Keith Jackson: And So It Is Done

“And so it is done.  I say goodbye to all of you.  God bless and good night.”

The 1999 national championship game between Tennessee and Florida State was supposed to be Keith Jackson’s final game.  He had announced his retirement at the outset of the 1998 football season.  Millions of his loyal fans pondered how Saturdays would be the same without the distinctive Georgia accent describing off-tackle breakaways and screen passes.

That one sentence stuck with me on his final signoff:  “And so it is done.”  The final chapter was written in a storybook sportscasting career.  My thoughts were “And So It Is Done” would be a perfect title for a Keith Jackson autobiography.

Little did we know we still had Keith Jackson 1seven more years of “retirement” from Jackson.  After a series of negotiations, he agreed to an easier schedule of Pac-10 games with Dan Fouts that required less of a commute from his Pacific Northwest home.

Keith Jackson was indeed Mr. College Football before columnist Tony Barnhart acquired that title.  Yet, his association with Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn and Georgia-Clemson left a later generation without an appreciation of the broad expanse of his experience.

The former Marine sergeant covered cliff diving, demolition derbies in Islip, N.Y., auto racing, Olympics, NBA basketball, the World Series, The Superstars and was the original play-by-play commentator of NFL Monday Night Football.  Jackson was in that Mt. Rushmore category of versatility encompassing Lindsey Nelson, Curt Gowdy, Chris Schenkel, and Vin Scully.

I will not recap the same litany you will read in the many tributes and obituaries.  I will share a few personal memories of telecasts and legends attached to Keith Jackson.

Keith jackson 2The assorted recaps of Jackson’s career have inserted the headline “whoa, Nellie” as his trademark line in a football telecast.  That may be the most exaggerated urban legend on his roster.  He did use the phrase in a commercial during the tail end of his career.  However, he once asserted that he never said “whoa, Nellie” while calling a game; the connection came largely from impersonations of Jackson by comedian/sports interviewer Roy Firestone.  Jackson was none too impressed by Firestone’s mimicry.  One of his routines went something like this:  “And it’s another eight-yard gain by Leroy Mullis from WAY-cross, Georgia….he motored around right tackle like a four-wheel drive….whoa, Nellie!”  Jackson may have used the term at some point but I challenge you to filter through the ABC Sports tape library and find an outing where he did.  In the frequent legendary games on ESPN Classic, “whoa, Nellie” is never there.

One of my fondest memories is of something uncharacteristic in Jackson’s impeccable delivery.  He prided himself on strong preparation and an ability to maintain professionalism under any circumstances.  The New Year’s Day 1981 national championship game between Georgia and Notre Dame may have been one exception.  Jackson was setting up the match, indicating that the Bulldogs had never been so far since the days of Charley Trippi.  The producers opted to insert a tape of a short, elderly fellow in a bright red sweater.  Jackson said:  “Here’s just a sample of how the fever had hit Bulldog fans.”  The gentlemen flashed a big grin and yelled:  “HEYYYYYYYY…..HOW ‘BOUT THEM DOGS!!!!  Hum baby, hum baby, hum baby, hum baby, hum baby, hum baby, hum…..”  When the director cut back to the press box, Jackson was in hysterics.  He had three or four keys to the game remaining.  As he attempted to start each one, he could not avoid breaking into more laughter.  I don’t know if Jackson ever met the man but the little fellow went down in history as the only civilian to ever break up Keith Jackson during a broadcast.

In the mid-1990s, I lived in the country where one required a satellite dish to receive acceptable television reception.  I had one of those huge C-band dishes in the days where you could find interesting byplay between sports announcers on the “backhaul” feeds that were not available to over-the-air viewers.  Apparently communications in Jackson’s headphones were faltering.  He was letting the production crew know it.  “All I’m hearing is loud ringing in these things!  It’s so loud, I can’t hear anything you’re saying or anything anybody else is saying.  You better get this thing cleared up or I’m taking these things off and throwing ’em right out the window.”  One assumes the headphone issue was summarily resolved.  I never heard Keith complain about them for the rest of the telecast.

Jackson BroylesThe ABC college football season opener in 1983 was Georgia vs. UCLA in Athens.  For years, Jackson was paired with former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles in the booth.  This was the game in which Rick Neuheisel was in his senior season and started at quarterback for the Bruins.  At least three times during the telecast, Broyles told Jackson how impressed he was with “this Rickheisel.”  Jackson, who enjoyed Broyles, was amused every time.  However, late in the game, with UCLA driving for what would have been a winning touchdown, Neuheisel called a time out deep in Bulldog territory.  Then, before running a play, Neuheisel called another time out.  “He cain’t DO that, Keith!  He cain’t call two time outs in a row!” shouted Broyles.  Jackson said:  “I don’t know if he can or not but if Frank Broyles is that adamant about it, I would suggest he’s about to be penalized.”  UCLA was penalized.  Georgia won.  The Bulldogs eventually backed out of the return game in the Rose Bowl the next year.

Only TV sports historians and devotees remember that first season of NFL Monday Night Football when Jackson was the first play-by-play commentator for an innovative experiment.  ABC was given 13 weeks of prime time pro football for the bargain price of $9.3 million.  That figure is correct.  CBS had failed twice with Monday night games, including once with the Green Bay Packers and another with the Dallas Cowboys.

ABC Sports President Roone Arledge’s plan to give nighttime football an opportunity for success was to turn it into sports entertainment.  Jackson, whose biggest fame was from calling USAC races with Chris Economacki, was given a huge career boost in the role as play-by-play commentator.  The pairing of retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith and outspoken Howard Cosell was considered the counterpoint to sell the package as something different from the Xs-and-Os tradition of Sunday afternoon.

Keith Jackson 3I was a senior in high school when Monday Night Football began in 1970.  Bedtime prevented me from seeing the finish of most of the games except on the eve of one teacher in-service day.  While many viewers were either entertained or agitated at the jousting between Meredith and Cosell, the latter of whom actually had been a commentator in the 1950s when ABC had a package of Saturday night NFL games, one line stayed with me well after the season.  After every extra point kick, before pitching to a commercial break, Jackson would say:  “NFL Monnnnnn-day Night Football…..a great way to spend an autumn evening.”  The next year, when I commuted home to do public address announcing at my alma mater’s games, I admittedly stole the line.  After every Bulldog extra point, I said, “Waycross High Friiiiiiii-day Night Football…..a great way to spend a summer/autumn evening.”  The home fans were amused.  The visitors usually were not.

If you rent or buy the made-for-cable movie Monday Night Mayhem, you will see a reasonably accurate account of those early years of Monday Night Football.  Jackson was on the package for only one season, though he was given a parachute with NBA basketball (bumping pioneer sportscaster Chris Schenkel, whom Jackson later replaced as the lead voice on college football).  He found out he was being replaced by Frank Gifford on the prime time NFL games by reading about it in the trade papers.  He made call after call to Arledge, who was notorious for not returning phone calls to his staff.  Arledge never answered.  In a dramatic scene in the film, Jackson enters Arledge’s office with that jut-jaw Marine personality at its firmness.  He asked why Arledge wasn’t man enough to tell him to his face about losing Monday Night Football.  Arledge said:  “I was going to, Keith, but I never heard from you.”  Jackson proceeded to pull out logs detailing every call he made to Arledge’s office after learning of the news.  Arledge had no answer.

Despite the Monday night snafu—-and one would never agree that Gifford was ever a better announcer than Jackson—-the NFL’s loss was college football’s gift.  He made our Saturday afternoons appointment television with him for more than three decades.

Keith Jackson 4When he finally did make that final call, it was one for the ages.  Vince Young dramatically drove Texas down the field for a final touchdown with only seconds left in a spine-tingling Rose Bowl to beat Southern Cal.  Jackson, in the same mode as the great Ray Scott on NFL games for many years, backed away from the mike and let the pictures tell the story.  He was a master at it.  When he finally returned to speak, he told everything with a simple sentence:  “It’s been a game of drama, of emotions, and great plays—-and the Longhorns are gonna win it.”

ABC had a strong stable of announcers but when Keith Jackson was in Athens, in Tuscaloosa, in Jacksonville, in Pasadena, or Ann Arbor, the games seemed larger than life.  They usually were.  As a commentator and one who could paint a brilliant word picture, Keith Jackson was larger than life.

“Nature Boy”: Compelling Storytelling at Its Best, A Tragic Tale of the Price of Fame

I have been a non-fan of pro wrestling for nearly 20 years. However, ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ “Nature Boy,” a brilliant and honest portrayal of wrestling megastar Ric Flair, was one of the most compelling documentaries of its kind because of its storytelling.

I first saw Flair in 1974 during my first weekend at the University of Georgia.  I flipped on “Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling” on WFBC in Greenville, S.C.  The veteran Rip Hawk and Flair had just won the Mid-Atlantic tag team championship.  At the time, I didn’t see anything special about the young upper Midwesterner.  During interviews, Hawk—a veteran heel (as villains are termed inside the wrestling industry)—did most of the talking.  Flair was a couple of years away from developing the persona that propelled him to the top of his profession in the early 1980s.

Ric FlairWhen he based his ring character on the flamboyance of earlier star “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, Flair struck gold.  His work ethic was unsurpassed in his field.  Ed Capral, one of the great announcers of the era between 1955 and 1975, told me Flair was “the greatest showman I’ve ever seen in wrestling.”  Capral had seen the original Gorgeous George, the legendary Haystacks Calhoun and Andre the Giant.  In his field, Capral knew of which he spoke.

In the microcosm world of pro wrestling, Ric Flair was regarded by people who grew up well before the Hulk Hogan transformation of 1984 as the greatest performer in the genre’s history.  However, as the documentary indicated, Flair sacrificed wives, children, his health and relationships to experience the love from entertainment he obviously never found from his adoptive parents.  In the early moments of “Nature Boy,” we learned that the Fleiers were major patrons of the arts.  Their son Richard was far more interested in the theater of sport.  Behavioral conflicts resulted in him being sent away to a boarding school as an older teen.  People who only knew of Ric Flair as a master of a figure-four leglock may not have been aware of the juxtapositions of his childhood.  He had parents; yet, he conveyed his own emotions that he felt they were never “there” for him.

Flair talked of the difficult year of recovery after suffering a broken back in a plane crash on the way to a Sunday afternoon card in Wilmington, N.C., October 4, 1975.  He experienced days rethinking his presentation in the ring if, against the odds, he could physically return to wrestling.

By 1981, he was the consummate star in his profession.  He won the NWA world heavyweight championship from his consistent foe of the eighties, Dusty Rhodes.  As several of his colleagues related in “Nature Boy,” Richard Morgan Fleier began living the character of Ric Flair.  His first wife Leslie detailed how he would come home for a day, say how bored he was, and leave.  A world of women, sex, expensive clothes and alcohol to a degree few could fathom became Flair’s environment.  He detailed a period of nearly three years in which “I was never at home.” At the end of the documentary, he admitted to being anything but a model husband and father.  I was taken back to an interview with one of the late Jack Webb’s associates on “The Stu Shostak Show” a few years back.  Webb became a television legend with two successful incarnations of the police series “Dragnet” and developed a television empire.  With all that success, Webb had multiple marriages and could not escape his true marriage to television.  “Jack was a bad father,” said one of his long-time colleagues to Shostak.

“Nature Boy” revealed the heartbreak of Flair’s son Reid’s death from a drug overdose.  Ric obviously had a relationship with Reid that he never had with his own father or his older son David.  Reid emulated his father’s alter ego, only the issues with alcohol expanded into drugs.  

The documentary portrayed a man who could not leave the stage.  In sports, I remember the sadness of seeing Johnny Unitas in a San Diego Chargers uniform.  One of the all-time greats of the NFL simply did not know when to quit.  In his last year with the New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle could only muster a .236 batting average and took three feeble swings in a final All-Star game in which he should never have been included.  Ric Flair in his 60s is far more of a nostalgic figure that in some respects is sad to watch.

The two key lines I took away from “Nature Boy” were from one of his younger colleagues and his son David.  Said Michaels:  “Ric doesn’t know Richard Fleier. I don’t think he’s ever taken the time to get to know who he is.”  From David Fleier,  his son from his first marriage: “I don’t want my children to have the kind of life I had.”  David was referring to his perpetually absentee father.

Many of Flair’s long-time fans are probably dissecting the documentary for its omissions of some of pro wrestling history they hoped would be included. Those who are miss the point of “Nature Boy” or any other documentary.

I teach a news documentary class at Union University every spring.  For five years, students are assigned a semester-long project to develop a half-hour examination of an issue of significant community interest.  Some of them have difficulty grasping that documentaries that hit the spot are not just facts and figures, nor are they solely historical.  They are stories.  Storytelling at its most compelling is what sells a documentary to viewers.

The production of “Nature Boy” was a deep and penetrating character study that showed adulation, fame and so-called perks that go with stardom and the contradiction of the selfishness of a man who never should have married or had children. The emotional pain we saw from his first wife Leslie in her interview and from Ric’s oldest son were clearly evident.

While watching, I was reminded how we all are guilty of putting entertainment stars on pedestals because we love or obsess over how they entertain us.  Yet, life away from the stage is often a dichotomy.  Many of us paid to watch Ric Flair deliver a textbook performance in sports entertainment on multiple occasions. He always gave us our money’s worth.  His life away from the ring and the bright lights was another story. 

Ric Flair almost died three months ago.  Years of alcohol to the excess finally took a toll doctors and friends had warned him of for years.  In an interview on SiriusXM radio three weeks ago, Flair said, “It’s a miracle that I’m even here talking to you.  I’m never going to have a drop of alcohol again.”  I hope he sticks to that.  He may not have another comeback remaining.

“Nature Boy” held my interest because of its depth in a fashion that a puff piece on Flair’s career would not have.   Many of those who have showered him with adulation through the decades probably do not see the story through the same glasses as did I.  As the tale unfolded, I was reminded of the closing days of Mickey Mantle when he learned cancer was about to take him after years of alcohol abuse.  The Mick was one of my childhood heroes.  Yet, in the last interview he gave before he died, he said, “Don’t be like me.” Flair did not have to say that in “Nature Boy.” The 90-minute story did.

Mornings Without Timmy B: Life Goes On…..Minus an Old Radio Friend

A month from now, the world will not be the same for some network sports talk loyalists.  Oh, life will go on unless we are stricken with a catastrophic illness.

However, someone we have come to feel as a good friend—-even if we have never so much as outstretched a hand for a greeting—-will not be where he has been for 14 years.

We will see Tim Brando with his heavy schedule of Fox Sports play-by-play—including Big 10/Pac-12/Big 12 football, Big East basketball, and an upcoming role in Fox’s maiden coverage of U.S. Open golf.

Two weeks ago, he told his audience, “This is a day that we were not looking forward to, but April 30th, ‘The Tim Brando Show’ will come to an end.”  The huge travel schedule for Fox (and for Raycom’s television coverage of ACC basketball) took him off his own show at times for extended periods.

In the last six months, Timmy B has been away from radio almost as much as Johnny Carson appeared to be absent from “The Tonight Show” during the seventies.  At one point, I jokingly said to Brando after he returned from a two-week sabbatical, “This is like having Johnny back after two weeks of John Davidson.”

Yet, from the afternoon he took a career gamble and went behind a microphone to launch “The Tim Brando Show” on Sporting News Radio, Timmy B has been an institution for thoughtful sports conversation, particularly of the college variety.

Southern radio listeners in six states were offered a daily sample of Brando’s analysis before he premiered “The Tim Brando Show.”

A regionally-syndicated afternoon talkfest, “Conference Call,” paired Tim with former Auburn (now Akron) coach Terry Bowden during college football season and with network analyst Billy Packer in the frozen months of college basketball.

You knew where things were headed on the first show.  At the time, Brando was the studio host for CBS SEC football.  Bowden was studio analyst for ABC’s Saturday football coverage.  Bowden hit the first salvo:  “Saturday, I was looking over at the monitor at CBS.  I just want to know one thing.  Is that Tim’s real hair?”

Three years later, after the owner of “Conference Call” fizzled in a sea of financial and legal implosions, Brando was approached by Sporting News Radio to take on the 4-to-7 slot in the afternoon.   NFL studio host James Brown anchored mornings on SNR.

Brando’s show premiered during Super Bowl week in 2001.  Facebook and Twitter had not been invented.  We were nine months away from the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was still a megahit for ABC.  George W. Bush had just been inaugurated for his first term.

Even though Timmy B was at the helm of a national show, the three hours had a local feel and flavor that endeared listeners to become christened Brandophiles.

The first week, a caller set the tone.  His name was George.  “Hey, I was just sittin’ here in my La-z-Boy havin’ a few and started turnin’ my radio dial,” George said.  “I stopped on this station and said, ‘That sounds like Tim Brando.’  Did you lose your job at CBS?”

Most of us who are regular listeners have never been in the same room with Brando.  Yet, we feel he is a friend.

Before he started the national show, I was still doing a website (TVgameshows.net) that followed the revival of big-money quiz shows and the expanding daytime games similar to a wire service.

Some of my readers were posting comments suggesting Brando, who was once a finalist for the host of daytime “Wheel of Fortune,” was on the short list of candidates to eventually replace Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right.”

I have never been one not to go to the horse’s mouth.  I called Timmy B on “Conference Call” and asked him outright if he might be a potential presider over the Showcase Showdown and Plinko.

“Well, I don’t know anything about it, though the idea is surely interesting,” he said.  “Since this has come up, I’m going to check out your site.”

I didn’t give a second thought to that, but he actually did.  Two days later, I had an e-mail from Brando with compliments on the professionalism.  “Most people don’t think of journalism involving game shows, but you’re doing it right, professor,” Brando wrote.

As a side note, Timmy B would have been a terrific choice to oversee the Cliffhangers game but CBS opted to go with a compromise selection after Barker’s departure.

Over these 14 years, “The Tim Brando Show” has been shifted to almost as many time slots as was “The Jeffersons” on network TV.  We followed him from 4:00 to 1:00 to 10:00 to 9:00 and back to 10.

Timmy B developed a sense of humor with a pinch of resignation over the migration of the show.  Sporting News Radio ultimately sold to Yahoo!  Neither of those entities possessed the syndication muscle of the six-headed monster, ESPN.  If the show was in a market on terrestrial radio, it may not be there the next week.

“We always know if our show is on your station on Friday and it’s not there on Monday, in most instances, that station has changed formats to religious,” Brando said.  “We have a laundry list of those markets.”

In the difficult world of sports talk radio, Timmy B was more of a survivor than Rich Hatch and Sue Hawk.  He took some insulting blows.  In the early ‘00s, XM Radio carried the full lineup of Sporting News Radio.  In January 2004, Brando was abruptly told that his 4-to-7 p.m. slot was being displaced on satellite radio by the inimitable Claire B. Lang.  If you love NASCAR, Claire B. may be your lady.  To say the Brandophiles were angry is mild.

Eventually, he reconnected on Sirius Radio, pre-merger with XM.  By then, the Brando show had moved to mornings.  Our guy was back five mornings a week.  Well, almost.

In pockets of a given week, usually on Mondays or Tuesdays, if you tuned to Sirius at 10 a.m. for Brando, you were treated to the excitement of a taped replay of World Cup Skiing.  For one thing, competitive skiing on radio is on a par with listening to a parade on your Sony Walkman.  But tape-delayed skiing?

I immediately shot an e-mail to Brando to ask what gives.  He had no idea.  “If that happens again, let me know as fast as you can,” he answered.  “This has everything to do with the people who advertise on our show.”  After six times of hearing about slaloms and missed gates, skiing disappeared.

In the fall of 2011, “The Tim Brando Show” made its way to television.  CBS Sports Network, which was stymied for an identity after purchase of the former College Sports Network, began turning to live programming.

Brando, the long-time studio host for the SEC on CBS, was tailor-made for mornings on CBSSN—which had largely been a haven for reruns of rodeo circuits.

For two-and-a-half years, we were entreated to Brando on-screen live from Shreveport with his entertaining crew of Rogers (Hey Boy) Hampton, producer Dave (Huba Druba) Druda, sports news update anchor Patrick (Mr. Know-It-All) Netherton and Jay (Call Screener) Whatley.

“The Tim Brando Show” was not a mega-ratings draw on CBS Sports Network.  Then, again, neither is anything else on CBS Sports Network.  I will make the unqualified case that CBS made the purchase of College Sports Network either to keep ESPN from swallowing yet another property or to at least have a token presence in sports cable television.

Notice how little conversation exists about Brando’s replacement “Boomer and Carton,” a New York-based sports talkfest.  If CBS wants properties to flourish on cable, that network needs to pony up for better cable sports properties than the service academies and the Mountain West Conference, and commit to solid, consistent promotion for its programming across all of its platforms, including big CBS.

Brando is where he is, in no small part, because he has one of those network-quality voices in the classic mold of a Lindsey Nelson, a Ray Scott, or a Curt Gowdy.  When Timmy B is there, you have a larger-than-life event even if the game is a long way from the Super Bowl or a conference championship game.

The Brando on radio delivers a side many of his play-by-play or studio viewers never see.  He offers sharp, well-defined, crisp commentary on the critical issues facing intercollegiate athletics.

He took on his own employer, The Sporting News, for publishing separate editions recognizing twin national champions in football in 2004, one for LSU and one for Southern Cal, when LSU won the BCS title that was the recognized achievement.  USC won a p.r. championship and Brando stuck it to The Sporting News for buying into it.

No one in a high-profile sports media capacity campaigned harder for more than a decade to end the ludicrous method of selecting a national football champion than Brando.  His relentless vocal campaign for a playoff at least peripherally led to Dan Wetzel’s outstanding book, “Death to the BCS,” which exposed the financial irregularities of the big bowl system.

Timmy B has been a one-man firewall against the often-irrational football fan base of The University of Alabama.  Brando is congratulatory on their success; he does not suffer fools who believe national championships are a birthright for the Crimson Tide merely for stepping on a field.

When CBS Sports lead anchor Jim Nantz was in the midst of a difficult divorce, Brando openly took on ESPN for singling out Nantz’s marital situation on SportsCenter.  “If that had been Chris Berman or Brent Musberger in the same situation, I wonder if it would have even been mentioned?” Brando questioned.  “Is there no such thing as privacy left?”

Brando is a sports broadcast historian.  While Colin Cowherd may have the power of the four-letter network behind his morning odyssey, Cowherd is perpetually dismissive of coaches and broadcasters of an earlier era.  Cowherd is so glued to ESPN’s daily focus group research that he would talk about Joba Chamberlain instead of the death of a legend, Pat Summerall.

Timmy B readily pays homage to his role model, the old Wyoming cowboy Curt Gowdy.  He has welcomed Verne Lundquist to the mike multiple times to tell some of his rich stories as a voice for ABC, CBS and the Dallas Cowboys.  The nation’s great college broadcasters always have had a home on Brando’s show.

I will single out two Brando shows that have meant more to me than any other over these 14 years.  Both of them involved interviews with the same coach.

In 2010, I encountered a bout with depression.  As anyone who has experienced it will tell you, the road back is often as slow and deliberate as basketball often was before the shot clock.  I was directed to take long walks during my spring break as a college professor.  I did.  I took along my Sirius portable radio and listened to Brando.

During NCAA Final Four week, Timmy B brought on Iowa’s newly-hired coach Fran McCaffery.  Brando started the interview by saying, in a perfect Musberger impersonation, “We have the new head coach of the HOCKEEEEEEYES, Fran McCaffery.  Fran, if you’re gonna make it in Iowa, you have to learn to say it like Brent—-the HOCK-EYEEEEEEEES.”

McCaffery erupted into an uncontrollable cackle that sounded like a cross between Barney Rubble and Michael Landon.  Brando egged him on and said “HOCK-eyeeeeeeeees” at least a half-dozen more times.  I had this visual picture of Fran about to fall off his chair.  I had not laughed in about three weeks.  I did that afternoon while walking in the park listening to Brando.  My healing was not immediate but that was the start of my journey back.

In March of last year, McCaffery was back on with Brando, only the interview was not for comedic relief.  Coach Fran told the story of his son Patrick’s bout with cancer.  Patrick McCaffery had surgery to remove a tumor on the very day the Hawkeyes were back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years.

“The hardest thing I’ve ever done is not to get a team to buy into what it takes to make the NCAA tournament,” McCaffery said.  “It was to walk into my son’s room, wake him up, and tell him he had cancer.”

Brando was at his best that day.  He asked three questions during the entire 11 minutes of McCaffery’s segment.  Timmy B backed off and let the coach tell his emotional story.  Over these 14 years, that one segment is one that will stay with me when the memory of all the soreheads yapping about sportscaster bias has vanished.

In recent years, Timmy B has christened me The Ombudsman.  When issues of media coverage in sports raise questions, I periodically chime in on The Brando Show.  “Are we (the media) sometimes the problem?” is a question he sometimes tosses at me.  At times, I answer yes, in no small part because of the billions of dollars at stake in sports and the broadly increasing numbers of stakeholders for those billions.

For 13 years, I was the online video voice of the NAIA women’s national championship basketball tournament.  Virtually no one knew aside from the coaches and players of the 32 teams who came to Jackson, Tn., for the event.  Timmy B would always shoot me an email and ask me to call in on the day of the championship game.

“Who have you got tonight?” he asked before the 2010 title matchup.  “Union and Azusa Pacific, which I am sure are household names across the country,” I answered.

Brando reminded me of a salient point.  “Don’t ever minimize that,” he said.  “Somebody has to do that game and it happens to be you.  Always remember that your work means a lot to those kids and to their families who hear you call the game.  It doesn’t matter what level of play you’re at.”  He is right.

The month of May will bring on our first touch of humidity in the Southeast.  We will see some of the early signs of rye grass turning yellow.  Perhaps a thunderstorm or two will remind us of a change of seasons.  When Brandophiles turn on their SiriusXM radios in the mornings, Timmy B won’t be there.

Life will go on—-but mornings will not be the same without our old friend, who frequently reminds us:  “I don’t root for teams.  I root for people.”