CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz will begin calling his 24th NCAA Tournament for the network this week and is busy preparing for the three-week tournament, researching teams, talking to players and coaches … and writing his trademark lines.
“Believe it or not, the things I say at the end of big events are often pre-written,” said Nantz. “Yep. It’s true. I guess I’m pulling back the curtain a little bit here, but I don’t always come up with that gold off the top of my head. It can be days, week or months of writing and re-writing to get it just right.”
Nantz built his reputation for delivering tournament-ending one-liners in 1999 when UConn won by saying: “Just when you think you can’t, you can, and UConn has won the national championship.” He grew it more in 2000 when Mateen Cleaves and Michigan State won it all by saying “You can leave it to Cleaves!” By 2005, no one even batted an eye following a championship by Sean May and North Carolina, as Nantz unleashed: “It began in March, ended in April and belongs to May!”
“I started working on that Sean May line in 2001 when he first committed to the Tar Heels,” said Nantz. “It took four years go get it to that final product, never even knowing if May would win. But to pull off lines of this quality, you have to prepare. I didn’t get this far by accident.”
With that preparation in mind, Nantz has been testing out some potential lines on CBS colleagues.
“He tested ‘Hoos No. 1? It’s the Virginia Cavaliers, that’s Hoo!’ on me,” said one CBS producer. “I told him it was great because he’s very powerful at CBS. Not rolling my eyes or groaning when he said it was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
“I got ‘Don’t be shocked, it’s the Shockers! Wichita State has won it all,'” said a cameraman. “I have no idea how this man makes 700 times what I make.”
An intern said Nantz offered up “They Gators done! Florida has won it all!” on him.
“He asked me if ‘Cable Larry’ was ‘still hip’ with the ‘younger set these days,'” said the intern. “I assured him that he was. I better get a job out of this.”
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