Archive for June, 2020

Remembering Johnny Majors and an Extremely Proper Introduction

June 4, 2020

June 4, 2020

Coach Majors, preparing to take the field,

Johnny Majors passed away yesterday at the age of 85. The good ol’ boy could certainly tote a football and coach a team. May he rest in peace.

Johnny’s departure brought back a memory of a curmudgeonly little move by yours truly.  It was September 15, 1979. That was at the start of my fourth year as the stadium announcer for Boston College football.  The Tennessee Volunteers had come to town to play the Eagles.

Johnny Majors was a big, big deal in those days. And rightly so. In a four-year span, he had coached a moribund Pittsburgh program to a national championship. Then his alma mater, Tennessee, came calling. He decamped to Knoxville in 1977. The Volunteers started to appear on television again.

Sometimes, coach Majors would bring his actor-brother Lee, the Six-Million Dollar Man and husband of Farrah Fawcett, to stand on the sidelines with him.  Broadcasters and reporters kissed his ring and lapped up his every word. Yes, it was Johnny Majors, Johnny Majors, Johnny Majors all day every day in college football.

The game was a nighttime one, televised nationwide. It was hyped and it was huge. This was the start of Johnny Majors’ third season at Tennessee. The Vols were ready to soar. The network – undoubtedly ABC – wanted a dramatic introduction.  And so, and as it turned out for the only time in my 42 years as BC’s stadium voice, I was called on to introduce the starting lineups. On national television.

I had to do something special, something distinctive, for our distinguished guest.  And I did. I used his correct name.

As the visiting team, the Volunteers were introduced first. One by one, they trotted out onto the field. Cued by the ABC guy at my elbow, I introduced each in turn – position, number, name.  Then, out  from under the stands jogged the coach.  Dramatic pause. Nudge from the cue guy.

“And the head coach of the Volunteers…(another dramatic pause)….John…Majors.”

Not “Johnny Majors!” as I’m sure ABC expected and hoped for. Just plain old, Sherm-Feller-style, deliberately underwhelming “John…Majors.”

No big splash. Just a tiny kerplunk. I could almost feel the broadcast booth deflating like Tom Brady’s footballs would, many years later.

I didn’t, or couldn’t, bring myself to do the same for the Boston College coach. “Edward Chlebek” would have sounded weird.  And I didn’t want to tweak Eddie’s nose either. He had troubles enough in his disastrous three seasons as BC’s coach.  In the previous year, BC had gone 0-11. So my final introduction, before the game began, was “And the head coach of the Eagles, Ed Chlebek.

The game was actually a pretty good one. Tennessee was indeed on its way to a bowl year. But BC gave them a tussle. Despite their awful, recent record, the Eagles did have a lot of talent. The final score was an eminently respectable 28-16, a “moral victory” for the home town team.

But that night I had my own little moral victory before the game even began. I got a fiendish little bit of satisfaction out of that sly editorializing that I guess I saw as the p.a. guy’s equivalent of damning with faint praise. And I’ve not told anybody about it. Until now.

And now you know the rest of the story.