Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
It took more than a quarter century, but Verne Lundquist finally has a new answer when someone asks him to rank his favorite events in a long career calling sports, including several iconic moments.
"For 27 years, having experienced [Jack] Nicklaus winning at Augusta in '86, I have been consistent and I've always said that that was the single greatest sporting event I've ever seen," the CBS play-by-play man said yesterday, not quite 48 hours after conveying Auburn's last-second upset of Alabama to a stunned nation.
"This one is right up there equal to it. And that takes into consideration a lot of different events that I've been lucky enough to be a part of. From start to finish, especially the finish, this was an extraordinary afternoon and evening."
Lundquist, 73, said that in the immediate aftermath of Auburn's 34-28 victory on Chris Davis' 109-yard return of a missed field goal, he fielded a couple of calls in which he was asked to re-rank his favorites.
"I'm a stubborn old goat, so I said, 'It ties for No. 2 with [Christian] Laettner's shot [for Duke over Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament], but behind Jack,' " he said.
Fortunately I found him after he had had time to reconsider.
"Then the more I thought about it, from start to finish, this one was really something else," he said.
CBS' coverage enhanced the experience, an effort headed by producer Craig Silver and director Steve Milton that provided every important angle during and after the initial call from Lundquist and analyst Gary Danielson, who correctly noted during a replay that Alabama's coverage was compromised by the fact that it had so many "fat guys" on the field.
"I'm really proud of it," said Lundquist, who added, "it's an old cliche but it's a collaborative effort. We had 75 people working their tails off to make sure we put the best product we could on the air.
"We are all riding a high from just the experience of having been a part of the game."
Earlier in his career, Lundquist made it a habit to tape radio and TV broadcasts to self-critique, but experience has given him a good idea of how well or poorly he has done without having to re-watch a game.
This time he will make an exception and pop in the DVD when he gets home to Colorado later this month.
"I want to watch it from start to finish, even though I know what happens at the end," he said.
Lundquist, who is staying in Atlanta this week in advance of the SEC Championship Game, said it has been "kind of an incredible experience" to observe the impact the game has had over the past two days.
Lundquist said he and Silver sat between two groups of four men at breakfast Monday who did not seem to know who he was. Each table spent the entire meal talking about Saturday's game.
In addition to Laettner's shot and Nicklaus' birdie at the 17th in '86, Lundquist's long list of big moments includes Tiger Woods' chip-in at the 16th at the 2005 Masters and even Auburn's wild win over Georgia a mere two weeks ago.
Lundquist said that after Saturday's game, Danielson wrote him a note that read: "So you go from Nicklaus at the Masters to the greatest college basketball game ever played to what ultimately might be regarded as the greatest college football game ever played. What's next?"
Lundquist has no idea, of course, but he said Saturday was "exactly the kind of unexpected event that keeps me saying I want to do this a little bit longer."
This one will be difficult to match.
"I've been at CBS now since '82, so 31 years," he said, "and to have something extraordinary like this happen so late in my career is unbelievable to me."