Farewell, “Uncle” Verne…

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“Familiarity breeds contempt,” is a time-worn idiom. And it’s not wrong. The more we see, hear, or interact with someone… the greater the chances we have of becoming utterly sick of them.

And when it comes to modern sportscasters on TV, play-by-play men and analysts in particular, the risk of ending up hating them has never been higher. It’s not that Troy Aikman is a bad guy, its just that I have – by now – expertly tuned my ears to hear how he says virtually NOTHING of interest when purportedly “analyzing” a play.

The same goes of Al Michaels. Supposedly, a swell guy off the camera and microphone. I also respect his historic resume. But…. all I can hear now is how he stretches and fills big plays with an elongated “whine” until he can spot what actually happened.

With Verne Lundquist, I never tired. His exiting the lead chair on CBS’ coverage of the SEC is genuinely sad. I felt like he had been pushed out. I wanted “Uncle” Verne on Saturday afternoons on my TV, and “Uncle” Brent on at night – forever. But then I read about Lundquist’s upcoming back surgery, and realized that nothing lasts forever.

At least CBS and Verne did it right. The executed a smooth departure, with no bitterness, awkwardness, or back-stabbing.

Richard Deitsch of SI.com has a wonderful multi-media piece which could easily be called “Verne 101” if you need some backround.

When I think of what it was about Verne that made him so universally loved around the SEC, and the nation watching at home, it wasn’t because he is some kind of play-by-play wiz. No, in fact Verne’s calls are often un-even, organic, and lacking the typical network polish.

So what?

What made Verne beloved were two simple qualities, that shone through on every game he called.

Humility and wonder.

He knew he was the luckiest sonofagun to be sitting up in that booth every Saturday. And you knew, that he knew it, by the way he called games.

And when “incredible” happened on the field below him, his booming voice and guttural growl provided the perfect soundtrack. A nearly 75 year old man, seeing sports with the eyes of a 10 year old boy.

Here’s to you, “Uncle” Verne. You were the best!

About the Author

Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. He also appears on "Bob and Brian" in Milwaukee. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

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15 Comments

  1. I believe he is calling the Army/Navy or Navy/Army game and the Sun Bowl with UNC vs Stanford, so you get to listen to him a few more time. What would be great, if ESPN and CBS would allow him to call part of the Bama vs UW playoff or the NCG if Bama makes it. That would be a great send off.

  2. I believe he is calling the Army/Navy or Navy/Army game and the Sun Bowl with UNC vs Stanford, so you get to listen to him a few more time. What would be great, if ESPN and CBS would allow him to call part of the Bama vs UW playoff or the NCG if Bama makes it. That would be a great send off.

  3. you wanna talk about “whinning” voices. I can’t be the only one who turns the TV off when Chris Collinsworth is on. He doesn’t shut up and his voice can crack glass.

  4. Thank you Czabe. Verne has been my favorite sports commentator for years now and it’s more than just him leaving. The old guys are falling away and there just are not enough Gus Johnson’s in the ranks to fill the void. Knowitall Gary Danielson is a wack MC but he’s a fine Kato to Verne’s Green Hornet and that change is going to be jarring.

  5. I love Uncle Verne so very much. I love the mistakes. He is the fan in the booth, getting excited when I get excited. He loves the game and it shows. He doesn’t try to be some overly-clever d-bag, like many I could name.

    (And when you compare him to Mack Brown or Jesse Palmer, Danielson looks like the best color guy in the biz!)

  6. Humility is the key ingredient. That’s why, despite his technical prowess, so many people bag on Joe Buck. The best play by play guys are the ones you barely notice because they call the game so effortlessly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t get hype and internet articles.

  7. “In your LIFE, have you ever seen anything like that?”
    Lundquist’s call will rightfully forever define Tiger Woods’ greatness … and his own.

  8. Verne was simply the best. I enjoyed his quick wit and humor. His call of the 2013 Auburn Alabama ending was one of the best. ” yes sir” and ” in your life have you seen anything like that” are moments frozen in time in golf history. I will miss him very much on Saturday afternoons!

  9. Solid and deserved tribute, Czabe.
    Best Verne line ever uttered: “YEAH HE DID!” This was in response to the color analyst very pathetically saying “I’m not sure if he did it on purpose or not” after watching a replay of Christian Laettner stomping on KY’s Timberlake’s chest.
    No hesitation on Verne’s part whatsoever. Refreshingly resolute in calling a spade a spade… so uncommon in the industry.
    Instantly became a Verne Lundquist fan that moment.

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