Ten years ago I was backstage with Wayne Newton after a benefit show in Dallas. NASCAR mogul Bruton Smith asked Wayne “I was wondering if you were going to sing Danke Schoen” – Wayne’s signature song . “I ALWAYS sing Danke Schoen. That’s what my fans want to hear me sing.” That’s why Carolina fans love Woody Durham.
The legendary “Voice of The Tar Heels” retired today. He has been Voice of ____ for 40 years over umpteen football and basketball games. One does not survive in one job for 40 years without darn good survival skills. Woody Durham had darn good survival skills.
Woody was a professional with the discipline and pride that any “pro” must have. His game preparation techniques were (Ben) Hoganesque. He took great pride in his work and he appreciated being Woody Durham – Voice of The Tar Heels. At some point over four decades he simply morphed into WDVoTTH and he will be WDVoTTH until he joins Jim Tatum & Charles Kuralt in The Cemetery of UNC Used-to-be’s.
Wednesday’s ubiquitous UNC Pays Homage To _____ ceremony had the usual “aren’t we simply grand” elements that my oh-so self-indulgent alma mater loves to wallow in. I don’t mean to sound cynical. My alma mater simply takes itself quite seriously and loves nothing more than hearing itself tell itself how wonderful it is. Not a crime.
Woody understood this reality about UNC and UNC fans and stoked that fire for 40 years. Woody sang Danke Schoen because that’s what his fans wanted to hear. Woody singing Danke Schoen was NOT what highly partisan rival fans liked to hear so much. To which I ask one simple question:
WHY in the name of Choo Choo would a bitter rival fan EVER EVER EVER listen to The Tar Heel Sports Network? WHY ?
A Voice of is measured by (1) How much his own fans love him ….. (2) How much rival fans DON’T LOVE him. Woody scores high on both points. Woody was a Homer. Being a Homer is exactly what he was supposed to be. Vin Skully is a homer. Ernie Harwell was a homer. Jack Buck was a homer. Mel Allen was a homer. Voices of are SUPPOSE to be homers. THAT’S WHY THEIR AUDIENCE LOVE’EM!
The other team supposedly has its very own “Voice of ____”. If delusional fans don’t get that, then they are delusional. Woody assumed correctly that his audience was very passionate and very partisan Tar Heel fans. He spoke their language and painted the word picture they wanted to hear.
Among Top Ten Stoopidest “A Board Monkey Saids” is this gem …… “I was so glad to move back to NC so I could hear objective play-by-play of Carolina basketball by Woody ….” YEEEE HA!
… yet to see Tyler commit a foul !!
The word “objective” will never be mentioned in a sentence with “Woody Durham was .…” except maybe by Prince Tassel Loafer – the only human being other than Woody who saw every one of Tyler Hansbrough’s games and has yet to see Tyler commit a foul. Dickie also believes Butch and feels sorry for Marvin. You do that math.
Two things that don’t stay around very long: a jar of salted cashews …. and “Voices of” that are objective.
People who are really good at a particular skill come in two categories. (1) The Naturals who have a God-given talent – a prodigy. They can just “do it”. But can’t really explain how they do it. ….. (2) The Outliers – who practice a skill 10,000 times and understand the nuances that make one very good at something. Woody was more of a #2. He studied his craft ….. and understood his audience.
Most Voices of hang on 2-3 years longer than they should. Someone is assigned to wipe the oatmeal drool off his microphone and his broadcast team covers for him. Woody is not doing that, thankfully. Another year or so and he would enter Voice of purgatory. Leaving as he did today was the way to do it.
Who will replace Woody? Mick Mixson or Woody’s son Wes are the easy short list. As we recently learned with another search, short lists are often too short.
There is a nasty rumor that Butchie Boy prompted Woody’s decision to retire so he (Butchie Boy) could bring in his own stooge, at least for football. I hope that’s not true. But Butchie Boy seems to get what Butchie Boy wants these days…..
NOTE: I have been assured that the above is NOT the case. I believe my assurer.
94% of Voices of have a certain Ted Baxter quality to them. That’s OK too. I’ve done over 150 radio guest gigs. There are LOTS of Ted Baxters out there. ….. and a few Les Nessmans too.
A semi-famous Woody Story: …. leaving with colleagues for a funeral, Woody had to run back to his office. He had forgotten his Sharpie. He knew someone at the funeral would probably want his autograph.
Witlings use this story to ridicule Woody’s Ted Baxter side. I see it differently. As WDVoTTH, he simply knows his loyal fans of Tar Heel Sports. ….. they want to hear Danke Schoen.
Personally I prefer a more provocative “did he really say THAT” style. Larry Munson vs Woody …. but UNC is not a push-the-envelope kinda environment. As noted, Woody had excellent survival skills.
Who, other than Mr Bingham (or Campbell), know where the term “Witlings” appears in local lore?