Legendary play-by-play man Keith Jackson passed away at the age of 89. He was the greatest college football announcer. Ever.
Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
Whoa Nellie. That might have been the catchphrase everyone will know Keith Jackson for, but spend a portion of your Saturday rolling around YouTube checking out some old college football games. He was what college football sounded like.
He didn’t have to be nice to me.
I was just starting out doing CollegeFootballNews.com, and was set up with some start-up radio show I did from my condo back in 1999.
One of the producers had a friend who had an uncle who had a girlfriend whose dad somehow knew some big sports announcer, and there was a chance something could be arranged to possibly get him on to do an interview on this sad little show. But for some reason, they didn’t tell me who it was until a few minutes before it happened.
And Keith Jackson wasn’t told who I was – or wasn’t.
The show was listened to by dozens – on a good day – and CFN had little readership, but the greatest college football announcer of all-time still came on, still did the interview, and was unnecessarily kind, helpful, fun, polite, respectful, professional and on and on and on.
On and off the air, we ended up talking for about a half an hour. Actually, he ended up talking for most of it, because all I wanted to do was hear him speak, as I totally and completely geeked out that the voice of college football was on my phone and this rinky-dink online radio thing talking to ME.
College football has been blessed by some amazing play-by-play men – I’ll argue that the voices of this sport rival those of any other over the last 40 years, including baseball.
Verne Lundquist is the voice of Sports God – nicest man ever.
Brent Musburger is still amazing – he got better as he went on.
Chris Fowler has become the new voice of a college football generation – absolutely, pitch-perfect flawless.
Dick Enberg was brilliant in bowl games, and Don Criqui was one of the most underappreciated voices ever.
But Keith Jackson was, and is, Keith Jackson
He might have called Olympic Games, and Monday Night Baseball, and he was the first play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, and the USFL, and a resume too fantastic to fully go through, but more than anything else, he was college football.
He was the soundtrack to national championships, Rose Bowls, and college football Saturdays during a time when it wasn’t possible to watch every game, and when that one game that was on in the afternoon, it was the biggest sports thing in the world.
Being called by the biggest sports voice in the world.
And today, on this sad day when he passed away, he’ll be remembered by everyone of a certain age for being the one who gave us the play-by-play account to some of the most amazing and special sports moments of their lives. He was the one in our living rooms – literally, since that’s the only places the TVs were in most houses – talking to us and with us as these amazing games were going on.
He’s everything great that everyone else will say over the course of the next few days. But to me, he’s the legend who was simply a good guy to someone who was just starting out and in complete and total awe.
I was able to meet and talk to him a few times after that first interview, and I thanked him for being such and influence on me. I joked that when I became as big as him, I’d promise to be nice to all the little guys, too.
And then he thanked me for wanting to interview him in the first place.
No, really. Thank you, Keith Jackson. The greatest college football announcer. Ever.