By Chris Skates
Larry Munson died Sunday. All of Bulldog Nation simply knew him as "Munson." Others have written accolades and tributes of their own. I won't attempt to recreate all of his calls or describe his announcing techniques here. I'll leave that for others.
Munson is gone and with him an era in college football, sports, and our shared experience is gone as well. And it shall never return.
I used to cringe when the old folks talked about the grand ol' days of radio. I couldn't see how listening to it could be anywhere near as good as watching events "in living color." But I'm nearly fifty now, and I understand what they meant. Before Pod-Casts, and HD sports broadcasts in the palm of your hand, and multi-million dollar television contracts for college programs, there was Munson.
For so long it seemed everything was the same. In 1978, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my grandfather, my "Pop." That was the first time I really paid attention to Munson. We (yes, I said "we." Bulldogs say "we" when "we" refer to "our" team. "We" know "we" don't play or coach. That doesn't matter to "us." "We" live it. So "we" say "we." You can keep your smart aleck comments to yourselves.) We were down to Kentucky. Pop was sitting with one hand loosely cupped behind his left ear, his mouth slightly open as it always was in those days when he was really listening closely. Then Rex Robinson lined up for a field goal, and Pop and I raised our arms in celebration at the sound of Munson's "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"
Two years later, nothing had changed. I listened to Munson on a dove field with my buddies Keith and Chris and their dad Chuck as we left the windows down on Chuck's blue Chevy pickup. We craned our necks to hear the crackly South Georgia AM station. I don't remember which game it was that day, but I remember being in that same family's living room listening to "Run Lindsay" through a large speaker on the wall. I haven't seen those guys in over twenty years but we are forever joined in that moment. It was better back then somehow.
I can't describe it any more than the old folks could make me understand 'Amos and Andy,' but there is a camaraderie which can't be duplicated that comes with leaning in to listen to the same radio speaker. During my own time as a student at UGA, I was in the stadium sitting in the student section, even then many of us kept a transistor radio handy (younger readers, look that antique up on Wikipedia) when I heard this call: "So we'll try to kick one 100,000 miles....We're gonna try to kick one 60 yards plus a foot and a half....And Butler kicked a long one, a long one....Oh, my God, oh, my God....The stadium is worse than bonkers." And he was right. We were bonkers.
I moved my family to Kentucky for work in 1994, but somehow one clear fall Saturday, I was able to get the signal from WSB in Atlanta. I was with my wife and 8-year-old son. As we watched with the television volume down and listened to Larry, the torch was passed from Pop through me to my son, when Munson cried into the microphone:
"We have come flying down the field we are on their 6-yard line. We are gonna have one play to try and save ourselves. Remember we left our heart down on the other end of the field. We have come all the way back to the 6-yard line and we just took the last timeout like gold bouillon and had to spend it. Six yard line. Can you believe that David Greene brought us down the field that quick? Now we have one play to steal a win. 24-20 and they got the 24 with the great play Clausson to Stephens in three or four blocks. What in the world would you call now? You're on their 6-yard line and Greene has brought you down there all the way. What are you gonna do now? McGill led us out. Now he calls his hands and raises them for the huddle on the ten. Gah, 10 seconds, we’re on their six. Michael Johnson turned around asked the bench something. And now Greene makes him line up on the right slot, we have three receivers. Tennessee playing what amounts to a four-four. There's a fake. And there's a TOUCHDOWN! MY GOD A TOUCHDOWN! We threw it to Haynes. We just stomped them with five seconds left. My God Almighty did you see what he did? David Greene just straightened up and we snuck the fullback over, Hanes is keeping the ball, Haynes has come running all the way across to the bench. We just dumped it over to 26-24. We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face. We dumped it over, David Greene brought us flying down the field and Haynes caught a sneak pass wide open."
Now, Munson is gone and we can each listen to game calls on a device no larger than a postage stamp, headphones in, isolated...alone. Season after season, week after week, the millions of dollars flow into one scandal after another after another. Then, we jumped around the living room or the dove field as one. Then, we had "Run Lindsay" and "Oh, you Herschel Walker." Now we have the Penn State scandal and the horror that is the monster Jerry Sandusky.
Truth be told, it probably wasn't all that we thought it was back then but at least we got to think it was. They were our knights, our generation's dragon slayers.
Still, all is not gone, is it? Surely, there must still be a touch of "we." Surely, there must be a few Saturday's left where we break out the hobnail boots together, and hunker down together and watch for that Sugar to fall from the sky together.
Maybe we can take turns imitating Munson for one another and ignoring those who shake their heads at us. It's a Bulldog thing. They wouldn't understand.