If you know anything about me, you probably know that I love Kansas basketball. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. The t-shirts, the decal on my car, the stuff hanging in my office. If you know me a little better than most, you probably know that I love listening to KU basketball games on the radio. If you didn’t know this already, you do now.
I have literally been listening to “the voice of the Kansas Jayhawks” for my entire life, and 28 years is a long time. This year it was announced that our long-time announcer, Bob, will be retiring at the end of the season. I was devastated by this news. Devastated may seem like a strong word, but when you’ve been listening to someone speak for 28 years, sharing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat with that person, you develop a strong attachment. Bob is more than just some announcer to me. He is a friend, a family member. Someone who has been there for every single game. His is the voice I have celebrated victories with and the voice I have commiserated with after losses. His voice is as familiar to me as my own. There has never been a time in my life when I haven’t known that voice. And at the end of this season, it will suddenly be gone.
Bob is the not the first of the KU announcers to retire. Max retired after 60 years on the radio for KU, about 10 years ago now. When Max left, I was so incredibly saddened. We had a whole football season and basketball season to say goodbye to him, but it still wasn’t enough. I still remember the last game he called. It was the first round of the tournament and we were playing lousy…we lost that game. And suddenly, it was over. When the game ended, I locked my self in my room, turned on the radio, and cried myself to sleep that night. Losing in the first round is pretty shocking for KU (if you know anything about KU basketball, you know how rare that is, save for those back-to-back years), but it was more than that. It was knowing that that was the last time I’d ever hear Max call a game. At that point, I wanted the team to keep on winning, to go all the way, so that Max could call one more game, so that he could experience winning the National Championship again. I wanted that for him. I wanted that for myself. But it wasn’t meant to be. (A couple of years later, on the 20th anniversary of the school’s last championship victory, in 2008 KU went on to win the National Championship and it was perfect…save for the fact that Max was missing.) And even though Max was gone from the airwaves, Bob was still there. And as long as we still had Bob calling the play-by-play, things would be okay.
But now that Bob is preparing to leave, how will it be okay? How will it ever be the same? The only answer is that it will never be the same again. Truthfully, it hasn’t really been the same since Max’s last game. But now without either one of those beautiful voices, KU basketball won’t ever be the same for me again. The magic will be gone. And that is a jarring reality for me to face. For me, Bob and Max are what makes KU basketball great…they embody the school, the team, the tradition, pure love of the game. And without even one of them there, it’s hard to know what the future of Kansas basketball looks like from my perspective. It’s because of them that I love basketball. My dad wasn’t into basketball until he happened to come across the two of them calling a game one time, back in the mid ’80s. He liked them as soon as he heard them–their enthusiasm was contagious–and that led to him listening to more games, to becoming a true KU fan, to introducing me to the game and to their voices. Max and Bob on the radio was a huge part of childhood, a family tradition, a part of my life to this day. If not for my dad hearing them on the radio that fateful day, I may not even be a basketball fan at all–and how different life would have been.
It’s hard to know how to say goodbye to someone, to something that’s been such a big part of your life. I have a hard time saying goodbye and letting go in general, so this seems doubly hard. I will spend the rest of the season actively cherishing the time I have left to listen to him. I realize that I may sound a little bit (or a lot) dramatic, but I feel very deeply about this. It’s as if a chapter of my life is closing. Something that I’ve always known will no longer be. I wish some things could remain the same forever, but that just isn’t the way it works. I can only hope that somehow Bob (and Max) could know just how much he has meant to me. To my family. I wish I could tell him that my love of basketball is due to him, that he has made a positive impact on my life, that he is a friend. I can only hope he knows what he has meant to so many people.
To Bob and Max–the eternal voices of the Kansas Jayhawks.