Saturday, August 12, 2006

Larry Munson Calls It As He Sees It

My parents were in their 40's and 50's respectively when I was born. They came from a generation that depended on the radio as most of us now depend on the internet or television. In each of their families, a critical part of their day was to sit around the radio at night listening to President Roosevelt's voice as he explained to the American people what was happening thousands of miles away. For me, such stories always conjured up rememberences of "The Waltons." But the idea of huddling around a radio to hear what is going on really wasn't that foreign of a concept for me.

That's because college football is like a religion in the south. It inspires a deep state and regional pride in many of us that stretches all the way back into the late 1800's and early 1900's where the south was still recovering from the effects of the Civil War. And as I was growing up in the early 80's, there weren't nearly as many college football games on television as there are now. Each fall Saturday, you can count on CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, and the Fox networks to all have football games without fail. They start as early as 12 noon and continue on past midnight sometimes.

But back "in the day," there were only a handfull of games on - perhaps 2 or 3 at the most. That meant that many fans around the country either had to attend the game in person or listen to it on the radio. For several generations of Georgians, Larry Munson was the eyes and ears of University of Georgia football. From Dalton to Bainbridge and from LaGrange to Brunswick, thousands felt the pain of defeat and the jubilation of victory as described by the least likely of men. Munson, who is in his 80's now, isn't from Georgia. He's a native Minnesotan. He has no "twang" as they say. He's worked as a radio guy from Wyoming to Nashville. But little did he or the Georgia people know that when he began his tenure as play-by-play man for UGA in 1966, a legend was being born. He's long since become one of us.

This wasn't limited to the state of Georgia. Virtually every state where football is king has their own version of Larry Munson. And on those rare times when I was able to hitch a ride with someone making the 5 hour trip to Athens to see the "Dawgs" play, it was always a part of the routine on the way home to scan the radio dial to pick up Clemson's Jim Phillips, Tennessee's John Ward, Georgia Tech's Al Ciraldo, or another one of my favorites, the late Jim Fyffe at Auburn. Along with Munson, these men all had that old "homer" style of putting aside their objectivity and saying things like "we" instead of "they." Those men are endeared to those of us from those days. In fact, even today, when watching a game on t.v., I will mute its volume so that I can turn on the radio and hear our guy Larry make the call.

Wherever he goes, friends and foes alike in and around college football know Larry. He's respected by all, if not loved. He's generally known as the best in his business. And that's not just a UGA fan talking. Larry's a member of the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and two of his calls ("Run, Lindsay, Run!" and "Look at the sugar falling from the sky........") have been touted by ESPN and Sports Illustrated as being two of the best calls of all time in any sport.

Tonight, Larry is being roasted in celebration of his 40th year of being "The Voice" of the Georgia Bulldogs. People from all over the country and from several different schools will be on hand to help. All I can say is "thank you" Larry. And here's hoping for 40 more!! GO DAWGS!!


Rocky said...

If only we could actually hear Muson on an FM station in Atlanta!! Every Saturday I try turning the volume down on TV as I watch the Dawgs, but AM 750 does not come in clearly in my Marietta home - and WNGC doesn't reach this far west! I listen to Munson as often as I can, and I listened to him religiously my four years in Athens. Some of his most famous calls are before my time (though I've heard them played again and again), but I distinctly remember hearing the hob-nail boot call, as well as Greene to Johnson against Auburn (while the rest of my family sat in the dining room celebrating a birthday). You certainly can't hear that on the national TV coverage.

Let's hope Larry has a team worth announcing this year - the QB situation has me a bit a worried.

Great point on the popularity of college football in the South. I've tried to explain it to my northern friends, but they never seem to understand how closely college football's popularity is related to Reconstruction - not to mention the fact that we did not have major league professional sports in the South until the mid 60s.

Steve said...

There are great voices like him in every state. When we lived in Mississippi (for over 30 years) we heard John Cox at Southern Mississippi and Larry Crystal at Mississippi State. People like Munson literally become the voice of these programs. After I got settled in as a Georgian and started rooting for the dawgs I was told by an alumnist that it was a requirement to mute the tv and play him on the radio.

Button Gwinnett said...

Hey Rocky, another problem with watching on tv and listening to the radio is that they aren't always in sync. I find that WSB is usually about 1 full second ahead of what I'm seeing on tv. But I've adjusted to it and use it as a defense mechanism in case something happens that I don't want to see. ;-)

I'm worried about the QB situation too. But then I think about the success rate of Richt and QB's and his teams abilities to get the job done and I don't worry so much anymore. I'm not the type of fan that expects 10 wins and an SEC title every year. Realistically, they should get 8 wins this year with a decent shot at 9.

I'd love to be paid to do a sociological study on southern attitudes towards college football. If you've never read Tony Barnhart's "Southern Fried Football," it's a great resource for historical facts. But it also has a section dealing with this subject.

Button Gwinnett said...

Steve, I went to see UGA play Miss. St. in Starkville back in 1996. But I neglected to bring headsets. So I didn't get to hear Mr. Crystal's call of the game. But I did get to hear a revival of one of my old Saturday fall morning radio shows, "Leonard's Losers." Only Leonard could get away with combining football and poetry and get away with it! I wish I could find that around here.

Rocky said...

I had forgotten about the delay.. and if you're watching the game on a tv with a DVR, the delay is even more pronounced. One day we'll have true media convergence in a single device to avoid these issues - unfortunately it will probably be after Munson retires!

You're right about expectations. I was at UGA for the end of the Goff / Donnan era. It could be worse!!