I am taking a step away from politics today. After over 800 straight days of writing about the issues of the country and world, we all need a break- I know I do. I sometimes think about what I would do if I had a chance to hit the reset button. In the real world, I can see myself as a prosecutor. I would love to devote my life to giving people peace by putting people who harmed them behind bars. In my fantasy, I would be the guy I think has had the dream job for the last four decades. Can you call it a job to call the Superbowl, the NCAA Final Four, the NBA, Pebble Beach, or The Masters? That sounds more to me to be the dream job of every sports fan. That is why I wish I could come back in my next life as Jim Nantz, the luckiest man in sports.
Sports was life when I was growing up. My father was a sports fanatic, and watching sports on the TV, in Black & White, was a treat every weekend. We had some classic sports announcers in New England. Curt Gowdy, who owned our local AM station, called Red Sox and Patriot Games before moving on to the National Scene for NBC. We had Johnny Most, who had one of the most unique voices in media, call games for our Celtics for decades. Who can forget his famous call, “Havlicek stole the ball?” He bridged the eras from Russell and Cousy to Bird and McHale. Gil Santos sat high above Sullivan Stadium, calling every play by the Patriots. Fortunately, he was lucky to call games into the Brady dynasty still. These were the voices of our sports teams on radio and TV. None of these guys could call the biggest games of our lives, in many different sports, for as long as Jim Nantz. As soon as he uttered his signature opening, “Hello friends'” you knew the event was significant, and Jim Nantz would call it like no other.
Jim Nantz’s unparalleled combination of talents made him the greatest play-by-play guy of our lifetime. His voice was instantly recognizable, and he never lost control of himself. You could feel the passion in his voice, but he was never the story but the storyteller. His calm demeanor does not compete with his partner in the box. People like Jim Nantz become more than a voice. They are more like an old friend who has enjoyed incredible sporting events that fill our memory. Unfortunately, just like Big Pappi, Bird, or Brady, nothing lasts forever. The 2023 Final Four will be the last for Jim Nantz.
As he closed out his final college basketball broadcast, Nantz said, “Everybody has a dream, everybody has a story to tell. Just try and find that story, and be kind.” Jim Nantz has always been the gentleman on the sidelines, and college basketball has lost a special part of its story. Just like I go back on YouTube to watch Brady throw touchdown passes to Edelman, Big Pappi with some Bottom of the Ninth Magic, or Bird show some cocky defender how to play the game, I will listen to some of the memorable calls by Jim Nantz and wish I could have sat in his seat-the best in every house he stepped behind the mic.