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He is, however, a true man of learning. Last winter, in those occasional moments between games, he managed to read and study every word that Plato ever wrote. He has read most of the great classics and philosophers. He owns six sets of encyclopedias. "On a rainy day," he says, "all the book salesmen get together and say, 'Let's go see Currie and make some money.' " He is writing a book himself. It is a literate, somewhat vulgar, somewhat disjointed collection of reminiscences and thoughts. It is thoroughly entertaining, and a publisher is panting with anticipation, waiting for Currie to finish it.
His knowledge of the basics and nuances of the major religions is such that he is often referred to as "Reverend Currie." Feeling that they would put him in his place, members of the ACC Sportswriters Association asked him to give the invocation before their annual meeting. Though stunned, Currie promptly rose, shifted to his best preacher's voice and, one by one, graphically asked forgiveness for those present. To wit: "Please forgive Bill Jones for trying to pick up the blonde waitress in Durham last October 12...." They never asked him to do the invocation again.
More seriously, the Reverend has not only read the Bible in its entirety, but he has also read the Book of Mormon. He spends long road trips discussing religious philosophy with Dean Smith, the erudite North Carolina coach. "Bill puts a lot on," Smith says. "The truth is, he is really one of the deepest men I have ever met."
Because he is more entertaining and offers a greater variety in his choice of subject matter, he attracts a wider range of listeners than do most sports announcers. Women are among his greatest fans. A man came up to him before he spoke at a Charlotte banquet. "My wife isn't so smart," the man said, shaking his head, "but she thinks you're the greatest announcer around."
"Well, I think she's pretty smart," Currie replied, "except I wonder how she got stuck with you."
"Y'all come up to Charlotte any time at all you want to kiss me," he told the claque of female admirers who surrounded him after his speech the next night in Monroe. "Look," he explained later, "women are just as loyal, and they count just as much in the ratings as all the guys who know the earned run averages."
However, the Mouth of the South is not to be confused with your matinee idols. He has a pleasant country visage, with a full head of sandy hair and blue puppy-dog eyes. He tends to chubbiness when not on his Metrecal and bourbon diet ("No, madam, I don't mean the two together"). He is 43 and possesses no athletic ability whatsoever. He prefers a golf cart when he plays, which he does all the time, diligently but without discernible improvement.
He is the first to admit that he is, technically, not much better as an announcer. "First of all," he says, "I'm just too damn southern. A really good announcer, one of those guys with the rolling sonorous tones, told me once: 'Currie, your voice sounds like it just dropped the reins and came up out of the furrow.' " His voice is a little lower now from all the work it has gotten, but he used to sing high tenor with a gospel quartet for the noon hymn of the day for the sick and shut-in in High Point. Actually, his success strictly is in what he says, and there are no listeners neutral to Bill Currie. Like him or not, he is a voice in the crowd of all those Brylcreemed, Barbizoned, toneless mastiffs who wallow in the sameness and statistics of sports "audio."
The folks in Catasaqua, Pa. chipped in last year to obtain the Carolina basketball broadcast, since one of the Tar Heel stars, Larry Miller, comes from Catasaqua. "They loved him at home," Miller says. "Sometimes they weren't quite sure what Bill was doing—it's kind of a different broadcast he gives you—but he was a big hit, and they're bringing all the games in this year.
"You know, on the team Bill—he makes us call him Bill instead of Mr. Currie—is thought of strictly as one of us, and I think he's the greatest guy on the team. You can talk to him about anything, no matter how personal. He's like an adviser, and yet he's one of us. Of course, that kind of lulls you when you go on the air with him. He doesn't ask what you're used to. One time he was interviewing me with Bobby Lewis, and all of a sudden he said, 'Do you think you're as good as you're supposed to be?' Now what do you say? But he got me out of it. He never leaves you embarrassed for too long."