Feb 24, 2011

"Wrap It In Maroon and White"...Thank You Jack

I woke up this morning and started my usual routine of sorting through early morning "tweets".  Immediately I found several posts referring to legendary broadcaster Jack Cristil announcing his immediate retirement at the end of Mississippi State's basketball game on Saturday.  Like most of Bulldog Nation, I was immediately stricken with a great sense of grief as I began to picture the future of Mississippi State sports without the voice of Cristil.  When legendary Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson announced his retirement, many of us in Bulldog Nation began to see the light at the end of the tunnel for our own beloved Cristil.  It was apparent from listening to him on the drive home or watching him on the weekly coach's show that his 85 years on this earth were beginning to show.  For many it was like watching a beloved family member age and knowing that your time with them was limited.  None of us wanted to face the reality of Bulldog life without Jack.

Everyone who has spent anytime as a member of Bulldog Nation has many fond memories of Jack.  I can remember going to football games with my dad and his friend Billy Jean Nation.  Billy Jean would bring a radio with him to the game so that he could listen to Cristil's play-by-play.  He would tell us some of the funny quotes that Jack would give.  Cristil was never shy in showing his love for the Dawgs and his opinion when a call didn't go State's way.  However, he was also regarded in the broadcasting world as one of the least-biased announcers in the SEC.  He was always good about giving praise and recognition to opponents when it was deserved.  (That was probably because he suffered through 58 years of Bulldog sports when most of it wasn't very good.)  All State fans have funny memories of hearing Cristil mispronouncing names of the opponents or interjecting his opinion on the bad calls or no-calls by referees.  Jack would give us the "Sonic Drive of the Game" that many times would include his disgust at MSU's inability to do anything worthwhile. 

I grew up in New Hope, Mississippi from 1968-1990.  During the 70's and 80's there were no super television contracts that broadcast every SEC football and basketball game.  Since TV was limited and MSU was usually not very good, I had the privilege of seeing Bulldog sports through the eyes and voice of Jack Cristil.  I remember and still treasure the 1980 call of MSU's win over #1 Alabama.  I love Cristil's call as Scott Westerfield's kicks went through the uprights against Kentucky and Ole Miss.  I remember Cristil's excitement as Wayne Madkin hit C.J. Sirmones in the 1999 Egg Bowl.  One of my favorite parts about going to MSU games was listening to the post-game show as they broadcast the highlight calls of the game.  Jack Cristil is MSU sports.

Through 42 years of being a passionate MSU fan, Jack Cristil has been the one constant.  Jim Ellis is a close second.  In my life as a MSU fan, we have had 7 different football coaches and 7 different basketball coaches.  Most of my 42 years have seen as many or more losses as wins.  One thing that kept me passionate and listening was hearing Jack Cristil say "Good afternoon from beautiful Scott Field at historic Davis Wade Stadium."  Like every other MSU fan I love to hear Jack's classic line at the end of a win - "Wrap It in Maroon and White!"  This beloved phrase has now become a tag-line for all State fans.  When the game is about over you can see fans turn to one another and say "Wrap It!"  I have to admit that as I drove in to work today and listened as the Rick and Bubba show played the clip of Jack announcing his retirement last night that a tear welled up in my eye.  The Saturday drive home will never be the same.

Bravo Jack Cristil.  Thanks for making me a more passionate MSU fan because of your love for the Dawgs.  Your 58 years of serving Bulldog football and 54 years of serving Bulldog basketball are an example to all of us of the power of longevity and excellence.  I echo many in the Bulldog Nation that will be praying for you as you face the immediate health challenges.  You will always have a special place in the heart of thousands of Bulldog fans.  I lift up my cowbell for you.

Some great sound clips of Jack's classic calls can be found here on Sixpackspeak.com' website.  Enjoy them.