So Jim Weber completely and totally stole my thunder this week by not only deciding to talk about Keith Jackson, but actually interviewing him.
But he recalls his college football experiences fondly, especially right before kickoff when he’d sit in the press box and watch the bands perform while people filed into the stadium. He mentions Michigan Stadium – which he coined "The Big House" – and the Rose Bowl among the most special venues he’s visited. Jackson also mentions his affinity for Nebraska fans because of the way they even cheer their opponents.
"I enjoyed college football because every week was a festival," Jackson said.
But he doesn’t miss everything about college game days: "I have a history of having trouble with parking attendants. I don’t know why, but I do."
Jackson actually still has one broadcasting gig on the side. From a Los Angeles studio, he will be voicing over the Big Ten Network’s "Icons" series on the most legendary coach from all 12 schools. You can expect a spot on that list to go to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who is still coaching despite being two years older than Jackson.
"I love Joe and Sue Paterno," Jackson said. "They’re as nice of people as I ever want to know."
Regardless, I'm moving forward with this one. Because Keith Jackson is, or at least was, college football. The regional charm and amazing moments we associate with this sport are also traits we associate with Jackson, and if you think of any amazing football moment in the last 40 years, the odds are good that either Jackson or Brent Musberger was on the call. Musberger's a bit more polarizing, but Jackson is virtually universally loved.
At the end of his career, Jackson's reflexes slowed down a bit; he was more likely to get a play wrong or mess up a name. But around this time, I came to realize something: when it comes to football (or basketball), I don't need someone to tell me what's going on -- I know what's going on. I just want a friend in the booth, someone who I will enjoy listening to while I tell myself what's going on. And for that reason alone, I was disappointed that he called it quits. I didn't care that his performance during the 2006 BCS Championship Game was a bit poor ... it sounded great to me.
Two specific incidents that made me realize just how much I love Keith Jackson:
1) Before the 1998 Ohio State-Missouri football game, he called my Tigers "the burly bunch from Boone County," a moniker that still makes me giggle.
2) When I bought the 1979 World Series DVD set (because I'm a Pirates fan, and the only great thing that's happened to Pirates in my lifetime happened when I was one year old), I was a little overwhelmed by the thought of actually having to watch seven baseball games (I'm an infinitely bigger Pirates fan than I am a baseball fan) ... until I found that Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell called the games. I bought it because it was my team doing well, but I enjoyed it because of Jackson (and Cosell).