left, no one coming right. Guns the engine and he is gone! Toyota Camry has left the lot!”
Lewin’s cadence sounded like a home-run call, his experience broadcasting New York Mets and Boston Red Sox games put to perfect use. While the games might not go on for the foreseeable future, nobody has pushed the pause button on life, so Lewin intends to live it as best he can.
“Boredom and anxiety are kind of a weird cocktail,” Lewin said. “It’s both of those emotions right now, so I’m finding that just doing something in the creative space kind of helps both of those items along a little bit.”
This has become a delightful side project to Lewin’s main current endeavor, a baseball podcast called The Throwback League in which he pits World Series teams from the last 30-odd years against one another in a March Madness-style bracket. Lewin adds a colorful take on game simulations created by a computer algorithm that spits out play-by-play accounts.
“Like if you’re playing the ’93 [Toronto] Blue Jays,” Lewin said, “I’ve got foul balls being caught by a fan in a [Bill] Cosby sweater, trying to keep it true to the times so it’s kind of a mix of baseball and pop culture.”
Finding the podcasts on his Twitter feed might take a little more scrolling than usual given all the surrounding content.
“Now, all of a sudden,” Lewin said of the shifting tastes of his fans, “people seem to be more appreciative of doing play by play of trying to scoop out some chocolate-chip Breyer’s out of a carton.”
—Ben Bolchstaff is a writer for the Los Angeles Times