French composer Claude Debussy once noted that "Music is the space between the notes." The notes themselves also play a role, of course, but it's the timing and spacing of those sounds that make it music. Often it's the emptiness between the events as much as the events themselves that make the magic.
As the Voice of the Vols from 1965 to 1999, John Ward's work was music. His play-by-play somehow managed to unfold like a carefully-scripted drama that had been drafted, re-drafted, and drafted again until it was polished and perfect and only then delivered to the airwaves with a passion barely restrained by an intentionally deliberate pace. And he somehow did it all in real time in response to real events as they happened. His delivery may have put him a second or two behind the event itself at times, but that was the charm. Something awesome would happen, and the crowd would react with a collective knee-jerk, and then John would come along just a fraction of a second behind with the perfect words we would all use to re-tell the memory for the rest of our lives. It was music, poetry, art. And football.
Warning: Chill Bump Zone ahead.
I'm sure we all have our favorite John Ward calls, and we want to hear yours below. But let's go ahead and list some of the classics here:
- It's Football Time in Tennessee.
- Give ... him ... SIX! ... TOUCHDOWN, TENNESSEE!
- Pandemonium reigns!
- No. Sir. Ree. No. Sir. Ree.
Shoot, even this: Natural. Gas.
I have a couple of other favorites that really mean a lot to me. One is the call for the Shaun Ellis convoy pick six I wrote about back on #89 of this series:
It's picked up by Tennessee, and the Volunteers have Shaun Ellis running with the football down the left side looking for blocking. This'll be Shaun Ellis still running, struggling, to the 25, to the 20, to the 15, to the 10, to the 5 . . . he made it. He made it.
I just love the timing of the curveball punchline just as you were expecting him to say, "Give. Him. Six."
So what are your favorites?