A Maroon Jewel is Gone

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed earlier reports of Jack Cristil's passing Sunday night. The long time Bulldog broadcaster was the voice of Mississippi State athletics and for fans unable to make it to Starkville, Jack was Mississippi State. With a style and delivery all his own, Cristil was an icon.

Like many of you, I grew up listening to Jack Cristil share with the world everything that was happening on game day.

I am sure we can all recount dozens of "Cristilisms" over the years.

There was always a "mass of humanity" following a third and short.

When an opposing ball carrier was corralled in the backfield, Jack was sure to let us all know that "he cannot go, he cannot go."

And who could forget when Bulldog defensive back Ashley Cooper "murdered the ball carrier."?

The list could go on and on.

One of the things that I admired and respected about Jack was the fact that he always took the time to allow people to pass along a note to be read on the broadcast to say hello to the folks back home.

Those in between action comments were simply part of his way of doing things.

It was a personal touch that he added that made it all feel so much like family.

The Bulldogs could be playing in some far away locale across the continent and Jack would always have a message to pass along from some family who was in town enjoying the ball game and cheering for the Bulldogs.

I had the chance to pass along a note to Jack once, but it was a note of a different kind.

My father was deathly ill battling cancer and back in the hospital once again, when the Mississippi State men's basketball team made a trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU.

After the game was over, I saw Jack with his trademark smoke waiting to get on the team bus to head back to Starkville.

I told Jack how sick my father had been and that it would mean a lot to him if they would wish him well on an upcoming broadcast.

My father, Freddie Robertson, was one of Jack's most faithful listeners.

If State was playing, daddy had the radio on.

God bless my Mama D for putting up with it all.

I cannot count the times, daddy would stay in the car while she shopped, so he could keep up with the game.

Without a moment's hesitation that Saturday afternoon outside the P-Mac, Jack said, "Here, hold this" as he handed me his brief case.

"I know I've got something to write with here somewhere."

With his ball point pen located, Jack took down the necessary information and then dropped it in to a pocket in his brief case that was absolutely littered with notes Jack had scribbled.

I thought to myself that he would never, ever find my piece of paper, but that I had tried nonetheless.

The next week State played Florida and as he promised, Jack Cristil told the Bulldog world that my daddy was sick in the hospital in Jackson and that they wished him a speedy recovery.

I am sad to say that my dad was too sick to hear the broadcast that night.

He was unaware that I had asked Jack to do this much less that it actually happened.

The next day, the phone began to ring at the hospital.

Daddy's friends began calling to say they heard him mentioned on the broadcast.

He was so honored and it meant so much to him.

While daddy had not heard Jack's well wishes, an old friend of my father's heard the commentary and got in his car and drove to Jackson.

The two had not seen each other in years and had lost touch like we often do when we get busy raising kids and paying the mortgage.

The gentleman arrived at the hospital and told my dad that he had no clue he was even sick, but that he heard Jack Cristil's message.

That afternoon my dad and his friend were able to reminisce and talk about a better time when things were a little less complicated.

By Jack taking five seconds to read a card on air, my dad and his friend were able to reconnect before he passed away.

I get a little emotional even thinking about all of that.

Jack gave my daddy some happiness during a very dark time in his life.

I know Jack got approached by scores of people after games and I am sure the favors asked of him were endless.

The only time I ever asked Jack for anything, he gave it to me.

He owed me nothing, but he gave me what I asked for graciously.

I am not sharing all of this with you for any other reason than to share what kind of man Jack Cristil was.

He was the voice of the Bulldogs to the Mississippi State family, but he was so much more than that.

Jack was a man who valued family and when my family was in need, he did what he could to help us.

May you rest in peace, Jack Cristil. Now that you are in the "land of milk and honey" please put in a good word for the boys who wear the Maroon and White.


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