The final call
Keith Jackson to end stellar career after Fiesta Bowl
Posted: Sunday January 03, 1999 04:57 PM
TEMPE, Ariz. (CNN/SI) -- His signature is written in the air, penned with his voice. He's the soundtrack of Saturday afternoon, the defining song of his favorite sport. And though he is taking his leave, he will remain college football's permanent echo.
After 47 years, the thrill is finally ending for Keith Jackson. He'll call the Fiesta Bowl for ABC, and then retire.
And in that nearly half a century, the kid from Carrolton, Ga., joined the network, smoked cigars with Castro, anchored Monday Night Football and etched himself into the country's athletic consciousness.
"I'm not afraid to quote Shakespeare," Jackson said. "I'm not afraid to call the end zone Hallelujah-land. Nobody ever told me, 'Don't do it.'"
It's all he's ever done.
Before he ever interviewed Reggie Jackson, or teamed with Lynn Swann, he carried a transistor radio and turned his backyard pecan tree into an announcing booth for his dreams.
"My grandma let me get away with it," Jackson said. "But that was the same grandma who said to my mother one day, 'Your kid's crazy. He's out there talking to himself.' So I guess God made me to do what I do."
Jackson announced his first real games while still a student at Washington State. He joined ABC full time in 1964 and he's done nearly everything since then: Monday Night Football in 1970, NBA coverage with Bill Russell a few years later.
He's also worked on 10 Olympics telecasts--including his most memorable, Munich 1972.
"Great Olympics. Would've gone down as one of the greatest Olympics of all time because it was so well done until the terrorists got inside and tore the heart out of it," Jackson said.
"It was so perfect up to that point but at the same time drives home so vividly the truth about mankind."
As for his most memorable college games of all time, Jackson has a few.
After the Fiesta Bowl, Keith Jackson will say "Whoa Nellie" and he'll mean it. He'll spend his first autumn away from the stands, the fans and the game and next to his wife Turi Ann. It will be their first fall together in 46 years.
"She's been my shelter, she's been my cove. She's the reason I'm burning rubber home after an event," Jackson said.
"He's looked forward to seeing what those months are like not working," Turi Ann Jackson said. "We have so many things we want to do -- golfing and fishing in particular."
So sportscasting will go on, while Keith Jackson casts for fish at the end of his line. But at the end of his career, there is a line of verse he hopes summarizes his time:
Keep me with a stern and stubborn pride
and when at last the fight is won
God keep me still unsatisfied
"Now if you can live with that you're going to have a good time," Jackson said.
Keith Jackson was the voice of so many good times, now maybe he'll enjoy some of his own, quietly.
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