I think I want to cry. I feel like I’ve just lost one of my oldest and dearest friends. Larry Munson died tonight. He has been the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs on the radio longer than I’ve been alive. I’m a bit surprised by my reaction to this. I haven’t wanted to cry at the death of someone I didn’t know, except in the public eye, since Charles Schulz died.  Since I am not really all that interested in sports, and I also sometimes have a hard time with concentration,  my reaction to most things concerning Georgia college football goes something like this… “cute dog, band sounds good, is he really lying on an ice pack, ooohhh shiny…”

Still, I consider myself a Georgia fan. I don’t root for UGA or any other football team with the usual zealousness related to Southerners and football. Perhaps that’s because football and religion are in two different categories for me. I do, however, enjoy a good football game, especially college football, as much as the next person. Just as watching the Lighting of the Great Tree on top of the Rich’s building downtown ushered in the start of the holiday season for me, Larry Munson’s voice on the radio told me that it was, unequivocally, Fall. He was the one who made me a fan. Some of my earliest memories involve being at one or the other of my great uncles’ houses, while they watched the Georgia game with the sound on the television turned down, and Mr. Munson’s voice blaring from the radio sitting temporarily on top of the TV.

I still remember being in the car, at six years old, in complete and total darkness, riding home from I-don’t-remember-where with my family, when Larry Munson’s startled voice on the radio proclaimed to all of us that he broke his chair. That was during a long run with the ball that resulted in a touchdown, and secured Georgia’s place in the Sugar Bowl, if memory serves. I remember looking for days after that for the sugar that he said was falling from the sky.

There’s a school of thought that suggests that broadcasters shouldn’t be biased for or against one team or another, and I suppose that makes some sense. In the case of Larry Munson, however, it sure was fun to hear him rooting unabashedly for the same team I was. Through a career that spanned more than sixty years and various teams in Atlanta, he found his true broadcasting home ‘tween the Hedges.’

Rest in Peace, Larry Munson, and thank you for teaching me how to be a fan, how to scream until I’m hoarse, even if the players on the screen can’t hear me, and for being the voice that became a familiar friend on long drives on Saturday afternoons in the Fall. I like to think that God needed another announcer for Heaven’s football team, and yours is the voice He chose because He wanted to hear those legendary calls again, so He put you back to doing what He knows you love.