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Monday, September 17, 2012

A Change in the Booth

For those that read daily you would have noticed that there was no post on Friday. Today's topic was going to be written then, but it was just too hard to write then. I hate change and this doesn't just mean change right in my immediate environment. Change on any level is difficult and going into Saturday night I knew a major change was about to happen.

Bob Jenkins doing an interview with my dad about Ned Jarrett.
For most people this would be a non-event, but the broadcast of the Izod IndyCar series Saturday night was announcer Bob Jenkins' final broadcast. Again, doesn't sound like much, but for me, well, growing up he was the narrator of Sundays for me. Back in the late 80's and 90's he was the lead announcer for ESPN's NASCAR broadcast with Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons and listening to that trio was like watching a race with them in your living room. It was such a fluid, conversational tone that told the story of the race that I looked forward to the broadcast as much as I did the race.

He was also the announcer on the radio broadcast that I was listening to when I was at the 1992 Indianapolis 500. That day will always be remembered for the frigid cold temperatures as well as the unusually high amount of crashes, but it will be most remembered for is the finish between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear. My dad and I were seated on the main straight above the finish line and while my dad was complaining about the seats the entire race we had the best seat for the finish. We were listening to the radio broadcast and Bob Jenkins call of that finish was amazing. NBC Sports Network did a tribute to Bob that has that call and finish and can be seen here.

Watching that tribute Saturday night was rough for me because a sameness for my entire life is coming to an end. Sure, he his still planning on being on the PA system at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the broadcasts on television will feel as if something is missing.

Last year my dad had some work that involved interviewing Bob and he was kind enough to sign the flag that the former flagman of the Indy 500 gave me. Typically I only let winners of the race sign it, but other individuals who are a major part of the track or sport can sign it so it was a great addition. In December of last year Bob was the emcee at our USAC .25 banquet and I got the chance to thank him personally for signing it.

For you, the reader, this may not have been the most exciting of reads, but writing this has been an absolute challenge. Each paragraph has been thought of and writing this is like closing a chapter in my life and saying goodbye to a friend even though, except for a quick "thank you" and a handshake I have not met him.

Recently I've heard a string of stories from parents about how their child is very much against change. It's something I have been but I do my best to manage my environment to minimize change. Some things are out of our control, okay, most things are out of our control and for most people a change in the announcing booth would be something that isn't noticed. However, and maybe it was because of the conversational tone he used, or maybe it's that I've listened to him on television since I was 3, whatever the case this has been one of the toughest posts to write as I know next season there will be a new person on the mic leading the broadcasts.

Change unfortunately happens. Times change. As depressing of a fact that it is it is a fact. I do wish Bob and his wife the very best and I hope this post, for parents, lets you see that change doesn't have to be in the immediate environment to create sharp emotions. I dearly wish you could have seen me write this at real time as it has been a sluggish pace as I've thought about all the calls that I heard, or remembering the final episode of SpeedWeek that was hosted by Bob, or his call of Dale Jarrett's first win in a photo finish at Michigan, or, well, times change and what is eventually becomes memories. The true action was on the track but the narrative added by Mr. Jenkins will be missed, but the calls he gave will linger forever.

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