You don’t necessarily have to be from SEC country or the South in general for this news to resonate you, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s a little sad to hear that the longtime radio voice of Georgia football, Larry Munson, announced his retirement today, and instead of finishing out his 43rd and final campaign, Munson is retiring with immediate effect, sex days before his 86th birthday.
Munson had already cut back on his workload, as he had started calling only home games last season. And, given his health issues (he had blood clots removed from his brain in April) and his increasing age, you knew it was only a matter of time before he handed the microphone over.
Still, it’s a sad day for college football and for what is an ever-dying breed, it seems. I’m a relative youngster (23), but my sports fandom has radio roots.
For me growing up, it was all about looking forward to Mississippi State football and basketball broadcasts and hearing that familiar voice of Jack Cristil, who, like Munson, has been around since black and white televisions were still popular (I still have one actually, in my old room at home) and the ‘worldwide leader‘ was many years away from even being a thought.
We didn’t have cable, and I didn’t get a chance to see MSU on TV so much, so many times, I turned to my radio (I went through a few) to catch my beloved Bulldogs, waiting with nervousness and anticipation for the start of the broadcast, and for the next few hours, hanging on every call until that trademark ‘You can wrap it in maroon and white!’ that will never get old, no matter how much I do.
Munson’s retirement, for me, serves as a reminder that it won’t be too long before Cristil, who’s in his 56th season calling MSU football, turns the microphone over to someone else, and while it‘s been a little while since I‘ve heard him (satellite radio and MSU‘s pay broadcast service are things that don‘t yet fit into my budget, and I don‘t get back home to Mississippi as often as I would like), I hate to think that it may not be longer before he wraps it up.
There’s something about guys like Cristil and Munson, who you know pour their heart and soul into every word they say, that often enough trumps watching the game on TV, and not just because there are some announcers who take a cue from some of the legends (which also includes Keith Jackson, who I also miss). All you have to do is close your eyes, listen to the words, and you’ll feel like you’re right there with him.
Tell me you don’t get chills when you hear some of Munson’s most famous calls, from Lindsay Scott’s late catch and run for a 92-yard touchdown to beat Florida in Georgia’s 1980 national title-winning season to David Greene’s touchdown pass to Michael Johnson on 4th down to beat Auburn in 2002 to clinch the SEC East title.
For those who love, it’s amazing that voices that might be gravelly, nasally, or anything but ‘beautiful’ are just that, even sometimes when the going isn’t so good. In fact, when the going isn’t good, that voice coming through is often the only reason to keep hanging on and listening.
‘Homerism’ and a perceived lack of objectivity is something that turns off some about radio broadcasts (or some regional/team-specific TV broadcasts), and there are some announcers (even some good ones) whose homerism is unbridled and out there in the open, but even if you hate to hear one of the legends calling a big play against your team, even some of the most hateful at least respect those who are masters of their craft.
As nice as it is to be able to watch your favorite team on television, or better yet, to see them in person, a little nostalgia and simplicity is nice sometimes, and I hope that years from now that the likes of Munson aren‘t forgotten, and that maybe, just maybe there are a few legends that the next generations can hang on to like past and present have done with the likes of the names I’ve mentioned and many more.
While Munson won’t be in the booth for Saturday’s matchup between #3 Georgia and #8 Alabama in Athens, what better way would it be for Georgia to honor one of the greatest voices in sports – and to give him an early birthday present – than by winning?
And for those reading right now, go to Youtube, scour the Internet, or channel that old radio or TV broadcast in your brain, and just sit back, press play, and get swept away by the magical words, whether it’s ‘Wrap it!,’ ‘Whoa Nelly!,’ ‘It’s football time in Tennessee!,’ or ‘Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!’