It’s not the famous “hobnail boot,” the “look at the Sugar falling from the sky,” or the “broke my chair” calls that stick with me the most. No, it’s Larry Munson’s incessant pessimism I remember and cherish. Because it is this emotion — that constant dread — that is at the heart of true fans.
How many times did Munson cry, “There’s no time! There’s no time!” as the Bulldogs tried to fight back? Opposing punters didn’t boot a punt. No, they kicked it “10,000 miles into the sky.” Every opposing tailback who gashed us seemed to carry not only a football, but a mythical aura, like a tusked beast with fire for a mouthpiece. “We can’t stop him!” And I sat by a transistor radio as a child, aching with every eight-yard Auburn gain, feeling as if the Tigers’ march to victory was a natural force, like an ocean wave, this fearless dark force draining the team’s will, my will.
It was these long periods of despair that set up the great calls. It was third and 12, our backs to the end zone in a hostile stadium. Munson would tell us we’re in a three wideout set, the slot man’s in motion, old lady luck is against us now, here’s the snap, then Munson’s voice would rise and quicken. “We toss it out in the flats. He’s got 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30…”
We’d rise out of our seats, the hair standing on our arms.
I remember l984. Butler lined up for the kick against Clemson. I sat with a transistor radio on the 17th tee at Riverside Country Club in Macon, feeling short of breath as the clock in Athens ticked away. My friend and I had listened to the game as we duck-hooked three irons into the woods. “So, we’ll try to kick one a hundred thousand miles.” Then: “Oh my God! Oh my God! (long pause as thousands scream)…The stadium is worse than bonkers!”
We hooped and hollered and jumped around. And on the neighboring 16th green, a foursome of grown men did the same.
No doubt, the years wash away a lot of memories. But moments of such jubilation are stamped on the mind. And Munson is a fundamental part of such memories for generations of Georgia fans.
Unfortunately, the satellite delay eventually killed the Munson tradition for many of us Georgia fans. We wanted to watch the game and listen to Munson. But the delay made this impossible. Munson would cry out “touchdown!” before the ball even left the quarterback’s hand on TV.
While television is great for sports, the radio is the medium of imagination. We hear. We don’t see. And Munson painted aural images like a gridiron poet.
I wondered Saturday how he would have called that painful Kentucky game, where Georgia flirted with severe heartbreak before finally winning. I’m sure he would have fretted as he always did, finally erupting when Aaron Murray connected with Marlon Brown in the end zone, a score that eased the long tension of the day.
We’ll remember Munson as a radio man who provided this great blend of imagery and emotion with a rustic voice that carried all those pains of past hurts, like a football blues vocalist who’s lived the hard life of loving a team too much, a Robert Johnson in the radio booth.
Many grown men in Georgia get worked up over Munson because his voice is a tie to their childhood. Of course, a lot of Georgia games weren’t available on television years ago. And Munson’s voice over the radio was as much a part of fall as leaves dropping from trees. We notice how the light changes in October, giving off this new shine over the orange and brown hues. It is football season. You put on something warm. And on that Saturday afternoon as winter looms and the week has worn you out, you got to escape for a while in a drama told by a master.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
Zach - you did a great job describing my feelings. Munson was as much part of the Fall of the year as Football season. The great memories are still there as Munson brought all of the dawg fans together. Thank you for putting these wrods in print, I never thought I would miss all the pessimism but Munson helped us appreciate the good times and celebrations even more.