The first media personality inducted into the Hawkeye Nation.com Hall of Fame should come as little surprise to Iowa fans:
For Zabel to come out on top in this category says a lot about his work as a Hawkeye play-by-play broadcaster, as there were some outstanding nominees…broadcasters and writers alike. The list of outstanding media personalities in Hawkeye history is a long one. In fact, 10 different nominees received votes in this category. The nominations for the Hawkeye Nation.com Hall of Fame were submitted by Hawkeye Nation.com readers.
Here are my thoughts and some of the comments made by voters regarding the "Z":
Jim Zabel. The legendary Jim Zabel gave the play-by-play for games in Iowa for well over 50 years. That, in itself, is incredible. Is there an Iowa sports fan alive who hasn't listened to Zabel call a game?
Every Hawkeye football fan remembers where he or she was when they heard Zabel call the final play of Iowa's 29-27 victory at Ohio State in 1987. "Hartlieb drops back to pass…he wradxzcohs…Marv Cook! … noiesci yreqmm flaooov…AAAAHHHHHH! AHHHHHHH!"
Or something like that.
At that moment, the world record was set for the most people saying "What the heck just happened?" at the EXACT same time.
But that was Zabel. It was easy for people to identify with his enthusiasm. He was just as wrapped up in the game as any other Iowa fan. Game after game, there he was…for over 50 years. And he never lost his love or enthusiasm for the games—and teams—that he covered.
Comments from other voters:
"Jim Zabel of WHO in Des Moines loved it when the Hawkeyes did something good on the field or the court, and he told you he loved it. He broadcast Iowa games for so long that it seemed he was on the scene when the school played its first football game in 1889."
"Annoying? Yes. Overrated as a broadcaster? Clearly. A beloved phenom whose unadulterated passion for everything Hawkeye made him a household name across the state and as admired as any Iowan in the 20th century? Absolutely, and that's why he is number one."
"A voice and a style of call for the ages…don't you just love it."
" ‘I love it! I love it! I love it! It's an Iowa touchdown (gasp for breath)… It's an Iowa touchdown!' Need I write more? Jim Zabel was to Iowa Hawkeye football and basketball broadcasts what Harry Caray was to the Chicago Cubs – times 10. For generations of Hawk fans, nearly every great Iowa athletics memory somehow has Z attached to it."
Breakdown of the voting…
Each member of the panel voted for three media personalities (1st gets 3 points, 2nd gets 2 points, 3rd gets 1 point). The panel includes some very knowledgeable sports personalities, including…
- Jon Miller … Publisher of Hawkeye Nation.com web site and "Hawkeye Nation" magazine.
- Gary Dolphin … Play-by-play radio personality for the Hawkeyes.
- Marc Hansen … Columnist for the Des Moines Register and one of Iowa's all-time best sports writers.
- Ron Maly … Voted Iowa's sportswriter of the year four times.
- George Wine … Former Hawkeye sports information director.
- Bob Helmers … Producer/Director for ESPN and ESPN+Plus.
- Jamie DeMoney … Writer for Hawkeye Nation.com web site and "Hawkeye Nation" magazine.
- Rob Howe … Editor and Senior Writer of Hawkeye Nation.com web site and "Hawkeye Nation" magazine.
- Steve Deace … Popular radio personality on KXNO 1460-AM.
- Marty Gallagher … Me.
- Jim Zabel (23)
- Bob Brooks (12)
- Al Grady (11)
- Ron Gonder (6)
- Gary Dolphin (4)
- Ron Maly (3)
- Ed Podolak (3)
- Bob Hogue (1)
- Bobby Hansen (1)
- Maury White (1)
Look for the Hawkeye Nation.com Hall of Fame inductees in other categories—Athletes, Games and At-Large Bids—in the coming weeks. Feel free to e-mail your comments and feedback to me at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)