Athens, GA (Sept 19, 2007) - The year was 1966. Lyndon B. Johnson was president. The Baltimore Orioles won their first World Series 4-0 over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Sound of Music won the Oscar™ for Best Picture. On September 8th of that year, Star Trek made its network debut on NBC. Just one week later, legendary University of Georgia (UGA) Football Coach Vince Dooley was starting his third season and coaching the first game of a run to a 10-1 record, a share of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship, and a victory over Southern Methodist University in the Cotton Bowl. Little did people realize that another Georgia legend was making his debut in that game. Ever since that first game in 1966, Larry Munson has been the radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. This Saturday, as Georgia (2-1, 0-1) travels to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to play the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 2-0), Munson will not be there. The 84-year old voice of the Bulldogs will not be broadcasting radio play-by-play for away games as he eases himself into retirement.
On June 21st of this year, the headline in the Athens Banner-Herald was a shock to many in th Georgia fan base known as the Bulldog Nation. With increasing concerns about his heealth, UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans made a decision that a change was necessary. It has been reported that Munson was asked what he wanted to do. He was asked if he wanted to do a farewell tour of the SEC. He decided, and it was agreed by all, that he would not travel for road games this year, with the probable exception of the November 24, 2007 game against arch-rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta. For many fans, his final game will be a sad day as many have grown up hearing his gravely voice as the Georgia team “teed it up between the hedges”.
A Man for All Seasons
A veteran of World War II, Munson returned home and enrolled in radio school in Devil's Lake, North Dakota and graduated with 19 others. He started his radio career at the University of Wyoming. He was not there long. In 1947, he moved to the Southeastern Conference and Vanderbilt University. When he was offered the University of Georgia job, he accepted and became part of the football lore in Athens, GA. He is a piano player who played for Tommy Dorsey (despite the fact he could not read music according to one newspaper account), a fisherman, an avid reader, and a huge movie buff. Every Sunday, he takes a group of UGA students to a movie, and he is not shy in his assessments of the movie. Why did he so dislike last year’s Casino Royale? “The music was all wrong. They ruined it by changing the music. And I did not like Daniel Craig as James Bond,” Munson said in a press box conversation during the 2006 season.
Many Georgia fans will elect to turn down the audio on their televisions and listen to Munson’s play-by-play on the radio while they watch. One of the trademarks of listening to Munson on the radio is when he says "Loran, whattayagot?" and listeners get a sideline report from Loran Smith, an Athens native who has worked with Munson since the early 1970’s. “I really have not had time to think about what it will be like this Saturday,” says Smith. “Larry could not have had better timing when he started in 1966, Smith continued. “His first year was the year that Georgia won the championship. He came in with a winner, and that had people identifying him with great success [on the field]. I am sad to see him go.”
"We just stepped on their face with a hob-nailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!"
There is a rule in sports journalism in the United States: you are supposed to be objective and fair. This rule will not be found in Larry Munson’s book. There is nothing neutral in the way he calls the games. It is “them” against “us”, and there are many memorable quotes from Munson over the years. He broke his chair calling Lindsey Scott’s 92-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Buck Belue against Florida in 1980, shouting "Run Lindsay!...Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!..I broke my chair!". Other memorable quotes from this radio icon include:
· "Hunker down, you guys!...I know I'm asking a lot, but hunker down one more time!" - in a defensive series late in the game against Auburn in 1982, which clinched the SEC title for Georgia
· "My God Almighty, he ran right through two men! Herschel ran right over two men! They had him dead away inside the 9. Herschel Walker went 16 yards. He drove right over those orange shirts and is just driving and running with those big thighs. My God, a freshman!" - calling Herschel Walker's first touchdown run against the Tennessee Volunteers in 1980.
· "So we'll try to kick one a hundred thousand miles. We're holding it on our own 49-and-a-half ... gonna try to kick it sixty yards plus a foot-and-a-half ... and Butler kicked a long one ... a long one ... Oh my God! Oh my God! ... The stadium is worse than bonkers!" - calling Kevin Butler's field goal in the final seconds to win over Clemson in 1984
· "They're beating us like we're Maryland or Wake Forest or somebody" - calling the loss against Georgia Tech in 2000.
· "We just stepped on their face with a hob-nailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!" - calling Georgia's last-second win over Tennessee in 2001
· "Touchdown! Oh, God, a touchdown!" - calling David Greene's touchdown pass to Michael Johnson as Georgia defeated Auburn in 2002, clinching the Bulldogs' first-ever SEC Eastern Division championship
“We All Have to Make An Adjustment”
University of Georgia graduate Scott Howard, who has been working next to Munson in the radio booth for 13+ years, will take over play-by-play for road games this year. Before the Oklahoma State-Georgia game a few weeks ago, Howard said that he "is ready" when asked how he felt stepping into Munson’s shoes. There is always a challenge in replacing a legend. “Like coaches in a game, we all have to make an adjustment. We just have to adjust to a new voice,” says Smith. “But Scott is experienced, well known, and liked. So this will make the adjustment easier."
Even so, come the end of the season, the radio waves will not be the same. It is unlikely someone will be in one job as long for as Larry Munson has been. There will not be another voice like his again in college football. This will be a loss for more than just the Bulldog Nation.
Photograph of Larry Munson Copyright 2007 by the University of Georgia Athletic Association. Used with Permission.
Photograph of news headline Copyright 2007 by Christopher Byrne. All Rights Reserved.