Q/A with Verne Lundquist: On appearing in Happy Gilmore; hearing it from angry SEC fans; and bad advice about investing in ESPN

If you listened to the Alabama-Texas A&M game Saturday, you heard Verne Lundquist put on a clinic on how to call a big game. He nailed all the right notes, and I loved how he mocked the Aggies over not letting him or Gary Danielson do a pregame talk with Johnny Manziel.

Nice to see Lundquist going strong at 73.

Recently, I did a piece for USA Today on the anniversary of Verne Lundquist’s 50th year in broadcasting.

From the story:

Lundquist has been part of the familiar soundtrack for both sports (college football and basketball). His play-by-play features an easy and engaging style that adds a distinctive texture to the telecasts.

“My role model was Jim McKay,” Lundquist said. “He was the greatest storyteller we’ve ever had. I try to do the same thing.

“At the end of the day, I want to give you a reason to have a rooting interest in the game.”

However, there was much more to our 45-minute chat. In fact, everyone should have a 45-minute chat with Verne.

Here are the highlights from the Q/A with one of America’s favorite broadcasters..

On telling his father he wouldn’t be following in his footsteps as a minister. Instead, he got a job as a sports anchor in Austin, Tex.

Lundquist: When I told my dad, rather than being disappointed, he knew I would have access to the Texas games. He said, ‘Can you occasionally take me up to the press box?’

On how the business has changed:

The explosion in social media is incredible. I’ll never tweet and I don’t have the face for Facebook, but the Internet is marvelous as an information source. You have to be aware of the impact of all these websites.

When I was (the sports anchor) in Dallas, there was no sports department. It was just me. I used to go out with my 16 mm. camera and shoot the first two innings of the Texas Rangers game and then go to shoot the Chaparrals. And then something else. Then I’d come back and develop the film. I can tell you it took 45 minutes to develop 100 feet of film.

On advice to investors thinking of launching ESPN:

In 1979, the Cowboys were playing the Rams in the NFC title game, and Rozelle threw this big cocktail party. I was introduced to this senior executive from Getty Oil. He said, ‘We have a chance to invest in a new 24-hour sports station for $15 million. What do you think?’

I said, ‘Why would you want to throw your money down a hole like that?’ Shows you how much I knew.

On the younger generation associating him with appearing in Happy Gilmore:

It was a happy accident. It’s still a staple on cable TV. The film has helped keep me relevant to a generation, maybe even two. Usually, I get more questions about Happy Gilmore than I do about the game.

One time, I’m doing a North Carolina game with Billy Packer. I’m told Tyler Hansbrough wants me to address the team. I say, ‘No, you want Billy.’ They said, ‘No, they want you.’

So I go down there, and Hansbrough says, ‘We need you to say, ‘Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?’ So I go, ‘Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?’ The players go crazy. I said, ‘If you guys win the national championship, I expect to get credit for giving you a motivational speech.’ They won, but I never got any credit.

On his famous “Oh Wow!” call with Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters, when his ball sat on the edge before dropping in the hole.

I actually had people ask, ‘Did you plan that?’ Yeah sure, if the ball sits on the cup for 1.8 seconds, I’m going to say, ‘Oh wow.’

On SEC fans accusing him of being biased during his call of games:

Wow. If I do an Alabama-Auburn game, I can count on hearing from Alabama fans who think I’m wearing orange and blue socks for Auburn and then from Auburn fans who think I’m rooting for Alabama. It says something about the passion of the fan base in the SEC.

Eli Gold is a great friend of mine. Alabama fans want the game done on TV like Eli would do it. They don’t understand Gary Danielson and I work for CBS. We only hope we have a great game. People, though, remain unconvinced that Gary and I are impartial. It used to bother me, but not anymore.

On how much longer he wants to work.

I don’t have a timetable for how long I want to work. Gary and I enjoy working together. We’re in our eighth year together, and we have a lot of fun.

I’ll keep working as long as my mouth works, and the airlines don’t conspire to drive me insane.




3 thoughts on “Q/A with Verne Lundquist: On appearing in Happy Gilmore; hearing it from angry SEC fans; and bad advice about investing in ESPN

  1. The article on Lundquist demonstrates how class and competence still are the foundation for successful broadcasters. In an era of screamers and over the hiss athletes trying to pass as journalists Lundquist is the gold standard. I have listened to him countless times and not once has he disappointed.
    I’ll bet he’s as nice a man as he is an excellent broadcaster.

  2. There are great announcers and great people, but rarely do the two come together as well as they do with Verne. One of the all-time greats and a guy you’d love to have a beer with and watch a game. For those of us who were moving up he always had time for a suggestion or to answer a question. I prefer “YES SIRRR” after Jack’s putt at Augusta, but I’d listen to a game of marbles if he were calling it, at least for a little while. All the best Verne!

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