Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bob Lobel: How My Decision Made Room for Jim Nantz 30 Years Ago

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

Last weekend was the Final Four and this weekend is the Masters. 

If your name is Jim Nantz, can it get any better than that? Nantz is  the lead dog and of this seven-day stretch, and he shines. I'm not saying he is there because I am not. I am saying that I have this story to tell and, since I've never really told it before, I think I should now.

This was about 30 years ago, or so, give or take a few months, when Brent Musburger left CBS to do freelancing. He was doing a Saturday afternoon college football scoreboard and CBS had a hole to fill. 

They asked me to fill it. It is a tremendous honor to have that on a resume. Recruited by a network to fill a hole vacated by a legend. I have always wondered, as would anybody, what life would be like if I had said “yes.” 

Maybe by saying “no thanks” after nearly three months of negotiation, I was the “hole.”  The CBS sports guy was Peter Lund. In the small world we live in, Peter's son Mark Lund is now the President and General Manager of WBZ TV here in Boston. 

When I passed on that opportunity, the window or opportunity was opened for Jim Nantz. This is a true statement, but you may not believe that thirty years later, right in the middle of the Final Four and Masters, and I think CBS absolutely did the right thing. 

With the exception of the Final Four and the Masters, I did the right thing. You can rewrite life and become an “outlander,” or you can rationalize through it all, which is the path I took.

Reasons: CBS was offering a one-year contract, WBZ was offering five years. CBS money was very far below WBZ’s, but we all know “its not about the money.” The determining factor was that I had two young kids in Goffstown, NH and my wife at the time, in our then-tumultuous marriage, observed that if I went to New York, the marriage would never last. 

So I didn’t go and we were divorced within a year anyway.

Jim Nantz is smooth, smart, articulate and knows his stuff. He was a perfect network guy because of the vanilla factor. Perfectly in the middle of the road. This in no way is a  critique. He is perfect for them. 

I might have been out of there in a year. I think I'm a lot of what Nantz is not. Too opinionated and not shy about saying it. Just  not what the networks have wanted for their lead dog.  

So this is the week! 

Both events are always close on the calendar, but this year it all  goes down within seven days. Also, I want to add that by not going to New York and CBS, my life has been full of sports excitement and pain as only Boston can bring.

So did I do the right thing? Did I not go because I was afraid of failing? Was it the money and length of contract that determined the outcome in 1985? Questions I always have asked, especially this time of year.  

NCAA and the Masters, seven days of sports nirvana. Thanks but no thanks. Ho hum. Know anybody I can buy a ticket from?


JP said...

Bob, you made the right call at the time, given the situations at work and home. But then I'm selfish and it meant that I got to work with you for much longer. The net suits would've driven you nuts anyway.

Anonymous said...

How do we get players like that??

Anonymous said...

Great story. Never knew that

Timothy Egan said...

Glad you stayed in town. You created a passion for those in Boston, enough to use the word "we" when referring to the teams. Your sharp wit kept the athletes on their toes. And you always supported a charity, cause or community event. All this praise from a Jersey kid who's a Yankee-Giant--Knicks-Ranger fan no less.

Anonymous said...

In Boston back in the day, if you were interested in sports you watched Bob Lobel on BZ. End of story. If you are interested in NCAA or the Masters, you watch whoever happens to have the national mic.
You had a situation that optimistically could lead to widespread exposure or to being a legend to "only" a few million.

Bob Lobel is Legend.