TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 4, 2016 — Bud Collins, 1929-2016

When you look at the landscape of sports television these days, just about every talking head on a broadcast is one of only two kinds: the fast-talking play-by-play person, and the expert commentator who played the game or participated in the sport. It’s a far cry from the early days of sports radio, when, in 1921, a newspaper reporter was employed to read play-by-play action into a microphone to bring Pittsburgh Pirates games to listeners of KDKA Radio.

But Bud Collins was a rarity: a sportswriter who made his name and fame on television. The former Boston Globe tennis columnist died yesterday at the age of 86. An absolute master of his craft, he saw tennis go from an amateur country-club sport to a swashbuckling, athletic endeavor between larger-than-life characters. Serena Williams was “Sister Serena.” John McEnroe was “L’Enfant Terrible.” Martina Hingis the “Swiss Miss,” and Steffi Graf was “Fraulein Forehand.” They were actors in a mano-a-mano passion play.

For him, the word “Wimbledon” wasn’t enough; he had to use the phrase “emerald greenswaard” or “The Big W” at least once when talking about the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. He used similar language talking about Roland Garros in Paris, the site of the French Open.

While he spent time as a radio and newspaper columnist, he made his most indelible mark on television, when he called a number of Breakfast At Wimbledon finals, including the unforgettable Borg-McEnroe final in 1980 that featured a tiebreaker forever used as filler material during rain delays — even today. His phrases — “NET CORD!” punctuated that match as part of a golden age in sports television.

As it turns out, Collins wasn’t just a newspaper writer who covered the game on TV. He actually played tennis at a fairly high level. In 1961, he won a national championship in indoor mixed doubles, and he also was the tennis coach at Brandeis University for a spell.

Collins not only authored a definitive history of the sport of tennis, he served as a living encyclopedia — something which is increasingly rare in this era of computers and search engines.

But what he was also known for was his attire. He noted the British sensibilities of the Henley regatta, where bold colors and patterns were de rigeur, and incorporated them into his sense of personal style. He even added piping to the bland blazers issued by the networks for whom he worked.

If you’ve had a chance to look through this site’s YouTube channel, there are a number of videos in which your Founder has been clad in something resembling what Bud Collins would have worn — although more in terms of patterned blazers rather than patterned pants.

Bud Collins was part John Madden, part Heywood Hale Broun, part historian, part Damon Runyan, and all original. He’ll be missed.

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