There was no midnight madness this year. Instead, the school went with an event near Heinz Field on homecoming. Emceed by the great Bill Raftery.
I didn’t make it to the event, but I actually saw Raftery in the press area shortly before the GT-Pitt game. I was grabbing another coffee and he was getting something to eat.
Couldn’t bring myself to interrupt him as he was about to eat. He must have come straight from the event and doing interviews with local media. I’ve seen ESPN football announcers around there before. Some former players. Guys who are now NFL scouts. But I’ve never felt particularly star struck before.
Raftery has been the college basketball voice that means the most to me. His enthusiasm for the game. The storytelling. The catchphrases still delivered with energy and perhaps a knowing wink. Actual analysis. Do I still watch Big East games simply because he’s on the call? Yes.
What sets Raftery apart from others like say Vitale or Bill Walton or other ex-players or coaches. He is only talking about the game. He doesn’t get caught up in deifying coaches or players. He will break down the plays — the good and bad — while letting the game flow. He hasn’t become a caricature of himself (Vitale, again). He doesn’t make himself bigger than the game — and never let ESPN or now FS1 do that. He’s still teaching the game, even as he is entertaining.
If I had gone up to him. All I would have wanted to do is gush and really, just say, “Thank you.”