Mississippi State’s beloved uncle will be missed

Published 11:15 am Thursday, September 11, 2014

One of the great things about sports is the way it binds generations together. A father roots for a team, and passes that passion on to his son, who passes it to his son.

Each time the process is repeated, it’s the uncle in the broadcast booth who speeds it along. The family has never met him, but they instinctually know his voice.

This week, Mississippi State lost its favorite uncle when longtime broadcaster Jack Cristil passed away at the age of 88. Cristil had been absent from the airwaves since retiring in 2011, but no one will forget him any time soon.

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Cristil called 636 Mississippi State football games and more than 1,500 basketball games in 58 years with the school. Children who listened to him call his first game on a vaccuum tube radio in 1953 could’ve sat with their grandchildren and heard him call his finale in 2011 by streaming the broadcast on an iPhone.

Cristil was there during the best and worst — often the worst — of Bulldog seasons and never flinched in his honesty.

A favorite story making the rounds this week is when he was wrapping up a blowout loss by introducing the “Sonic Drive of the Game” and then, since State had been shut out, saying “… is my drive home.”

Cristil’s longevity and wit weren’t the only reasons he’s fondly remembered by fans, but they are his greatest legacy.

In Cristil, long-suffering Mississippi State fans had a friend who shared their pain and their all-too-rare joy. Cristil was there on long Saturday afternoon car trips to grandma’s house, at the hunting camp on a chilly November Saturday afternoon, or right alongside us working in the yard on a sweltering late summer day.

He was there when dad met mom in the stands of Davis-Wade Stadium — and again on the wedding day, when dad sneaked away to the car during the reception to check the score.

Like all great announcers, Cristil provided a soundtrack for our lives that could never be duplicated or replaced, just like him.

Jack Cristil was Mississippi State’s favorite uncle. Wrap him, and an excellent life, up in maroon and white.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, Ext. 145, or by email at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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