It always felt like a big event if Brent Musburger was calling it.

One of the most distinguished voices in sports broadcasting, Musburger’s legendary career has spanned six decades.  More than just a “talking head,” he is a true journalist, and has worked in the sports world as a reporter, writer, studio host, and play-by-play man.  Brent coined the phrase March Madness while covering the Final Four and made the NFL studio show must-see TV.  In 15 years at CBS Sports, he called the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series, the Masters, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Musburger went to work for ABC, which later merged with ESPN, in 1990.  He continued to cover the NBA Finals, hosted Monday Night Football, and worked U.S. Open golf, World Cup soccer, the Belmont Stakes, Indianapolis 500, and Tour de France.  If it was big, Brent was there.  Musburger has covered the Little League World Series, the College World Series and Major League Baseball.  He has covered NASCAR, hosted a New Year’s Eve countdown, called a Rose Bowl and anchored coverage of the Open Championship.

Musburger began calling games in 1975 and has been involved is some of the most memorable plays in American sports history.  The Hail Flutie in 1984: “Flutie flushed…throws it down…caught by Boston College, I don’t believe it!  It’s a touchdown!  Magic Johnson’s NBA debut in 1979. Ken Griffey’s eighth inning home run against the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS:  “Deep to right field…put it on the scoreboard, The Kid has done it again!  Texas Tech’s dramatic last-second touchdown to beat Texas in 2009: “Crabtree comes free…touchdown, Red Raiders with a second to go!”  Desmond Howard’s fourth-down grab – The Catch –to beat Notre Dame in 1991: “Grbac to fire for it…he went for it all…a diving catch for a touchdown!

It was Musburger’s association with The NFL Today that made him famous.  One of the original members of a cast that included Irv Cross, Phyllis George and, later, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, Musburger anchored sports television’s most ground-breaking show.  The NFL Today was the first studio show to include live pre-game, halftime and postgame segments.  Using film clips set to music, the program won 13 Emmy Awards in its first season.  The NFL Today became the springboard for Musburger’s catchphrase, “You’re looking liiiiiiive,” as cameras would pan to aerial shots of NFL stadiums throughout the country.  The studio show was the highest-rated program in its time slot for a record 18 years, until CBS lost the broadcast rights to the NFL to Fox in 1994.

“You are watching what greatness is all about.”

Born in Portland May 25, 1939, Brent Woody Musburger was raised in Big Timber, Montana – near Billings.  A boyhood friend of future Baltimore Orioles left-hander Dave McNally [who led the AL in wins in 1970], Musburger umpired minor league baseball in the 1950s.  A bit of a hellion, he and his younger brother Todd — who later became Brent’s agent — stole a car belonging to their mother’s cleaning lady and took it for a joyride.  His parents sent him to Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a boarding school in Minnesota and alma mater of actor Marlon Brando, football’s Bud Wilkinson and a host of hockey stars, including Sidney Crosby.

Musburger studied journalism at Northwestern, then began his career as sportswriter for the now-defunct Chicago American newspaper.  In October 1968, he wrote a column condemning American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their Black Power salute on the medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics.  The article sparked controversy, yet Musburger defended his views, saying, “I object to using the Olympic awards stand to make a political statement.”

Later that year, Musburger went to work as a sports anchor for the CBS affiliate in Chicago.  It was the beginning of a 22-year association with the network.  Musburger moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, where he anchored news and sports for CBS.  He worked alongside Connie Chung on evening newscasts from 1978 to 1980, when he joined CBS Sports.

Musburger famously got into a fist fight with Jimmy Snyder in a Manhattan bar in 1980.  The following week, the two cheerfully appeared on The NFL Today wearing boxing gloves.  After 15 years as the face and voice of CBS Sports, Musburger was abruptly fired by the network April 1, 1990.  His final assignment came the following evening, when he called the Duke – UNLV NCAA final with Billy Packer.  Mr. Musburger handled the situation with dignity and class, signing off with, “Folks, I’ve had the best seat in the house.  Thanks for sharing it, I’ll see you down the road.”  Mr. Musburger was replaced at CBS by Jim Nantz and, a month later, he landed at ABC Sports.

Brent Musburger was preceded by some of the of the greatest broadcasters ever to grace the booth.  He followed Keith Jackson as lead play-by-play voice for ABC College Football as well as the Rose Bowl, took over for Jack Whitaker as host of The NFL Today, and followed Pat Summerall in covering the NBA Finals.  While Brent has covered seemingly every event in sports television, it is his work in college football that is perhaps his best.  He has called seven BCS national championship games for ABC/ESPN and, for eight seasons, delivered the most entertaining three hours of the week.  From 2006 to 2013, Musburger sat alongside the talented Kirk Herbstreit calling Saturday Night Football on ABC, bringing the biggest game in America’s best sport into your living room in prime time each and every week.

“When Clemson players rub that rock and  run down the hill, it’s the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”

In January 2017, Musburger left ABC/ESPN and, after 27 years, briefly retired.  He moved to Las Vegas where he joined his brother and nephew to launch VSiN [Vegas Stats and Information Network].  In July 2018, Musburger signed a three-year deal to call Oakland Raiders games on radio, replacing the legendary Greg Papa, who had the team’s radio voice since 1993.

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Comments

  1. Brent has done it all in his career and has made watching numerous sporting events more enjoyable the past 40 plus years. The original NFL Today was ahead of its time, and may still be the best pregame football show ever – I can hear him say “You’re looking liiiiiive……”

    I didn’t know Brent was the one who coined the phrase March Madness. That has certainly stood the test of time. Brent was, and is, a true sports journalists.

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