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MURPHY: Living legend's last call

POSTED: January 9, 2008 5:07 a.m.

I had a sinking feeling after a phone call Friday morning.

Someone on the other end of the phone was inquiring about whether the rumor was true that Georgia football broadcaster Larry Munson wouldn’t be making the trip to call the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday in New Orleans. At first, I felt a little caught off guard to answer the question since I was still wiping sleep out of my eyes.

"No, I haven’t heard anything yet," I quickly replied making it abundantly clear how I wasn’t abreast of the situation.

But a little feeling deep-down inside told me that it was probably true. Once I got to work early in the afternoon, I saw the story on the wire that the road crew of Scott Howard and Eric Zeier would be in charge of calling the action.

It makes me terribly sad just to think about it. Every Georgia fan needs to realize that we’ve probably heard the end of the legendary broadcast voice from Munson, a voice that really can’t be matched.

I’ve seen Munson sporadically while covering Georgia games over the past couple years, and it is clear that his health is less than ideal. The fact that Munson was able to call the six home games this season showed every Bulldog fan what a trooper he is.

It’s obvious he’d rather spend his Saturday’s calling games with a spotter over his shoulder to make sure he gathered every little detail of the play accurately.

Munson’s probably not the kind that wants to prop up his feet and let a younger pup do the play-by-play.

Larry Munson is undeniably part of the fabric that makes up the institution of Georgia football. But sadly, I can’t imagine that we’ll see Munson in the booth ever again.

I can only have sympathy for the person given the role of trying to replace Munson. That’s going to be a thankless job for Howard, Zeier or anyone else for that matter. But with time that person will be embraced by Georgia fans. Remember, when Munson took the helm in the 1960’s it took Georgia fans time to get used to his midwestern accent. Or so I’ve been told.

Georgia football will move forward if Munson never calls a game again. The Bulldogs will still pile up the wins and conference titles if his gravely depiction of the game isn’t there to present the story inside the story of the game.

But without Munson’s account of the action it will certainly leave something to be desired.

It’s a fact of life being a Georgia football fan that we’ve all had to prepare for. Sooner or later, Munson will no longer be a staple in the broadcast booth. I remember, me and my college roomates used to try to envision what the world of Bulldogs’ football would be like without Munson. It was an unpleasant subject, so it was more comfortable to quickly change the topic of conversation.

But the idea of having no more Munson really resonated about five years ago.

I remember reading a candid interview with Munson in the AJC following the 2002 SEC championship and Sugar Bowl win over Florida State. He was honest about the fact that he thought about retiring following the 2001 season. At that time, he didn’t have the burdening health problems he faces now. Munson was just not sure he could bring the passion to the booth the fans deserved anymore.

Since that time, I’ve tried to enjoy listening to Munson call the games more than ever. I always found it humorous when he would totally botch a name, even if it was one of our own players. And who can combine four words into one more gracefully than Munson with a, "whatchamacallit," or, "something of the sort." And this season Georgia fans grew to appreciate that Knowshon Moreno was dubbed "the kid from New Jersey."

Who else could get away with something like that?

Everyone also has their favorite Munson call too. There’s no need to rehash them all here.

But one of my favorite calls was one from my time in Athens. It was the Georgia win over Tennessee at Sanford Stadium in 2000. In the final minutes, Georgia students (presumably) began to trickle onto the field over the hedges and onto the sideline waiting for the final seconds to tick off the clock. And then the crowd swelled so big than the fans started to encroach onto the field of play before the final buzzer. Munson was worried that it was going to cost the Bulldogs the game.

"Somebody get those students off the field... they’re going to cost us the game," Munson belted out repeatedly over the air. Of course, I didn’t hear his call of the game until the next day, since I was right in the thick of the action in the student section.

For the record, I wasn’t one of the idiots running on the field before the game ended. And in hindsight, that youthful blunder by the students really could have cost Georgia the game.

I’ll always remember that call, along with all the other classics.

Maybe if Munson’s health takes a turn for the better he can be on hand for games in the fall. I’m sure seeing him in the booth during games would bring a smile to everyones’ faces.

But as far as hearing him ever call another game, I’m afraid we’ve heard the final call from the great Larry Munson.



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