JASON: Isn’t it great that the Masters golf tournament — if you’re a golfer like Rush was and I am — stood up to this nonsense and said (summarized), “We’re not gonna follow Major League Baseball. We actually have a spine! We’re not gonna do what you did.” I mean, to move the Masters obviously was just a tad counterintuitive, given that it’s the Masters because it’s in Augusta.
But they said, “We’re gonna honor Lee Elder,” and, lo and behold — under the auspices of merit — the first Asian-born champion won a great tournament, Hideki Matsuyama, yesterday. It was a great conversation a few years back when Rush got to talk to his great friend, “Mr. Masters,” Jim Nantz. Here’s how that went.
RUSH: Jim, welcome to the EIB Network for the first time. It’s really great to have you here.
NANTZ: Well, Rush, it’s the first time I’ve talked to you on the air. Of course, we’ve spoken in e-mail for a long time for years and off the air visited. This is a thrill to be on the EIB radio network.
RUSH: Well, it’s likewise a thrill to have you here. So many great things in this book, Jim, and it’s so timely, given the roiled circumstances in our culture. Your book and your life — the relationship with your family, the way you’ve lived — provide an example to anybody that that’s virtuous and still happens in this country and that it’s rewarded. Jim Nantz, ladies and gentlemen, dreamed when he was a young boy — like all of us did — of being sportscasters someday.
NANTZ: It was more than a dream. It was almost bordering on an obsession. I know that’s a little bit of a strong word, but I had this crazy little idea. At the age of 11, I turned to my father watching the Masters tournament. I declared it right there on the spot, “One day, I want to be one of those voices. I want to be there telling the story of that great tournament and all these championships and sporting events around the world.” That’s what I wanted to do.
RUSH: And you’ve done it, you became the first broadcaster ever to call the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and the Masters.
NANTZ: Well, you know, that was something that no one had ever had the great fortune of being able to declare during the course of a career, and I got to do all of those events in two months. It was very special.
RUSH: One of the things I want to convey to the audience, Jim — and I mentioned this in an e-mail to you about what we would do here today. This book is a fantastic thing. You all have watched Jim Nantz and you’ve heard Jim Nantz for 23 years in some cases. But you don’t know Jim Nantz, because Jim Nantz is the best at what he does. He never makes whatever event he’s at about him. He always makes sure that he brings the event to you, and this book is an opportunity for people to get to know you, Jim, in a personal way.
I want to tell people, if they ever get a chance to meet you, you are going to be exactly what they hope you would be from having known you on television all of these years. You know, a lot of people meet people in prominent positions, primarily in media, and they want them to be what they see on TV, hear on radio, and oftentimes they’re not. But you are. You’re just as genuine and humble in person as you are on the air.
NANTZ: You know, my parents were very humble people. My father was always one with a curious mind and wanted me to get broader and wider than just worrying about who was winning a game. He looked at the world of sports with a romance in his eyes. He liked to learn about people who overcame things.
He wanted to watch sports to be taken to places and learn about cultures. You know, back in the Wide world of sports days when Jim McKay was taking us, behind the iron curtain or the Great Wall of China, he loved that. And that’s the way, alas, I look at the world of sports. You know, I’m looking for something with a little more thought.
RUSH: The life lessons.
NANTZ: Absolutely, and that’s the reason that… And people have said, “Man, you’ve got so many interesting people you’ve met in your life. You know, you ought to write a book about some of these events you do.” But to me, that’s a trip that’s an ego trip. I wanted to… If I was going to write something, there had to be some important messages that would inspire all people.
RUSH: Well, we’ll talk about some of these people that you’ve met because you’ve met everybody in many realms, and they’re all your friends.
NANTZ: You say I have a lot of friends. I am blessed. I count you as a very dear friend; I treasure all my friendships. My father was like that. I open my shows by saying, “Hello, friends,” and it’s really a testament — it’s a tribute — to my father, because all he had in his life were friends. And, you know, he treated everyone with such dignity and respect from all stations in life.
RUSH: Tell us something about Tiger Woods. Tell us something about Tiger Woods we don’t know.
NANTZ: Well, Tiger, you see the game face. You know the focus stories about how he’s locked in and how he can walk right past a guy like Jack Nicholas, the very man… He wants to, you know, break every record that Jack holds. It’s just part of this genius that his father instilled in him. I, one time, got him beyond the game face, if you will. He was coming up into my tower to be interviewed.
He graciously accepted, and my daughter, Caroline, was just five years old at the time, and she was all excited she was going to meet the great Tiger Woods. And I told Tiger on the way up to the tower as we’re climbing the steps, “My daughter Caroline is gonna be up there. She can’t wait to meet you, Tiger.” So we walk in, and everyone is pointing, like giving me the, “Shhh.” They’re pointing underneath the chair.
So I get it. She’s playing kind of a hide-and-seek thing here, and she’s just nervous — as all kids are — about meeting some superstar celebrity. So Tiger instantly breaks into, you know, “the game.” He drops his voice down to like a childlike cadence and he’s saying, “I thought I was going to see Caroline up here! That is why I came here! Caroline, where are you? Are you over here?”
He pushes back some curtains, “No, she’s not back there,” being very theoretically about it all the while knowing she’s curled up in a ball underneath this one given chair. And I just thought, “What a wonderful snapshot of Tiger Woods — the Tiger we so seldom get to see, because everybody in the world’s trying to get into that world and trying to be a part of his universe,” and it was just a lovely impromptu moment.
RUSH: Jim, you’ve led a remarkable life, you have one of the most solid foundations that a human being could have. I think it’s fabulous that you’ve written the book to share that with people, because it’s inspirational.
NANTZ: I’m so grateful, Rush, for the time to talk to you, and you’re just a great friend.
JASON: Isn’t that fantastic? Jim Nantz represents the era of when sportscasters didn’t want to be the story and didn’t want to force their way on you. They weren’t politicized like they are on ESPN or Jim Gray on Fox. Everything’s political now because they think they could be influencers or get more followers on Twitter, whatever. Jim Nantz doesn’t do that.
Nick Faldo doesn’t do that. Pat Summerall didn’t do that. The old sportscasters of yesteryear, Frank Gifford and Curt Gowdy… Remember Curt Gowdy, the old AFL sportscaster? Al DeRogatis and Jim Simpson. You go right down the list. That’s what people are looking for in sports, not lectures — and I tell you, except for golf, except for golf, that’s what you’re getting.
And they are gonna rue the day because two can play at boycotts, and it’s high time we get in the game. But I tell you, that story about Tiger is great as well because I remember watching Tiger in one of these Pro-Ams with his kid not long ago, just a couple months back before he got injured. You can tell what a great dad he is in that story from Jim Nantz there.
But I miss the old days of yesteryear whether you are listening to Curt Gowdy on NBC or Al Michaels on ABC or Frank Gifford on CBS or Summerall and Ken Venturi did PGA golf for years, and now it’s Nantz and Faldo, wonderful backups, wonderful back-to-back sportscasting teams.
That’s what makes things enjoyable and escaping life and the travails of life. Now it’s all politics, and you know what? That’s abusing your platform. I don’t think you know what the hell you’re talking about, and I don’t want to listen to you even if I thought you did.