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Billy Packer

December 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Billy Packer – A Nattering Nabob of Negativism?

by Matt Jones

Well it has to be said. There should be no more whispers, no more waking up
in the middle of the night shivering and thinking you are alone in your
feelings, no more soft cries for help. Yes it is time that I put into
writing the dirty little secret that all true college basketball fans have
held close to them for the past two decades. Yes America, we must all now
acknowledge the hidden truth: Billy Packer is an absolutely terrible

I have been a college basketball fan for all of the waking moments of my 25-year
existence. I am a fan to an almost sick degree. I remember years, not by
the world events that occurred during them, but rather by the various NCAA
Tournament finals that were played. I have cut short numerous Spring
Breaks, in such wonderful destinations as San Francisco and New Orleans, in
order to be in front of a television to watch the exact moment when the
brackets come out. I have watched literally thousands of games over the
years, and have heard commentators as diverse as Bill Raftery, Joe Dean,
Barry Booker, Brad Daugherty, Bobby Cremins and John Feinstein (should stick
to writing books and columns). However throughout all these years and
games, one thing has held constant. I have never understood Billy Packer.

Every sport has to have its marquee announcer. The television version of
Robert Horry, only comes out when it is a big game and by his mere presence,
you know this sporting event is special. For the NFL it is John Madden,
baseball has Tim McCarver, college football Keith Jackson, NASCAR DW and
tennis has John McEnroe. Unfortunately for us college basketball has Billy
Packer. CBS controls the primary contract with the NCAA and thus most of
the games of national importance (with the exception of the yearly Duke-UNC
matchups), find their way onto that network. The CBS executives (for
reasons known only to them), years ago decided that there was no one in
America better suited to call these games, than a local ACC announcer, Billy
Packer. Thus the legend of Packer was born.

It was once said of a famous Kentuckian, “he excels in mediocrity”. Billy
Packer could only strive for such heights. Watching a game called by Packer
is a little bit like going to a bachelor party and finding out the only
activity is board games – it tends to suck the air out of an otherwise great
event. Packer is almost like an accountant or CEO in that he gets no joy
out of the event, and only seems to focus on all that could possibly go
wrong. During an early season game last year, he focused for almost an
entire half on how both teams would truly suffer because they did not have
enough talent – the next year.

He universally complains about the lack of
talent in college basketball, and found a way throughout the NCAA tournament
last season to criticize only the most exciting player in college basketball
in the last five years, Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was not quick enough,
passed too little, needed more schooling and seemed to perpetually bother
Packer, who likes his players with short shorts and shooting set shots. In
addition, sometimes it seems like he stopped watching the teams throughout
the country in the early 1990s. Just last weekend during the Kentucky-UCLA
matchup, he quipped that, “when you play Kentucky you have to think they are
going to press on every possession.” While that was true when Tony Delk was
running the Rupp Arena sidelines, it has not been true at all during the
Tubby Smith era.

Recently it was said of John Wooden, that there has never been a person who
was around him who did not like him. Packer has the gift of being the only
announcer I have ever seen who has virtually every team’s fans believing he
is biased – against them. I grew up in Kentucky and spent a great deal of
time with Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana fans, all of whom thought Packer
hated their team and only liked the ACC. I went to law school at Duke,
where Blue Devil fans thought he was biased against Duke and for UNC, Tar
Heel fans thought he hated UNC and loved Wake Forest fans, and Demon Deacon
fans were convinced he only liked Kentucky and Louisville. In that sense,
Packer is an announcer that is consistent, unbiased and projects universal
feelings amongst all fans – mainly they all hate him.

Now I can already anticipate what some of you are saying. “How is it that
you can complain about Billy Packer and not Dick Vitale?” There is one
simple answer to that question. Undoubtedly, Vitale is loud and at times
annoying, but it is obvious that he loves college basketball and everything
associated with it. Sure he talks incessantly about Duke and Coach K, but
he also loves your team and he gets so excited during games that it seems he
is only one “diaper dandy reverse layup” from having an aneurism.

Packer is
the exact opposite, but in a bad way. Nothing seems to please him and the
only joy he gets out of the game is hating it. Whether it is talk of the
“talent drain” in college basketball or the lack of fundamentals and
teamwork, there is nothing that seems to make him happy. He is your
curmudgeonly old grandfather, given free reign of a microphone and told he
is the “voice of college basketball”.

The NCAA and college basketball is truly a joy in my life. I knew I was
sick when I gave up on going out with some friends on Saturday because
Charlotte and Old Dominion were heading into overtime. I watch the games
for enjoyment and to get entertainment from a sport that does not make me
punch a time clock, visit loved ones in a hospital or many of the other
things that often make real life trying. Is it to much to ask that when I
turn on the “big games” and the NCAA tournament, I can listen to someone who
is knowledgeable, exciting and enjoying the experience as well? I am sure he
is a fine man, but it is time for Billy Packer to be replaced as the No. 1
announcer in our fair sport.

But then again, what do I know?


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