I have NEVER experienced a Final Four that did NOT include Billy Packer.
That is pretty phenomenal when you think about it. I've heard countless broadcasts teams take on the 20+ Superbowls I have witnessed. Between BCS games and the days when different bowls determined the college football National Championship, who knows how many different broadcasters were involved. The World Series? The NBA Finals? The Olympics? Again, more different faces and voices than I could ever hope to remember.
But not Final Fours. Final Fours are easy to recount - because Billy Packer has been involved in every single one of them during my lifetime. I don't care whether you love him, hate him, or could care less about him - he IS the voice of the Final Four. That, alone, demands an incredible level of respect. Perhaps the admiration is optional, but the respect certainly is not.
So, as the weeks until March slowly disappear, it will be a weird feeling. Sure I am very comfortable with Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg - though it will be very different to have Clark on the sidelines instead of in the studio. He has energy, he has enthusiam, he has experience and he has insight. But we still can't be sure what we are getting from him, and we won't know until late March. That's a strange feeling - and a very foreign one for college basketball fans in my demographic.
More than anything, Billy Packer was comfortable. He was the old chair that you knew you could replace, but that you kept because you knew - if nothing else - you would always be able to sit in it comfortably. There was very little risk involved, and you were OK with it. It was like choosing to approach the girl who is a 7 out of 10 instead of a 9. Who wouldn't want a 9...but it was easier to work up the nerve to face off with a 7. And there was no shame - no shame at all - in spending your time with that 7.
Maybe this Selection Sunday will feature more pleasant banter than the last few. Perhaps the color commentary on the tournament games won't be so rigid and critical. Heck, we might even get the feeling that the broadcast team is ENJOYING the Final Four this year, after many recent years where it wasn't that obvious. But don't be surprised if - at several points during the 2009 Final Four - you don't start to miss that old chair at least a little bit.