My God almighty.
Larry Munson won't be in the radio booth Saturday when Georgia takes on Alabama between the hedges, and every fan of college football is poorer for that. Munson, the voice of the Bulldogs since 1966, announced his retirement Monday. Health problems pushed Munson, who turns 86 on Sunday, into semi-retirement last year (no road games), but these must be dark days indeed if Munson opted to take a bow before two top-10 teams clash at Sanford Stadium.
Munson's retirement silences a voice the likes of which we'll never hear again. These days, schools hire play-by-play men with silver tongues and the personality of oatmeal. Munson sounded as if he gargled with limestone before every game, but he made you feel like you were watching David Greene throw a touchdown pass to Fred Gibson, even if you were only driving down some lonely stretch of Interstate 75. His catch phrases were organic. He didn't need to slip in three "Oh mys" to describe a 6-yard run. He asked, "Loran, what'cha got?" because he really wanted to know what sideline reporter Loran Smith had to say. When Lindsay Scott's touchdown to beat Florida in 1980 made him break a metal, steel chair with about a 5-inch cushion, he told us about it.
The new guys take the mic under strict orders not to criticize the team. Munson was a homer, too, but it wasn't the same. He suffered along with the fans in their cars and on the job site. He despaired with every penalty, and he sensed impending doom with every new possession. He wasn't afraid to question the Bulldogs. When he did, he lent a voice to the hopes and fears of all those red-and-black diehards with their ear to the speaker and their fingers crossed.
Those who've never had the pleasure of listening to Larry are in luck. His Web site features audio clips of his most famous calls. For the uninitiated, here are the ones you need to know.
• The Hobnailed Boot: In 2001, Tennessee tailback Travis Stephens had just jitterbugged his way to a touchdown that should have cinched a Volunteers win against the Bulldogs. But Greene marched Georgia down the field and won the game with a pass over the middle to fullback Verron Haynes.
• Dawg Tired: In 2004, Georgia struggled to slam the door on Florida, which was playing five days after the firing of Coach Ron Zook. This wasn't a particularly memorable game, but Munson's abject despair after a delay-of-game penalty should give you an idea of how much the man suffered while calling games.
• 100,000 Miles: OK, Kevin Butler's 1984 field goal was only a 60-yarder, but it sounds better this way.
• My God, a freshman: There's only one Larry Munson, and there's only one Herschel Walker -- much to the chargin of Tennessee safety Bill Bates.
• Run, Lindsay!: The greatest Munson call. Man, is there going to be some property destroyed tonight.
There never will be another one like Larry, because today's corporatized college football programs would never think to allow it. That's a shame. Hunker down, Larry. We'll sure miss you Saturday.