Lunquist and Raftery: TV’s sunshine boys
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
CBS’ Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, calling East region games Thursday and Saturday at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament from Washington, D.C., are TV sports’ sunshine boys.
As you listen to them on the tournament coverage, you can almost imagine them telling each other during commercial breaks, “You complete me.”
Although they might use a different phrase.
What still comes across the screen is that Lundquist, 72, and Raftery, 69, connect with viewers — even much younger ones. Their games often include shots of fans in the stands wearing paper masks picturing the announcers.
“You’re being very tender here. Are you trying to call me old without saying it?” Raftery says. “I do enjoy the kids, the fans, the support system they give their teams and us. It sort of carries you.”
Lundquist says their chemistry was obvious right from the start when they worked two college games together in 1982.
“The CBS guys in New York said we were ‘great’ together, that we’d be assigned to work together again soon,” Lundquist tells USA TODAY Sports.
Well, here’s today’s lesson on how things work in the TV sports biz.
They worked together again, says Lundquist, chuckling. “But it took 17 years.”
So they worked apart, then Lundquist was at Turner Sports for three years after CBS lost the NFL in the 1990s.
CBS Sports head Sean McManus finally put them together on the 2000 NCAA tournament — and they have been teamed since.
They aren’t the longest-running announcer pair on CBS/Turner NCAA coverage – Ian Eagle, who used to call New Jersey Nets games with Raftery, and Jim Spanarkel have been paired at the tournament since 1998.
But individually, Lundquist and Raftery have worked the most tournaments of any of the current announcers. This is Raftery’s 31st tournament assignment; junior partner Lundquist is on No. 29. (Lead CBS NCAA announcer Jim Nantz is on No. 28.)
Lundquist says he doesn’t want to be “self-aggrandizing or anything, but yes, there’s a generation or two of fans that have come along since we started. But viewers see we interact with the children — holy (expletive) I didn’t mean to … [For more on Verne Lunquist and Bill Raftery: TV's sunshine boys, click here.]