So many of us who have had any amount of success in broadcasting, especially play-by-play, have certain individual announcers we watched and listened to as we grew up and as we developed in this business. This has been a tough last few months for me, as two of my personal favorites, Dick Enberg, and now, Keith Jackson, have left us.
Both came from certainly a different era, where a play-by-play announcer was just a part of the broadcast, not the focus, of it. As both became more famous, and as TV sports coverage expanded, both never seemed to lose sight of that. You remember the GAMES they covered, and not the fact THEY were covering it. So often these days announcers seem to have that “well, if I’m not there, the game won’t start” mentality. That’s what set both Enberg and Jackson apart.
They had the right volume for a broadcast, knew when to be quiet, knew when to tell a story, and knew the games they were calling. Many associate Jackson with college football, and yes, that’s where his greatest notoriety came from. But did you also know he was the first play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football? He called World Series games, college basketball, the Olympic games, the PGA Tour, auto racing, and boxing. He is credited with coining the phrase “The Grandaddy of them all” when talking about the Rose Bowl game, and with calling Michigan Stadium “the Big House”.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Jackson a couple of times. One of those came in 1991, when he was in Columbus to call what would become the greatest basketball game I’ve been a part of on-air, the Ohio State 97-95 2-OT win over Indiana. Our broadcast locations were right next to each other at St. John Arena, and when the chance presented itself, I went over and introduced myself to Jackson. He could not have been nicer, and offered me some tips (that I still remember and try to practice) when I told him what I hoped to do with my career.
Little remembered fact about that game, Jackson’s color partner that day was none other than Dick Vitale. You could not have paired two different on-air personalties together than the folksy Jackson, and the way over the top Vitale. At the end of the game, Vitale screamed to Jackson “You dont’ get games like this in college football, Baby”! To which Jackson replied simply: “oh yes you do…..”Jackson signed off the broadcast after giving the score by simply saying: “I think you enjoyed what you just saw”
TV and radio have made “personalities” out of play-by-play announcers, and analysts. Jackson didn’t want that, in fact he once said: “if you come away from a game that I called, and you were entertained and informed, and you have no recollection that it was me who called the game, then I did my job.” Times are different, but those are surely words many announcers today should remember and practice. RIP, Keith Jackson and Dick Enberg….icons both.
Here is one of Jackson’s most memorable calls made during an Ohio State game.
Enberg also made a famous call that still rings in Browns fans heads, “The Fumble.”