Therefore, he said half of his trademark saying: “hello friends.” I’m assuming he was addressing Dan Marino, Dan Fouts and Dan Dierdorf (yes, there was an excessive amount of Dans at my table) but I’d like to think I could be considered a friend now.
After all, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.
Jim Nantz was as cordial, friendly and accommodating as one could be when I conducted this interview and he sounded excited to be calling coming here to Chicago when the Bears open the season versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Nantz joins Phil Simms to form the CBS lead announce team. He’s been in the top pairing since 2004, and with the network since 1985.
And yes, The Master’s came up during our discussion. As it is “a tradition unlike any other,” the second phrase most associated with Jim Nantz.
Nantz really needs no more introduction, as he’s in an elite group with Curt Gowdy, Kevin Harlan, and Dick Enberg as the only play-by-play announcers to ever call both a Super Bowl and an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. Jim Nantz is also one of two men to host a Super Bowl, announce an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game, and host coverage of The Masters from Butler Cabin; with Brent Musburger being the other.
Paul M. Banks: out of all the events you’ve covered, what’s been the biggest highlight for you?
Jim Nantz: The Super Bowl is the choicest assignment of all assignments, and I’ve been fortunate enough to broadcast five of them, most recently the one this past February. There’s an energy when you do an NFL game, there’s nothing else like it. For me, it’s the biggest rush we have in our business. We always get there five hours before. We sit there and watch a stadium come alive, watch all the other games, it’s about as good as it gets.
But the one single event I always grew up wanting to do was The Master’s golf tournament. Probably the most demanding one to do, but hard to explain to people why that is such. It puts a greater demand on your story-telling abilities. As a young boy, it was the one that made me say, I want to get into the broadcasting business.
Banks: what was your favorite NFL team growing up?
Jim Nantz: Growing up in New Jersey, I loved the Cowboys of Tom Landry. They were the first club to come out with a weekly newsletter and I think I might have been their first subscriber in the Northeast, in the heart of Giants and Jets territory. I was fanatical about the NFL, I had the Cowboys lunch box and sheets, pillow cases as a little boy. And I used to record games on audio cassette tapes before you could record video tape on VCR or DVDs. And I would go back and listen to games during the week, so I was over-the-top in love with it.
Banks: what’s your advice to people trying to break into radio and television broadcasting?
Nantz: I wrote a book which sparked a lot of kids to write, and I try to give back with the college broadcasting Heisman, an award that I’m a part of, and I always tell them the same thing: experience and find a way to tell a story. Find experience, I don’t care how young you are. We got a kid who’s 16 and on the air with a Fox affiliate in Hartford.
Learn to tell a story and listen to people that know how to tell a story and how they do it. Listen to a teacher that has a riveting delivery and keeps your attention, and say, okay that’s what I need to really perfect. We’re paid observers, we’re story-tellers, we’re not statisticians. Everybody comes to me with the same thing, my kid wants to get into the business, unbelievable with numbers, he knows the baseball batting averages, what should I tell him?
Forget the stats, the stats aren’t important. Put those up in a graphic form. Learn how to connect with people through the art of story-telling.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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