The news broke Monday night and rumbled in waves of anticipated yet unexpected anguish throughout the Bulldawg Nation, reaching me late yesterday afternoon. After 43 years, our beloved Voice of the Georgia Bulldogs, the legendary Larry Munson, announced his retirement, effective immediately.
We all knew this day would come…someday. Larry had tried to break it to us gently, broadcasting only home games last year and leaving the trips longer than from Munson’s home in Atlanta to Sanford Stadium (nearly 70 miles one-way) in the capable hands of longtime assistant Scott Howard and former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier. We knew age was catching up–equally legendary color man Loran Smith had a nasty battle with cancer a few years back, and Munson himself had surgery for a blood clot back in April that required a long stay in a rehab hospital. Still, that’s the thing about Somedays–you expect them, you plan for them, but when they do arrive, it’s still a shock. They sucker-punch you and leave you on your backside, wondering from where in the world that blow came.
Still, to my friends among the Bulldawg faithful, at this time I beg you to remember the man who preceded Munson. Anyone my age or younger won’t remember the golden throat of Ed Thilenius, who called UGa football games for 10 years before he moved on to call games for the new Atlanta Falcons and the gravelly voiced Minnesotan by way of Nashville entered the broadcast booth. When Thelenius left after the 1965 season, Bulldog (they wouldn’t be “Dawgs” until nearly the end of the next decade) fans thought he was irreplaceable. Then came Munson, and the legend of the nascent Athletic Director, Joel Eaves, and his anointed coach, Vince Dooley (who both had arrived on the campus just two years earlier) grew before our ears.
Modern-day Georgia Football traces its roots to Eaves/Dooley/Munson. Don’t get me wrong; the Bulldogs were great almost from the start. The dry spell of the late 50’s and early 60’s, before the arrival of the aforementioned trio is a Tale for Another Day. The coaching torch was passed long ago: Coach Eaves (always “Coach Eaves,” even though he arrived as AD) retired after the 1976 conference championship season, handing the reins to his protegé, Dooley. Coach Dooley, in turn, gave up stalking the sidelines after the 1988 season, handing off to his protegé, former quarterback Ray Goff. In 1996, Dooley selected Marshall’s Jim Donnan to replace Goff, then in 2001, Dooley then selected Donnan’s replacement, former FSU offensive coordinator Mark Richt, who is now poised to grab Georgia’s first national championship since 1980. Dooley himself retired from his AD position after the 2004 season.
Now Munson, too, has said it is time to give up his headphones and mike. We have heard “Loran, whaddyagot?” live for the last time. Thank God an astute co-worker gave me the Bulldog Boogie CD about 10 years ago back in Florida. It contains tailgating songs, selections by the Redcoat Marching Band, and, most prized, several tracks of the “Best of Munson.” I could describe my favorites, but perhaps it’s better to let you hear for yourself. Thanks to matthewkham, who put a very moving tribute on YouTube. We love ya, Larry, and wish you a long, happy and well-deserved retirement. How ’bout THIS Dawg?