A Few Thoughts on Jack Cristil
Mississippi State and its fans lost a true legend Sunday night when Jack Cristil passed away in Tupelo at the age of 88. Very few people have had the remarkable career that he had in broadcasting, but a countless many fans had their sporting lives impacted by his words from the broadcast booth at Mississippi State games.
Cristil's list of accomplishments ranks among the best in the business. He picked up the Southeastern Conference Broadcaster of the Year Award in 1988. On 21 occasions, Cristil snagged the Mississippi Broadcaster of the Year Award, and if that award has not been changed to the Jack Cristil Mississippi Broadcaster of the Year Award, it should be. Cristil became a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
In 1997, Cristil picked up the Chris Schenkel Award, an award given by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame to a sports broadcaster who has ad a long and distinguished career broadcasting college football. What's interesting about this award is that it recognizes broadcasters with direct ties to colleges and universities, not just national broadcasters. Needless to say, few were more tied to their university than Jack Cristil.
He was also awarded the Ronald Reagan Lifetime Achievement Award, something that proves interesting given the 40th president's former role as an actor and broadcaster.
However, all of those awards did nothing to make Jack Cristil the person he was, and they sure do not tell the story of what he meant to Mississippi State fans. You see, Cristil was the voice of Mississippi State, both the good and the bad. One of my favorite stories is a friend of mine whose dad would turn on the tape of Mississippi State defeating Alabama in 1980 for rides home from Starkville after a loss. It just so happened that the game and the drive time were about equal, so listening to Cristil call that game eased the pain of a Bulldog loss. I have no doubt that many have other such stories, and undoubtedly, many more stories will emerge in the coming days.
Jack Cristil also meant so much to Mississippi State because of his commitment to Mississippi State. He called football at Mississippi State for 58 seasons, or 636 games, both of which are mindboggling numbers. Don't forget, calling Mississippi State football was not so easy then. The Bulldogs often played in Jackson or some other locale to which the athletic administration had sold a home game. In all that time, he never left Mississippi State. He stayed with the school in Starkville. Most people never work 58 years, let alone doing so for one employer. Because of that, Cristil became the steady voice of Mississippi State athletics.
That voice would always take the professional attitude towards everything. If Mississippi State played well, you knew it. If the Bulldogs played poorly, you knew it as well. There is something about calling a game that way that endears you to a fan base. We would sit at home pissed off about a bad call or a poor performance, and you could tell it was pissing Cristil off also. Now, he would be calmer about it than one of us listening on the radio, but you knew he had your back on it. When Mississippi State did something good, Cristil celebrated. He kept it muted enough to not seem like an over the top homer, but you knew he was celebrating with you.
My Jack Cristil moment came in the car in 2002. I had gone on a spring break trip to Florida to watch spring training baseball. As we headed home on Sunday, I remember listening to Cristil call the 2002 SEC Tournament championship game against Alabama as we traveled across the panhandle of Florida. Thanks, Jack, for making that drive much more bearable.
Mississippi State fans had no idea that the Gator Bowl would be Cristil's farewell to the gridiron, and his health sadly kept him from finishing out his farewell basketball season. All Mississippi State fans can say is thanks for the memories.
Mississippi State vs. UAB: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good: Once Dak Prescott got into a rhythm, he looked sharp. The first touchdown drive was beautiful, and the game-by-game improvement of De'Runnya Wilson is a joy to watch. Joe Morrow became a bit involved in the passing game, picking up a touchdown. Other than a few bad drops, the receiver corps of this team looks great. Also looking great was the running attack. Both Prescott and Josh Robinson went over 100 yards rushing, and that does not happen without some hard running and good play from the offensive line.
What was even better than that? Preston Smith doing amazing things and scoring a touchdown.
The Bad: The injury bug hit the Bulldogs a bit in the game. We are all still waiting to hear about Kendrick Market and Justin Cox. Let's hope neither injury was very severe.
The Ugly: It's never a good thing when the ugly comes in multiple parts, but that happened in the UAB game. First of all, the kicking game has reached critical mass. Something has to happen because at this point, how can Dan Mullen trust either kicker to go out to kick a field goal of any length or importance? If there has ever been a reason for open tryouts, this is it. A second ugly thing has been the quarterback rotation. The offense looked completely unhinged for much of the first half. This simply needs to stop happening in the future. Finally, the susceptibility to the deep ball Saturday was ugly and scary. Let's hope that problem gets fixed soon.
In what might be called the all-homer awards, I'm picking two Bulldogs to claim hardware from the SEC offices.
Offensive Player of the Week: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: The Bulldog's junior quarterback tossed four touchdowns for 211 yards and went over the century mark on the ground and scored another touchdown. However, this award will probably go to Maty Mauk or Amari Cooper, and both would be deserving.
Defensive Player of the Week: Preston Smith, DL, Mississippi State: If you can find a more eloquent "fat guy" touchdown, I want to see it. Smith currently leads the SEC in interceptions, and his interception and touchdown return may be the best you see this year. If he isn't the defensive player of the week, he should at least pick up defensive lineman of the week honors again.
Tennessee 34, Arkansas State 19: The Volunteers picked up a win against a team that has proven to be a pesky opponent to others in the past. Could the Vols finally get to a bowl this year?
No. 2 Alabama 41, FAU 0: If only sports books did not cancel terminated games, this would have been the ultimate "take the points" moment. Alabama did as expected and crushed the Owls before weather ended the onslaught.
No. 24 Missouri 49, Toledo 24: How Missouri was less than a touchdown favorite in this game makes me wonder how casinos look so nice. Sleep on Maty Mauk and the Tigers at your own risk.
Kentucky 20, Ohio 3: How bad are the Bobcats? Kentucky took care of them easily.
Florida 65, E. Michigan 0: All eyes were on the Gators' offense coming into this game, and it did not disappoint. The reatl test will be to see how well it holds up in a few weeks against the SEC.
Arkansas 73, Nicholls State 7: The Harvard on the Bayou could not make the magic happen in Fayetteville as Bert Bileima picked up his signature win with the Hogs.
No. 15 Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3: Just how awesome is James Franklin? Vanderbilt looks headed back to its days of cellar-dwelling with just six points in two games.
No. 21 South Carolina 33, East Carolina 23: The Gamecocks struggled a bit early, but at the end of the day, they took care of the Fighting Vince McMahons. However, one has to wonder just how good South Carolina will really be this year.
No. 5 Auburn 59, San Jose State 13: Credit the Spartans for making it close early, but Auburn was just too good to let this game be a threat.
No. 12 LSU 56, Sam Houston State 0: The Bearkats looked ready on their first drive of the game, but a flea flicker gone awry sent the whole night in to a downward spiral for the FCS powerhouse.
No. 9 Texas A&M 73, Lamar 3: Yeesh!
Let's never schedule another weekend quite like this one. Thanks!
SEC Power Poll: I've never done this, but there was no change in the rankings. No one played a significant enough of a team to warrant a jump up, and no one almost lost to warrant a tumble in the rankings.
5. Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State
8. Ole Miss
9. South Carolina
Five Random Sports Thoughts:
1. We've talked about how dominant the SEC was at the end of the BCS Era. Tennis saw the same sort of dominance end this weekend when Marin Cilic defeated Roger Federer in the second semifinal of the US Open Saturday. The final, which also features the first Asian-born player to reach a grand slam final, Kei Nishikori, will be the first without Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic since the 2005 Australian Open. That is a streak of 38 tournaments, and that is one insanely impressive streak.
2. Speaking of insane, how crazy was it to see Pat Haden get into it with officials on the USC sideline? For a guy who is as smart as he is, he should have known to stay away from that situation. Things just keep staying strange for the Trojans.
3. It was great having the NFL back this weekend. I've always thought it was a bit foolish to try to call either college or NFL football better than the other. They are completely different things, even though the rules are more alike than different. We are just lucky to have both around.
4. Mississippi State football players had a great weekend. Anthony Dixon had a 47-yard run, and Fletcher Cox scored a touchdown.
5. I really cannot wait to hear how the selection committee ranks the top-four teams early on. This is something has not been talked about much as of yet, but it will be interesting to see whom they pick. My guess, in no way does a Big Ten team get much, if any, consideration after this weekend.