We don’t know specifically how heaven is mapped out, but we’d like to think there’s a special, honored place in it for those beloved public figures who have brought enjoyment to untold millions of people over a long career.
That place belongs to Larry Munson.
The legendary University of Georgia broadcaster died Sunday at his home in Athens from pneumonia complications. With his passing at age 89, an era of UGA sports history has officially drawn to a close.
He spent more than 60 years in sports broadcasting, and 42 of those were spent giving Bulldog fans the play-by-play ups and downs of UGA football.
But when you remember Munson, you only remember the ups.
Other sports broadcasters struggle to maintain objectivity when covering games. Not Munson – and we wouldn’t have had him any other way. He mirrored the game-day passion felt by Bulldog Nation, and articulated it with a turn of phrase like no one else.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Munson was one of the most flattered men in recorded history. Odds are if you are a Bulldogs fan, you have done, or at least tried to do, a Munson impression. And he’s so imitated because he’s so quotable. His gravelly growl in his delivery has chronicled the most memorable plays in UGA football.
When you hear, “Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!” you’re swept back to the epic 92-yard touchdown reception against the University of Florida in 1980. When you hear, “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” you remember the 1982 win over Auburn University that secured the Bulldogs’ sixth trip to the Sugar Bowl.
When you hear, “The stadium is worse than bonkers!” you recall Kevin Butler’s last-second field goal in 1984 that beat Clemson University. It was a 60-yard field goal, but Munson said Butler had to kick it “a hundred-thousand miles,” and when Munson said it, you believed him.
“He’s like a folk hero,” longtime former Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley said in 1994. “He has that special style people love and relate to. I finally claimed him as one of the best after the ’78 season. He just shot straight up.
“But I’d come out of the hotel on Saturday mornings rested after a good night’s sleep, feeling good about the game, and run into Munson, and he’d say, ‘You see how fast their receivers are? How we going to run with them?’ I’d say, ‘Munson, get away from me.’ The man is a worrier. He drove me crazy as a coach.”
And Munson drove fans crazy with his wildly amusing, off-the-cuff remarks. When UGA pulled off a last-second win against the University of Tennessee in 2001, he boomed, “We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!”
He was born in Minneapolis and didn’t even arrive in Athens until he was 43 years old. But Munson couldn’t be more a part of the state of Georgia if he were sculpted out of red clay.
He always will be loved, and always will be missed.