The Voice of Sports
Jim Nantz began his dream job as a sports commentator right out of college, and to this day is thrilled by The Masters, March Madness and his NFL broadcasts
From the Print Edition:
Jim Nantz, May/June 2011
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“He’s got total recall,” says Ken Venturi, Nantz’s former on-air golf broadcasting partner. “You mention a tournament and he’ll give you the date and the golf course.”
Adds Lance Barrow, coordinating producer for golf and football for CBS Sports, “The thing that’s always amazing to me is his retention. He can retain information from years past; there’s nobody who studies and prepares the way he does.”
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University basketball coach and a longtime friend of Nantz, says, “Jim’s preparation is exquisite. When you listen to him during the tournament, you’d think he lived and died college basketball every day of the year.”
Whether it’s March Madness or a weekly NFL game, Nantz is always studying, talking to players and coaches, gathering material. He files it away in his mental data bank, looking for just the right moment to pull it out during a broadcast.
Says Simms, “He does his homework and tucks away stories he hears. It might take a year for a story to get out or just a few weeks. Ben Roethlisberger might tell us something before a game and it will be three games later that Jim brings it up.”
Nantz is quick to point out that his preparation has nothing to do with memorizing statistics: “Statistics don’t tell the story,” he says.
“Parents will come up to me and say, ‘My son wants to be a sports commentator and he memorizes the box score of every game. How should he get started?’ And I always say, ‘First, lose the statistics.’
“I tell them that their son should learn how to write and tell a story. Look at the classic form. Listen to the great orators. Listen to the people in your life who know how to tell a story: your preacher, your priest, your rabbi. Listen to people with the ability to grab your attention. How do they build and pay off a story? How do they make it dramatic and thoughtful? It’s a tricky thing, to find that sweet spot.”
But Nantz has mastered that skill, on and off the air. Paul Marchand, a longtime friend who was Nantz’s teammate on the University of Houston golf team, says, “If you sent Jim on a vacation and had him tell you about it after, it would be better than if you went yourself.”
Storytelling: That’s the way his heroes did it. When Nantz—born James William Nantz III—was a teen in Colts Neck, New Jersey, he idolized the sports commentators who took over his TV set every weekend because of their ability to craft a narrative: Jim McKay, Jack Whitaker, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Dick Enberg.
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Tracy Rowe — KS, USA, — November 20, 2011 5:32am ET
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