I grew up watching college football and listening to Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles -- possibly the best announcing tandem I've ever heard. And I'm glad that I was able to hear him for many years narrate college football games from places ranging from Auburn to Ann Arbor.
I'll always remember the expressions he came up with, seemingly on a whim, that really didn't make sense, but when translated to the game, made perfect sense.
Some of my favorites:
- Once when a wide receiver got nailed by a defensive back going over the middle, Jackson said, "That'll make him a little shy the next time he goes to the cereal bowl."
- About a punt returner who tried to spin away from the defense and was quickly snowed under, "You can't be toe dancin' or they'll put you in a tutu."
- Commenting on one of the great Wisconsin offensive lines of the Barry Alvarez era, "If you're facin' Wisconsin, you bring yourselves a picnic lunch because you'll be there all afternoon."
- When the Minnesota-Michigan (aka, the Little Brown Jug game) flashed across the screen, Jackson mused, "There's nothin' like a little brown jug on a cold winter's night in Michigan," then pausing, "or Minnesota."
- And by far my favorite was when a Kansas State score flashed across, Jackson asked broadcast partner Bob Griese if he'd ever been to Manhattan, Kansas. When Griese said no, Jackson replied, "Well, if you ever go, you better put the rocks in your pocket because the wind'll be a blowin'."
Whatever those sayings really mean, they were classic Jackson -- the country boy from Georgia with the unforgettable voice. Unlike Dan Rather, whose bizarre expressions seemed to almost mock his newsreading, Jackson's sayings always fit into the flow of the game. After all, it was about college football, where traditions mean more than in any other sport.
In more recent years, Jackson's quality had slipped. The 2003 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State was a terrific game, but Jackson made numerous errors in identifying players and spotting the ball. But he recovered nicely and called a great game in the Rose Bowl this year, blending right in with the quality of the game.
I remember thinking that I hoped he would retire now, as that game would be the perfect one to remember him by. I'm glad he has decided to do so, but I'll still miss him. That's why we have ESPN Classic.