Under the Headset: An Exclusive Interview

SpartansInsider basketball beat reporter Doug Warren had the pleasure of breaking bread (among other things) earlier this week with a well known broadcasting duo who seems to have had a little trouble recently giving both the Big Ten, and MSU's Kelvin Torbert, the proper respect.

Spartans Insider caught up with the Columbian Broadcasting Service's top announce team this week as they prepare for the annual season ending broadcast of the Final Four. It was an informal conservation as I ordered up a round of malt liquor for the three of us, while Pantz yakked on his cell phone and Packard cracked jokes with the other patrons, who all gave him a hard time for his perceived ACC bias.

The topics of our gab session: The rumored Packard bias, the Big Ten versus the ACC, and of course Michigan State.

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DW: So fellas, what is your response to those who say that you and your network have a perceived ACC bias?

Packard: I really don't know where it comes from. I have never had any bias towards any conference or program. I am a professional and I conduct myself in that manner at all times.

DW: So you're saying that the fact that you are a Wake Forest graduate, as well as a former player and assistant coach at that school and at times during your broadcasts you make Dick Vitale's love for the ACC look as shallow as your partner Pantz's knowledge of the Michigan State basketball team has nothing to do with what many perceive as a weekly ACC fluff job?

Pantz: (looking up and still on the phone) Did someone just say my name?

DW: No Timmy.

Packard: Yes that is exactly what I'm saying. I have no bias toward any program or conference whatsoever.

DW: Duly noted. OK fellas. Give me your thoughts then on the Big Ten this past season.

Packard: Well, I think overall that the Big Ten was down this year. Outside of Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin, there has really been a lull. Night in and night out they were not facing the kind of competition that Syracuse, Boston College and Connecticut faced in the Big East, or Duke, North Carolina or Wake Forest faced in the ACC, or that Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had seen in the Big 12.

DW: And yet the top three teams in the Big Ten came within 7 points of reaching the Final Four together. What is your response to that?

Pantz: I think they each were helped by the brackets they were in. Illinois had to play Angie Dickenson, UNLV and Old Milwaukee. Michigan State played Old Dominatrix and New Hampshire before they were tested.

Packard: That's right – and Wisconsin had to play Northern Iowa, who had no business being in the tournament over Notre Dame, as well as Bucknell before they faced North Carolina State.

DW: Willy, Notre Dame lost in the first round of the NIT and Bucknell beat Kansas.

Packard: So what! Notre Dame's from the Big East, they should have been in, and Bucknell beating Kansas was a total aberration.

DW: Were UW-Milwaukee over Boston College and Vermont over Syracuse aberrations too?

Pantz: (confused) Notre Dame is in the Big East? I thought they were in the Big Ten?

DW: How about a refill there Timmy? (Filling his mug as I speak) Willy, you and Timmy say that the Big Ten had an easy road. Didn't the Tar Heels play Oakland in the opening round, before beating Iowa State and getting helped by referee Stevie Wonder in their victory over Villanova?

Packard: The Tar Heels didn't get helped in the Villanova game. That kid traveled before that last shot. It was a good call.

DW: Uh Huh. You bet. Hey Timmy what are your thoughts on Michigan State?

Pantz: Well I think the Spartans have had a great turnaround the last couple of weeks. Kalvin Twobit has played great defense for them. Leroy Brown and Marcus Auger have been tremendous in transition, and Saul David and Alex Andrachcuk have provided leadership and big plays. . . . Hey, you're from Michigan right?

DW: Yes.

Pantz: Then maybe you can tell me – is Twobit related to the old Wolverine shooting guard Antoine Twobit?

DW: Do you even know what time zone you're in right now Timmy?

Packard: You know what Doug. I'm getting a little tired of the condescending and arrogant tone of your questions. I think it's time to end this conversation. Tim and I are professional broadcasters who take our jobs very seriously and we don't have the time to put up with this kind of garbage.

DW: Really? Well I, and plenty of other people, get tired of hearing your partner butcher the names of players from any team west of the Cumberland Gap. We also get tired of hearing your overt pandering for all things ACC and your dismissal of the Big Ten and any other major or non-major conference that sets up shop outside of the original 13 colonies.

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Needless to say that from there, things got ugly – first Packard swung at me with a haymaker that just missed my chin – then Pantz followed that up with a swing of his beer bottle that missed wildly. Next, as I backed away from the table, Packard tackled me a got in a couple of solid blows before responded by grabbing him by his bald head with both hands and head-butting him right between the eyes – dazing him long enough to get up and shove a staggering Pantz into a Keno machine.

As I walked out into the brisk March night I couldn't help but imagine what Willy's gonna be thinking come Monday night if he and Timmy have to call an all Big Ten championship final between the Spartans and Illini.

If that happens, I and plenty of other Big Ten supporters will be sending Packard and the rest of the ACC mafia "TTMF" postcards and e-mails next week.

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