Amidst the hoopla and the roaring crowds for the men's NCAA basketball tournament, nearly unnoticed by most of the folks gathered to cheer for their favorite teams, was the death of an icon of the sport of basketball. "Hot Rod" Hundley, most recently known for being the play by play announcer for the Utah Jazz for 35 years, died Friday at the age of 80.
Legendary, every Jazz fan remembers the "leapin' leaners" and the "frozen ropes" and the "yo yo'in at the top of the key"--descriptive lingo coined by the one and only Hundley. His husky, Texas-accented voice brought the games to life for thousands of fans. Who could ever forget "another gray hair on the head of Jerry Sloan" or "You gotta love it, baby"?
He lived and died with fortunes of the team he worked for, his voice edged in emotion when they lost to MJ and the Chicago Bulls in two consecutive NBA finals, and his voice tingling with elation and excitement whenever the Jazz won a big game.
No Jazz fan will ever forget the simulcasts, before the Jazz got financially well-off enough to pay both a radio broadcaster and a television crew. Hot Rod handled both jobs efficiently and with aplomb.
As a broadcaster, he was missed when he hung it up. As a Utah Jazz icon, he will be missed by all who knew him. Guys like that, who really care, don't just fall from the sky. Folks like that, who live with passion, are the kind who make the world better, even if it's helping someone to enjoy a sport just a little bit more. They are filled with life and when they're gone, people notice. Good-bye, Hot Rod. You made my life just a little bit better by your exuberance.