I am a hopeless sports romantic, so these next few weeks will be glorious for me.
Major League Baseball season starts in less than two weeks, and the World Baseball Classic just finished in San Francisco with the Dominican Republic taking the title for the first time. You missed some terrific games if you ignored this event. The atmosphere in every game was as intense as in a playoff series.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts this week. I know that there are no great teams this year, but so what? It will be a fantastic event and an unknown school like Belmont or Butler will make a run and might even get to the Final Four. I’ve loved the Tournament since going to cover it for The Michigan Daily in 1965 in Portland, Oregon. That year, UCLA beat the Michigan Wolverines behind Gail Goodrich’s 42 points. The left-handed Goodrich was on fire that game, but the real star of the Tournament was future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley of Princeton, who scored 56 in the runner-up game. I sat behind the Princeton bench and kept announcing Bill’s amazing point totals to the coach, Butch van Breda Kolff. Every time Bradley scored I gave him a tally and would tell him how close he was to the record. I kept telling him, “Give the ball to Bill.” The coach would then shout, “Give the ball to Bill!” Ah, the power of suggestion. I’ve always felt my name was worthy of a footnote in the NCAA record book.
And then April 11, the Masters golf tournament in Augusta begins. I love the Masters because of the silly tradition of the Green Jacket and the history of the tournament going back to Bobby Jones.
Jim Nantz of CBS is an amazing professional broadcaster and he adores the Masters like no other. He will go from Atlanta, where he will do the NCAA Championship Game on Monday, April 8, on to Augusta for the Masters, which starts on April 11. Nantz did the Super Bowl in February. This will be his 23rd Final Four and 24th Masters. With makeup I can’t even see his wrinkles or gray hair. He looks like he’s 35 on TV (though he’s really 53). Nantz’s true greatness is that he never makes himself the story. Unlike a Harry Carey, who dominated the game with his personality, Nantz is the inspired observer, helping us to enjoy the game without injecting his personality very much. That’s one reason CBS pays him $7 million a year. There is a place for both styles. Marv Albert, who has probably done 50,000 basketball games, combines personality and professionalism, somewhat like the remarkable Vin Scully of the Dodgers, who is still doing baseball games at 85.
I would have made a great sports commentator on TV or radio. Maybe I’m ready for a career change.
Question: Do you prefer NBA or College Basketball?