Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oh, My! Five Years Already?

When I was a child in Arkansas, I did as most people in Arkansas did on Saturdays in the fall. I listened to Arkansas Razorback football games on the radio.

When I began to follow Razorback football, the fellow who provided the radio play–by–play was a man named Claude Campbell — but he went by the nickname "Bud." In fact, I don't think I ever heard him called by his given name until I read it in his obituary.

I don't know how long he was the Voice of the Razorbacks — maybe 10 years or so — but Bud Campbell was an Arkansas institution, and I remember hearing one October morning — on the radio, appropriately — that he had died in an automobile accident the night before, two weeks before his 51st birthday.

I was shocked. Bud Campbell was only a voice to me. I never met the man. But, through that voice, he had become a friend of mine, just as he had become a friend to the hundreds of thousands who listened to him every week. The Voice of the Razorbacks had been silenced. Who would pick up the torch?

That was many years ago, and I don't remember now how Campbell's role in Razorback radio was filled immediately. I guess it was a collaborative effort. Everyone knew it would be difficult to fill Bud Campbell's shoes.

In the years ahead, though, a new Voice of the Razorbacks emerged, one that would be around for decades.

His name was Paul Eells, and he replaced Campbell — even surpassed him — in the hearts and minds of Razorback fans — in many ways. He took over the role of radio announcer for Arkansas games, and he served as sports director for the same TV station (KATV in Little Rock) where Campbell worked as a sportscaster.

By the time I left Arkansas, Eells was well established with Razorback fans. Since Eells came along, generations have been born who have no memory of Bud Campbell.

I find that remarkable — but not surprising. In fact, it is to be expected, isn't it? The passage of time.

Eells was one of those radio announcers who became known for his signature phrases — sort of like Harry Caray's "Holy cow!"

They were pretty basic — "Oh, my!" and "Touchdown, Arkansas!" — but, delivered in his distinctive voice, they had a unique quality to them.

Eells' voice was made for radio, I heard more than one person say. And, in hindsight, I would have to agree. Campbell's voice was my original standard for radio play–by–play because it was the one I knew first, but it didn't take long for me to accept Eells' voice.

Five years ago today, Eells died. For those who remembered Campbell's death in the mid–1970s, there were some obvious similarities.

Eells also perished in an automobile accident — about eight weeks before his birthday.

I never heard the causes of the accidents, but I did hear talk.

Campbell, folks said, had a problem with alcohol and may have lost control of his vehicle after a bender. I don't remember if any other vehicles were involved.

I had been away from Arkansas for many years when Eells died, but I still heard talk (albeit remotely). Eells was about 70. Could have had a heart attack or a stroke while he was operating his vehicle.

Unfortunately, Eells' vehicle did collide with another, and the driver of that vehicle died as well. I believe the occupant of the other vehicle was in his 30s.

Well, that was five years ago. I don't know who does the Arkansas play–by–play these days.

Whoever it is, he's got some big shoes to fill.

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