State of the Hogs: Voice of the Razorbacks
It's been interesting that I've always had a relationship, often close, with the Voice of the Razorbacks, the play-by-play man doing the broadcasts of Arkansas football games.
Bud Campbell was like an uncle. Jokingly, I did sometimes call him Uncle Bud. He was my father's best friend and our families were often thrown together because of the circumstances that put them at Razorback events.
My father, Orville Henry, was with Bud the night he perished in a car wreck on Rodney Parham Road. My father was in a car just ahead of him and was devastated that night and for a long time thereafter.
I've still got a golf club that Bud gave me during a tournament at Pine Bluff when I was having trouble with a Wilson wedge. It's ancient and unusable these days. But it is still a personal treasure.
I remember the time, around age 21, I was in a car alone just ahead of my father and Bud. We were driving to Camden for a tournament. I tried to pass a bus only to find myself trapped alongside as a semi-truck popped from a dip.
The school bus braked just as I did. Then, I gunned the engine in my dad's Malibu SS, dove in front of the school bus just as the semi screamed past. My dive was too sharp and the tail of the car swung around. I did three 360-degree spins down the highway as everyone braked behind me.
I ended up in the ditch, pointed backward. Bud pulled over and he and my dad got out and walked up to me. I rolled down the window to see them smiling. Bud said, "Dad-gum, you never have a camera rolling when you need it. This would have been great to show at 10 o'clock."
My dad said, "Well, it's a good thing. Our insurance is already too high."
With that, they went back to their cars, got in and I fell in behind them to the golf course to play in the Ouachita Valley Invitational.
I had to go on to Hope to be in a wedding afterward, the reason for two cars.
I sat just off the set so many Sunday afternoons at KATV as Bud tossed questions to my father on the little show they called "Ask Orville." It always amused me that my father wore shorts and a golf shirt because we'd just come from Riverdale Country Club. He'd don a sports jacket and sit behind a desk and no one would see those bony legs.
Then there was Paul Eells, for so many years my dad's golfing buddy at North Hills Country Club or anywhere else a Razorback event brought them together on the course. Harry King and Jim Elder were usually in those groups, too. If I was back home from my job in Tulsa, I'd get a cherished invite.
It was always the same. Paul would stride across the parking lot as I unpacked my clubs to wrap me up in a warm bear hug. My father would give me a handshake. Those driving by might confuse which was the father and which was the friend. I thought it was great.
I learned a lot from the four of them. I saw the way they treated each other on and off the course. Yes, they competed hard, but they also pulled for each other in everything they did, including golf. I'd say the word that fit the four of them best was class.
What's all of this about? I'm glad to know that another close friend — a true professional, a great radio man and someone who paid his dues just like Bud, Paul, Harry, Jim and OH — is going to become the Voice of the Razorbacks. Chuck Barrett has been hired as the UA's next football play-by-play man. It's a great choice.
I am among those who have heard Chuck do football play-by-play. I sat beside Chuck two springs ago when Fayetteville KKEG asked him to broadcast the Red-White game. He was going to handle it all — play-by-play, production, spotting — by himself that afternoon until I asked if I could help. He ended up using me as the color man. I was awful, but Chuck glowed as the play-by-play man that afternoon.
What he brings to the table is just what he gives to a Razorback baseball play-by-play broadcast. He paints a picture. He gives you the most important facts and does it without making mistakes. He has the right amount of excitement to his voice, just enough to where you can still know what is happening as you raise your fist to punctuate a big play with him.
I'm prejudiced because I've worked the last eight or nine years with Chuck on talk radio as he took SportsRap to all four corners of our state. I was his eyes at practice throughout the last few football seasons. What I learned was to be prepared because while there were tough questions from callers, none were as good or as probing as Chuck's questions. He helped me learn to paint the picture. He knew what radio listeners wanted us to tell them. He knew we had to be their eyes because there was no picture.
There was another good choice for this job, too. Scott Inman, the news anchor at KATV, would have been a good pick. I have nothing but good things to say about Scott, although I must say that I don't really know him other than what I heard from a couple of basketball games he did last year.
What I can say about Chuck is that he's a true radio man. He understands the inside workings of a broadcast after sitting in the booth to handle the production, the pre-game and post-game shows the last few years. And, he's paid his dues.
I don't think that last part should be minimized. Not only is he talented as a play-by-play man, he's helped the UA do something that few thought was possible just a few years ago — take a baseball network statewide in a big way.
Chuck did that by riding the bus with the team for all of those games. How would you like to finish a broadcast at 3 p.m. Sunday in Auburn, Ala., then get on a bus for a 15-hour trip home just in time to do your morning radio broadcasts?
I saw Chuck on those Monday afternoons following those trips. He didn't complain. He didn't even tell his listeners one time about what he'd just done the previous day and night. I saw him spike his coffee with about six packs of sugar and then raise his level to do his talk show. The only thing he ever complained about was my level and I'd had a nice comfortable weekend at home with plenty of sleep.
"Clay, you are going to have to bring a little more game," Chuck would tell me in the first break after I'd just lulled our audience to sleep despite a probing, solid question from the host.
I used to laugh when I'd get a call from my father about a particular show we'd done. He'd comment about Chuck's upbeat nature that day and how I dragged down the show. Then, I'd tell my father that Chuck was operating on zero sleep and how I'd been taking it easy all weekend.
"Oh, that's the difference between a real pro and just someone showing up for a check," my father would say. "Tell Chuck he's a pro, just like Bud."
My father said he began to listen when SportsRap went statewide because he wanted to check out his son's act. He kept listening because of Chuck. He loved SportsRap and would call me to find out the spots on the dial he might pick it up from Malvern.
It appears SportsRap is kaput. As the Voice of the Razorbacks, Chuck doesn't need to do that anymore. He needs to avoid controversy and just do his job for the university. I think that's fine with Chuck. He is probably ready for that.
That means my role with SportsRap is done, too. That's fine with me as well. It hasn't been too much fun the last couple of years. No matter what you say, there is always a segment of folks that are unhappy with your take because your opinion didn't match their thoughts or wishes.
I probably need to ride off into the sunset as far as radio work as Chuck heads to the Broyles Center. I've never been very good on the radio anyway.
My wife will probably have mixed emotions. She'll have me around the house more. That's probably good and bad. She'll just have to get used to it. As for listening to Chuck do Arkansas football, I think we'll get used to that without any real problems. He's going to do what we want our play-by-play man to do — give us the down and distance and set the scene from start to finish.
He'll fit like a glove with color analyst Keith Jackson and sideline man Quinn Grovey.
I'm guessing that the great ones I've mentioned here, men like Bud Campbell, Paul Eells and Jim Elder, are smiling as they note this appointment on the way to another round of golf in the afterlife.
Go get 'em Chuck Barrett. You deserve it. You earned it and I'm happy for you.
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