Jackson's career has been not only salvaged but also enhanced; last month he started covering college basketball. During ABC's series of Sunday afternoon games KJ will team with DV, Dick Vitale, who has made his name as a wild and crazy commentator on ESPN. What a quinella that should be. The prospect of working with Vitale, who calls basketball games the way Mario Andretti drives Indy, always on the edge of losing control, makes Jackson a little nervous. He has already cautioned Vitale to cool it. "It'll take two or three broadcasts for us to hit stride," Jackson says. "I think you'll see a more subdued Vitale."
If Jackson can come up with a few expressions from his great-granddaddy about hoops, KJ-ologists will be able to endow a few chairs for basketball announcers. But it is not likely he'll be able to top his country-boy style on football.
Listen carefully next time you watch a game—any kind of game—for an announcer sneaking the word "hoss" onto the air. Sometimes, though, only KJ-ologists are aware when it happens. Once, for example, ABC's Monday Night Baseball statistician, Steve Hirdt, gained a lifetime pass to the KJ-ology conventions when he came up with a graphic about "Sports' Famous Mooses." The graphic would never have made it onto the screen except for the last name on the list: Brewers pitcher Moose Haas—pronounced, of course, Hoss. Michaels, the announcer that night, almost died laughing.
Firestone, the ESPN talk-show host, who does the best KJ this side of Jackson himself, helps keep the KJ-ology flame alive. Last year, a guest along with Jon Miller on an Orioles radio broadcast, Firestone called an entire inning as Jackson might have.
Jackson keeps strict count of his friends and enemies. He still hasn't forgotten the banker in Pullman, Wash., who loaned him $100 interest free when he was broke in the '50s. He has donated $50,000 to the Washington State alumni center. But he has never returned to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters dinner after a number of writers accused him, fairly or not, of covering up for Ohio State coach Woody Hayes when Hayes punched a Clemson player at the Dec. 29, 1978, Gator Bowl.
Now that Jackson feels wanted again he's most at home—when he's not with Turi at their house in California, that is—in college towns like Tuscaloosa or Norman or Lincoln, places where he could probably be elected mayor. Even players come over to him at the end of practice to try out their best KJ-isms. You can just hear one of them saying: Whoa, Nellie, I'm gonna tell ya'. When the feathers git to fly in' and they start a- knockin' heads and rubbin' the paint off their helmets, there ain't nobody more colorful in that big ol' TV booth.