Friday, January 29, 2010

"Good if It Goes" Is Gone

Tonight the Utah Jazz honored Hot Rod Hundley for his 35 years of calling the Jazz games. At least, they told everyone they were honoring Hot Rod Hundley.

With all due respect to Greg Miller, I don't think Larry would have waited half a season after Hot Rod's retirement to honor him. I sure don't believe he would have had him honored on a night the Jazz played Sacramento. I think the Lakers' last championship rings were bigger than the crystal plate the Jazz gave Hot Rod. The video piece with some of Hot Rod's peers and great plays had too few great plays and not enough members of the sports commentating community. The pre-production quality was lacking. The in-game production was sad. And the only players you could round up to come and thank Hot Rod were locals? Did the players not like him? What am I missing here? Greg, did you not remember that tonight was a big night? You showed up in a 1/4 zip sweater - not even a tie. You are not Mark Cuban. And he would have done a better job. Just like Kobe did a better job after beating the Jazz to end last season when none of the Jazz players so much as gave Hot Rod a smile.

Maybe I just expect too much out of my team and the rest of the organization.

Hot Rod, I can't change your official ceremony, so this will have to do.

I loved listening to your games for most of your 35 years. I'm only 29, so I missed out a few years at the beginning! I remember my dad tuning in on the radio to listen to the games before many were broadcast on television. He also took me for rides in the car (I'm sure he told my mom he was running errands of great importance) to listen to the games. I didn't know it was weird to turn the television volume down and the radio's up when my team was playing on national television. We always did that.

When our family moved to Las Vegas, I made a shot playing ball on the playground and called out running back down the court, "With a gentle push and mild arc, the cowhide globe hits home." I think the whole playground came to a stop. Some white bread kid from Utah shows up on the first day of school and trash talks about cowhide? It might have seemed weird to everyone, but basketball wasn't basketball to me without Hot Rod Hundley. For four years I was treated to the sounds of Hot Rod's friend, Chick Hearn, as he called the Laker games I had to endure just to get a basketball fix in a town dominated by a corrupt (but fun to watch) UNLV basketball team.

My family later moved back to Utah, and I once again was blessed to hear the soothing southern tones of Hot Rod's voice calling out assist after assist from Stockton to Malone. Once again I got made fun of on the playground for calling my own plays. Now I would do it before the play was over, and that usually meant I didn't accomplish the feat I had set out to. Amazingly, dribbling the ball down the lane and saying, "fakes left, dribbles right," didn't open the door on my right to head toward the hoop. It took me a while to figure out why my 'faking left' wasn't working.

In junior high school I listened as John Stockton became the all-time assist leader. In high school I listened as the greatest point guard ever broke the all-time steals record. In college I studied broadcasting to have the chance to imitate you more than just on the playground.

Hot Rod, you were more than the voice of the Utah Jazz to me. You're the voice that narrates my life's story. You not being there is still hard to swallow. I'll bet it is for you, too. But basketball is just a game. And while life's roller coaster rolls on, I will forever hear you screaming, "You gotta love it, baby!"

Thanks, Hot Rod.

1 comment:

Kel said...

Excellent tribute Ry! He was great at what he did. I have always loved listening to you call games, basketball and otherwise.