January 26, 2017

In less than a week, we'll be looking live for the last time as Brent Musburger leaves television for a new life among the betting crowd in Las Vegas he always managed to wink at from the broadcast booth.

An interesting decision, since Musburger said just two months ago he was having far too much fun to retire. But the 77-year-old insists he made up his own mind, and so do his bosses at ESPN.

Pair it with Chris Berman going back, back, back into semi-retirement, and television will largely be without two sports broadcasting icons that millions of Americans have grown up listening to. For those who like their sports dished up in a no-nonsense style, that may not be such a bad thing, but there was something a lot of people found endearing about both.

That includes Katherine McCarron, who was known as Katherine Webb when Musburger pointed her out in the stands during the 2013 BCS title game. Webb was the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, and Musburger spent a lot of time talking about her in Alabama's 42-14 blowout of Notre Dame.

''You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women,'' Musburger said as the camera found Webb in the stands. ''What a beautiful woman.''

Some thought he was acting like a creepy old man. ESPN later issued an apology for his comments.

Webb, a former Miss Alabama, thought it was all in good fun.

''Cheers, Brent. You were good to me,'' she tweeted Wednesday.

Musburger was good for ABC and ESPN, too, consistently delivering on big events until the network decided in 2014 that he was beginning to seem too old and too folksy for mainstream tastes. He still was given some good assignments, but it was clear the network was gently pushing Musburger toward the door.

He won't get the long, loving farewell Vin Scully got last year from his fans, partly because he never really connected with younger viewers. He also upset others with some things he said, including what some saw as sympathetic comments during the most recent Sugar Bowl about Oklahoma's Joe Mixon, who was suspended for a year after a 2014 attack on a women in a deli that was caught on videotape.

Just a couple basketball games remain, ending with the Kentucky-Georgia game Tuesday at Rupp Arena, where he called Villanova's upset of Georgetown in 1985.

Then it's on to Las Vegas, where Musburger will announce plans next week for what his nephew, Brian Musburger, said will be a family business based around sports betting. It will include a satellite radio show from the South Point resort, where a new broadcasting booth has been built for the operation.

It's appropriate that Musburger join his ''friends in the desert,'' since he was the first broadcaster to regularly make references to betting lines during games. His association with gamblers goes back to the pioneering ''The NFL Today'' show he hosted on CBS in the 1980s with Jimmy ''The Greek'' Snyder and Phyllis George.

It was also in Las Vegas in 2015 where Musburger uttered a line few other announcers would touch. Utah was beating BYU 35-0 late in the first quarter of a bowl game gone bad, and Musburger was tasked with trying to keep it interesting.

''I feel sorry for my Mormon friends at BYU,'' he said. ''They don't drink.''

Musburger's TV retirement, and to a lesser extent Berman's reduced airtime, signals an end to an era where announcers were not generic cookie cutters, and part of the fun of tuning into a game was to hear what they had to say. Being greeted by Musburger's signature ''You're looking live...'' made it seem like the event was bigger than it was, and there was usually something that caught Musburger's attention that was worth hearing about.

He made more than his share of mistakes, particularly in the 1980s when he was announcing golf, a sports he wasn't terribly familiar with. Critics also liked to question his knowledge of football, but he always knew who was favored and what the over/under in the game was.

What happens in Vegas next for Musburger won't stay in Vegas, and that's a good thing. He'll continue to have an audience, just in a different form and looking for different information.

Somehow, though, ''You're listening live'' just doesn't have the same ring to it.

----

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

You May Like