An Ode to Verne Lundquist

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Verne Lundquist will no longer be the voice of SEC football, CBS Sports public relations announced Tuesday. The man affectionately dubbed “Uncle Verne” deserved an announcement ahead of the season, because he deserves his final campaign to be a victory lap.

Consider this news bittersweet. Replacing Verne Lundquist with Brad Nessler is the broadcasting equivalent of the San Francisco 49ers filling Joe Montana’s void with Steve Young.

Lundquist’s baritone voice and consistently upbeat presentation has been as much the soundtrack of big-time SEC football as CBS’ unmistakable theme music.

CBS might as well loop Verne’s infectious chortle into the rain-drop theme song intro, or the guitar riff that follows that iconic Dun-duh-duh, DUN-DUN-DUN!.

Uncle Verne’s woven his voice into the fabric of SEC football, and at a most pivotal time in the conference’s history, as it’s grown into the focal point of the entire college football landscape.

Too many landmark moments, which shaped the SEC and thus the national scene, have Lundquist’s voice providing the narration.

It takes some time to adjust, but eventually, even the iconic broadcasters became the face and voice of their outlet. I’d surmise an equal number of fans consider Mike Tirico the voice of Monday Night Football, as do Al Michaels, as do Frank Gifford.

Eventually, Nessler will be THE voice of the SEC. He’s a consummate professional who expertly sets the scene.

He’ll never match the affability of Uncle Verne, however. That’s no criticism of Nessler — no one could bring the same kind of likability or pure joy to a broadcast in quite the same manner as Lundquist.

Even when he made a few errors, which occurred with some regularity in recent years, Verne Lundquist brought unbridled energy to every telecast. His enthusiasm always felt genuine — never forced, nor part of a shtick. One could feel his enjoyment of the game radiate through the TV.

Rightly or wrongly, I sometimes get the impression telecasters are using their dream platform to angle for another gig. Lundquist never seemed like someone working to parlay his position into replacing David Letterman — he was loving being high above the playing fields of SEC Country.

Perhaps the preceding reads as if it comes from someone who knew Verne Lundquist. Though he attended the same college where my dad briefly played basketball, I’ve never met Lundquist. His broadcasting style just made one think they knew him, as Gary Danielson explained to The Times-Picayune in 2014:

“People watch him and feel like he’s their next door neighbor or best buddy, and that’s how I felt when I met him. It was like I already knew him.”

Plenty of others feel the same, and that will be plainly evident in the outpouring of appreciation on Uncle Verne’s final tour around the SEC.