November 22, 2011
I haven't been a Georgia Bulldog all of my life, but I have pretty much always known of Larry Munson and his legendary status.
Growing up in the Atlanta area in the 1980s, there were two distinct voices when it came to sports. Skip Caray defined the Braves, thanks in part to Major League Baseball playing 162 games and also thanks to his legend of a father, Harry Caray. Sure, you also had Pete Van Wieren, Ernie Johnson Sr. and a host of other voices. But Skip had that Walter Matthau-style grumbly voice that was just so unique.
Then you had Larry Munson. I'm not sure exactly how I first heard of Munson, but a large part of it probably came from my mom listening to WSB radio every morning. I can't count how many times I heard Munson's voice in a Bellamy Strickland commercial. I have never been to that car dealership, but if you asked me to name 10 car dealerships in the Atlanta area it would probably be at the top thanks to that famous voice.
When I transferred to Georgia about a year and a half into my college life, I had to kind of take a crash course on the ins and outs of Bulldog lore. Growing up in Gwinnett and being an Auburn fan before, I had plenty of experience with Georgia. But I never had much of it from the inside. Well, a trip to any bookstore or souvenir shop in Athens will help you with that very quickly. And one of the best ways to get a quick start is a little video called "Munson's Greatest Calls."
Ironically, one of my favorite calls is the 1982 Auburn game. I may or may not have been at that game as a 6-year-old and been dressed up in some Auburn gear. I recall sitting in our camper trailer a couple of years later while my parents attended the game involving hoses. But there's just something about Larry screaming into that microphone for the defense to HUNKER IT DOWN ONE MORE TIME! I don't even know if "hunker" was a word before that, but it sure is now. I think it's probably synonymous with GATA, which I don't think they'll let me spell out here.
There are other great moments on this VHS tape. I unfortunately can't watch them right now because I sure as heck don't have a VHS player -- is there a Blu-ray version? But what has been great from the mid-1990s on is experiencing some of the great calls as a fan.
I remember vividly the 2001 Tennessee game. The TV announcers called the Georgia fullback "Vernon Hayes" so many times it wasn't funny, probably moreso to Verron Haynes himself. I remember that crushing touchdown with about 50 seconds to go. Then for some reason Tennessee kicks the ball so short that Georgia recovered at about its own 41-yard line.
Young whipper-snapper David Greene grew up quickly that day. One timeout and 60 yards to go, and he drove the team down the field without a mistake I can remember. The glorious pass over the totally suckered Tennessee defense -- the linebackers bit on a play-action fake with 11 seconds to go an no time outs? -- to a wide-open Haynes.
But the best part wasn't watching that. The best part was turning on the radio and listening to Munson's call.
"We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose."
- Listen to it at http://www.larrymunson.com/audio/UGA_UT_2001.m3u
That sentence made absolutely no sense, but you just have to love it. It's Munson. All I can figure is his mind just threw words together that it had been storing all those years, and they came out in some form of English.
My other favorite call, since I was at this game, again involved Auburn. 2002. SEC East on the line. The whole second half was one of those great defensive struggles that involved a thousand punts and Sean Jones getting another two feet on each one. But after a bunch of misses, Georgia moved into the red zone. Then the team was backed up to 4th and 15 on the 19-yard line. I was in the upper deck amongst probably all Auburn fans but three. David Greene lofted that ball up and Michael Johnson snagged it in the corner of the end zone. I think my reaction was pretty much "Oh my God!" about eight times. Larry's seemed about the same, but thankfully it was Larry's.
- Listen to it at http://www.larrymunson.com/audio/UGA_AU_2002.m3u
I could go on for days about Munson's great calls. But I think it's better to just let you listen. You can visit http://www.larrymunson.com/audio.asp and listen to what seems to be every call he ever made. You can also read a great compilation of thoughts from local grads who played at Georgia that Will Hammock wrote at http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news....
Larry provided a great soundtrack to some great football games. I think his former radio partner, Scott Howard, has done a great job as his replacement. Scott has done his own thing since taking over, and that's great. He had a lot of energy as the play-by-play man on Georgia basketball broadcasts, and he has continued that in football.
But Scott knows there is no replacing Larry Munson. He was part poet, part genius. He was one of those guys who made college football special, and the airwaves will never been the same without him.
Michael Buckelew is part of the digital team for SCNI, the parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post.