So, as we all know, Mike Morgan is no longer the radio voice of the University of South Carolina's men's basketball and baseball teams.
This is sad.
I'm not going to sit here and speculate on the circumstances regarding his departure, because I don't know and haven't heard from people who would know.
What I do know is what I said above -- it's sad that he's no longer with us.
You see, I'm old school in thinking that the radio "voice" of a team, especially in the realm of collegiate athletics, is important. After all, in some of the most famous cases, the names and voices associated with the names are synonymous with the program itself.
- Larry Munson = Georgia
- Woody Durham = North Carolina
- John Ward = Tennessee
- Cawood Ledford = Kentucky
- Eli Gold = Alabama
Blah blah blah, you get the idea
I'm going to take some of you guys back. See, if you've never noticed on the concourse of the Colonial Life Area or looked up in the rafters, there's a jersey there that says "The Voice" in honor of Bob Fulton.
Fulton was our Larry Munson, our Woody. He was our voice, for sure. You knew that when you turned into the radio broadcast before a game, you'd be greeted with "Hi everybody, this is Bob Fulton ..." and that you'd hear about a "HIIIIIIIIIIIIGH spiraling kick!"
When I would go to games with my Dad, we would be sure to each have a radio. We tuned in to Bob and Tommy Suggs. It was a part of the experience, it was just what you did.
Then a bad thing happened to Bob ... like most of us (if we're lucky), he got old. Sure, in the 90s, when I could REEEEALLY appreciate the dulcet tones, he trailed off. Football wasn't too bad, but you could hear that the game was getting to be "too fast." Basketball grew more and more of a lost cause.
Bob eventually retired. His last game was the world-famous 1995 Carquest Bowl, our first bowl win. This was so significant that CBS tapped in to the radio broadcast as a tip of the hat to Fulton's career.
It was a special moment. Somewhere, I still have a cassette tape of his call of that game.
Then came Charlie McAlexander. Charlie Mac's big problem, I will forever maintain, was the fact that his name wasn't "Bob Fulton." As Ray Perkins, Joe B. Hall, Phil Bengston and Gene Bartow know ... following a legend isn't the easiest thing in the world.
For whatever reason ... some more valid than others ... Charlie never endeared himself to parts of Gamecock Nation. Some say he wasn't "one of us," even though I believe he had a genuine love for the university (after taking his broadcasting class and keeping up communication/friendship afterward).
Then Charlie was gone ... for the first time in our times, we had a split "voice," which of course, isn't a "VOICE" in the sense of the word as it comes to broadcasting athletic contest.
We had Mike Morgan doing hoops and baseball, and, gulp, Todd Ellis doing football. I always considered Ellis' move to the PBP role as a "careful what you wish for" type of thing.
The vocal anti-Charlie contingent wanted a REAL GAMECOCK!!!!!!oneoneoneone!
Well, we got one. A marquee player during the glorious run in the 1980s ... and someone with a monotone, plodding, baritone voice.
For the record, I think Todd is a class act. Having said that, he's put in a position where he can't excel. He can't. He's not cut out to be a GREAT, iconic PBP guy.
And, I don't believe that's a slight. Sometimes, we forget in our PC-fueled society that not everyone gets a blue ribbon.
If someone watched me play in a slowpitch softball game and came up to me and said, "Kid, you aren't good enough to play centerfield for the Yankees," well ... NO KIDDING! I'm not. Never have been, never will be. (if you're in the Charlotte area, you have a chance any given Saturday to share that sentiment).
The thing is, I think that is okay. Sometimes you call it like you see it.
Well, Todd, you know more about football than I do. You have a perspective I could only dream of having. But ... you're not a play-by-play guy. You'd be a great color guy (a role you served well as the sideline reporter).
Enter Mike Morgan. He had a good voice, had good timing, worked well with former USC athletes turned weekend-warrior analysts (Casey Manning on hoops and Tommy Moody, who is terrific on baseball).
In my humble opinion (and I know a lot of people share this sentiment) the best booth would have been Morgan on PBP, Ellis and Suggs sharing the color duties until which point Suggs realizes he needs to go hit the beach full-time.
But now we'll never know, because Mike is outta here.
So, after such a long expository, why is this all so dadgum important?
Remember how I said I knew Bob Fulton? I took a radio to the games. I listened to the call in the stadium. It added to my experience. And yes, in a corny, old school, rah-rah sort of thing, it's always an understated "Tradition" to know that my father cut his fan teeth listening to Fulton, and I did as well.
The last time I listened to a Gamecock football game on the radio was the Wofford game in Spurrier's first year. I wound up sitting by myself that game ... I knew I would in advance, and I was willing to give Ellis a fair shake.
I think I lasted about 5 minutes into the second half until I had to say "enough." I couldn't take it. It was hard to listen to (yes I realize that game wasn't much to shout about, but still). It added nothing to my experience.
I think it's best summed up by another (shorter) anecdote --
I have a friend, another big Gamecock fan, who always loves the trip to Athens. Why?
"I get to listen to Larry Munson call our game! Listening to him is such a treat."
Which prompts me to ask, both literally and rhetorically ...
"Why is it such a treat? Are our guys not a treat to listen to?"
When you consider the answer ... it begs another question -- "why is something not done about it?"
It's bothersome to me, and, now, unless there is some sort of home-run hire, it looks like we're going to have a split "voice," and, for me at least, a continued feeling of something missing on a beautiful Saturday in the fall.