Brent Musburger announcing his upcoming departure from play-by-play broadcasting Wednesday sparked plenty of tributes, but one of the best came on ESPN’s Outside The Lines. In a five-minute segment, Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap discussed Musburger’s memorable career, some of the many events he called, his second act at ESPN, his penchant for gambling references, some of his best lines and more:
There’s a lot of great stuff in there, especially when it comes to the discussion of Musburger’s role on CBS’ The NFL Today and the talk about his segments with Jimmy The Greek and what that meant for sports gambling. Here’s a key story Ley tells around 2:30 about a John Walsh-organized small dinner in Connecticut with Musburger around the release of the 30 for 30 on Jimmy The Greek:
“There was a 30 for 30 movie about Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, and if you don’t remember Jimmy The Greek, he was the prognosticator, the guy with the Vegas ties, who would make the predictions on the CBS show. So there we were, a very small group having dinner; Phyllis George, Brent Musburger, John, myself, and a few other people, and at one point, I think it was about the second bottle of chardonnay, I leaned over to Brent and I said, ‘You know, Brent, there’s a whole cottage industry of people who love to listen to your oh-so-slight gambling references,’ and he says ‘Bobby, I know!’
That’s a terrific story, and it helps illustrate how very aware Musburger always was of the reaction to his comments. As Schaap notes, Musburger and Al Michaels did a lot to further the acceptance of gambling, and of discussing gambling. It’s thoroughly appropriate that Musburger is reportedly leaving to be the face of a gambling-focused radio show from Vegas; that seems like an excellent fit for him. Musburger will be remembered for many other great things as well, of course, including his work as a studio host across sports, his play-by-play ability and memorable calls, and his skill at quick quips, but the subtle gambling references have long been a widespread subject of discussion, and it’s fascinating that Musburger was so aware of how much attention they drew.