Thursday, April 27, 2006

Whoa, Nellie!
By Zach

I knew it would happen eventually. The great Keith Jackson, the voice of college football and my childhood, would retire. And what better way to go out than after one of the greatest college football games in recent years, the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Jackson has always been my favorite broadcaster. I've told many friends that I'd want the man to be the master of ceremonies at my funeral. Just hearing his distinctive southern drawl recalls sundrenched Pac-10 fields, the glory years of Husky football, and particularly of watching UW-Cal games with my father and his father.

Besides growing up with him, one of the reasons I loved Jackson so much was that he was the rare national broadcaster with, if anything, a West Coast bias. Despite growing up in Georgia, he went to college at Washington State and has lived in the Pacific Northwest ever since. In a landscape in which few West Coast teams get the attention and respect they deserve (besides USC for the moment), I could always trust Jackson to know that we played some good ball out there.

Even as he got older, and slowed down quite a bit, he had a distinct knack for making you feel a part of the game. I can still hear him pronouncing Marques Tuiasosopo's name (no easy feat) in the 2001 Rose Bowl, the last real glorious moment in Husky football.

As of yet, ABC hasn't decided who will replace him on their national telecasts. Whomever it is will have very large shoes to fill.


Blogger Matt Brown said...

I think one way to underscore Jackson's greatness is by a method I'll call the "Name That Tune" test. If you remember the old game show "Name That Tune," the ultimate show of savvy was when a contestant could name a tune after hearing just one note. Translating it to sportscasters, try and think of the announcers, past and present, whose voices you could clearly identify if you only heard one word by surfing channels. It's a short list:

Keith Jackson
Vin Scully
Harry Caray
John Madden
Marv Albert
Howard Cosell

You could probably make an argument for one or two others, but my point is, the list is very short. Underscoring Jackson's greatness even further in my mind is the fact that his legend will endure despite the lack of any true signature call or catch phrase (he denies ever actually having said "whoa, nellie" on the air). Jackson let the games speak for themselves without becoming the story himself or purposely stirring up controversy. It's a lesson more broadcasters should take to heart. He will be missed.

1:27 PM  

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