I’m going to use a baseball analogy to illustrate a matter in the world of football broadcasting: you don’t throw 90 forever.
And when it came to broadcasting Washington Redskins games on the radio, Sam Huff arguably never did. Not one to speak in elegant, understated tones, the Hall of Fame linebacker from the University of West Virginia broadcast games like … well, like he was still playing linebacker.
In 2013, Huff won’t be broadcasting Redskins games. Yes, his exit was somewhat forced and not graceful, but let’s be honest: little Huff did ever was.
Still, for nearly three decades, Huff’s “a-little-rough-around-the-edges,” style was the perfect yin to the yang of Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and legendary play-by-play man Frank Herzog.
And who among us can’t remember the often humorous back and forth between Jurgensen and Huff? Sunny might poke fun at Sam’s intelligence, or lack thereof, and Sam would often reply with something indicating Jurgensen might have a point. Yes, it wasn’t broadcasting excellence. Sure, a fan from an opposing team would not have found them impartial.
But it didn’t matter.
It was Sonny and Sam, former Golden Boy quarterback and the punishing linebacker; Redskins legends, transcendent personalities, connections to a simpler time. Plus, if things got a little out-of-kilter, as they sometimes did with the former drinking buddies, the dulcet tones of Herzog was always there to put things back in line.
What Redskins fan wouldn’t get nostalgic hearing “Didier in motion to the near side, as the Redskins move right to left on your radio dial,” or “Riggins the lone setback with second down and log four with Monk in the slot, and Brown out wide on the far side”?
Of course, Herzog was unceremoniously replaced with the not-nearly-as-beloved Larry Michael in 2004. Jurgensen and Hough remained, but the chemistry in the booth has never been the same.
While both Huff and Jurgensen are 78, Father Time has been kinder to Jurgensen. Still quick on his feet and still connected to the game, Jurgensen remains strong in the booth, and will be part of the Redskins radio broadcast in 2013.
Huff, on the other hand has struggled to adapt to some of the modern nuances of rules such as intentional grounding, or in the grasp. And if he ever found himself out of sorts, he would resort to the typical, unoriginal “defense wins championships,” type diatribes.
For the longest time, Huff’s weaknesses were protected and if anything, parlayed positively by the incomparable Herzog. Unfortunately, company mouthpiece Michael and Huff have never jelled, with Michael often seemingly unsure of how to react to the loose cannon that can be Sam Huff.
Thus, Huff became expendable.
While some fans will remember the Huff of recent vintage, my enduring memory will be different. As someone who grew up with the great 1980s teams, I will remember Huff as part of a legendary broadcast team from a Golden Age. Sure, he wasn’t the broadcast, but he was a significant and irreplaceable part of those teams.
Just as the Redskins of that age would have unimaginable without Joe Gibbs, Darrell Green, Art Monk or John Riggins, so too would those Sundays listening to the radio be unimaginable without Sonny, Sam, and Frank.
So, you’ll hear plenty of “Samisms” over the next few days. We’ll hear clips of him mispronouncing names, and not knowing rules. And I’ll be the first to laugh right along as Jurgensen follows up with a snide comment about West Virginia or the IQ of linebackers.
But sadness will be more prevalent.
Simply put, Huff was not only one of the great players in Redskins history, but an inseparable part of a Golden Age — a Golden Age that just became a little more distant.