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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Brent Musburger's Fitting Farewell

Brent Musburger's final game as a play by play announcer was a fitting finale to his distinguished broadcasting career; in an SEC basketball showdown at Rupp Arena, underdog Georgia raced out to a big lead versus Kentucky, Kentucky stormed back to force overtime and then the favored--but shorthanded--Wildcats held on to beat the Bulldogs 90-81. One of Musburger's most famous broadcasts is the legendary triple overtime game five of the 1976 NBA Finals, so it was only right that his last game went into overtime. Some may lament that Musburger's last game was not a big-time championship event worthy of his status but I prefer to focus on how entertaining this particular game was, how much joy Musburger derived from doing this game and the outpouring of appreciation directed toward Musburger from fans and from his peers. Musburger's career has had some sensational ups and a few downs but he always kept the focus on the games themselves, so that is a worthy approach to take regarding his final game.

Color commentator Jay Bilas, Musburger's partner in his final game, provided an eloquent tribute about how much he enjoyed not only doing games with Musburger but also watching Musburger as a young sports fan. My earliest memories of Musburger extend back to the late 1970s, when he hosted the NFL Today, the forerunner of the pregame shows that are now featured on every network that covers the league. I watched Musburger, Irv Cross and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder every Sunday as a kid, even though CBS had the NFC package and my favorite team (the Cleveland Browns) played in the AFC.

Musburger was a central figure in CBS' NBA coverage in the 1970s and 1980s. Those were my formative years as an NBA fan (and as a sports fan in general), so Musburger will always be inextricably linked in my mind with the beginning of my lifelong journey as a sports fan/sports writer. The best era of NBA basketball (at least in my living memory) was the 1980s and when I reflect back on the great rivalries, series and games of that era I hear Musburger's voice narrating the compelling stories that defined that era. Musburger's style never involved burying you under a mountain of facts or statistics but you could always tell that he had done his homework and knew what he was talking about; his broadcasting style was breezy and fun but along the way you could learn something if you paid attention. Musburger also did a great job of seamlessly setting up his color commentator partners, enabling former athletes/coaches to feel comfortable while presenting insider insights about the game. Musburger never acted like he was bigger than the game.

Musburger also worked college basketball, college football, horse racing and many other sports; when Musburger declared at the start of a broadcast "You are looking live" at a particular venue, as a fan you knew that this was a big game.

During his final game, Musburger noted that he was not a broadcaster by training, so he took a conversational approach to his job, as if he were sitting next to you and enjoying a cold one while watching the game. Musburger's enthusiasm for sports never seemed fake or contrived; he was having the time of his life, right along with you.

Fans often asked Musburger which game was his favorite and Musburger's default answer always was, "I hope it's the next game." Tonight, he told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt that he is out of next games and can now reflect back on his career. Musburger also had a message for young broadcasters and athletes: time passes by quickly, so enjoy every moment. Those are wise words from a famous man who never lost the common touch and who obviously savored every moment of his career. Thank you for the memories, Brent Musburger.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:52 AM

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