by Wyatt Vaughn, Senior, Holy Cross
At this week’s installment of the the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club meeting, there was another great lineup of speakers that included the voice of the LSU Tigers Chris Blair. Blair is one of the only broadcasters left in the country that calls multiple sports (football, baseball, and basketball). The only others in the SEC are Rod Bramlet, at Auburn, and Dave Kellerman, at Ole Miss. Luncheon attendees grilled Blair about his lookout on the 2018 Tiger football team, and he emphasized his confidence in this squad saying their 3-0 season start was no surprise to him. He also went as far as to say that their defense, which is a top tier unit, is underrated in his eyes.
After the luncheon I sat down with Mr. Blair for a quick interview about life as a sportscaster who worked his way up from high school sports, to Georgia Southern, and now, to the SEC. He pondered his answer before saying that he was actually a temporary replacement of sorts for a high school caster who had recently had surgery. To his surprise, Blair got a mysterious envelope in the mail with a $200.00 check included a few weeks later. After calling around and finding out the money was from the games he did, he was surprised that people could just commentate over football games and receive money for it. From that point, he was sold on the career adding, “you also get a great seat, usually have free food; that’s a pretty good deal.” He stayed with that company for a few years until he received a great offer from the Clemson radio network as a producer. He said that his most valuable work came from the work he did at Clemson. Even though he wasn’t on air, just watching and producing gave him the initial tools and work ethic to earn his chops. “Everything Jim Phillips did from walking in to the studio to walking out, I watched.” To this day, he follows that exact script when doing his own games.
After obtaining a degree in government, broadcasting wasn’t his plan all along, it just kind of came to him as he went. It took getting injured, playing high school baseball, for Blair to accept an invitation to the press box listening to the casters, helping with stats, and studying the process. As a Kentucky native, it was easy for him to pick up basketball as an interest. He often talked about his idol growing up, Cawood Ledford, former Kentucky football and basketball play-by-play announcer. He said that his father didn’t like to watch the games on TV, so they often just listened to the radio and stumbled upon Mr. Ledford. He said that Cawood, along with other announcers from other schools, really influenced him on believing that his job is the coolest job in the world.
Years later, he still gets nervous about his job, saying that he still gets butterflies when he walks into Tiger Stadium. He noted that his way of getting rid of those nerves is to pretend like he is talking to one person, like a normal conversation. When I asked him what his reaction to when he got the job as the LSU announcer, he simply said, “it was exciting, it was unbelievable, [I was] dumbfounded, if you want one word it was dumbfounded.” At first, he said he actually thought it was LSU calling him to say, thank you for applying, good luck but we are going in a different direction. He was in his office at Georgia Southern when he got the call from LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva. He actually didn’t even know that the LSU spot would be open until a friend of his told him, telling him he needed to apply for the job. After sending off his broadcast tape to the university he was invited to come and stay in Baton Rouge for two days. When he was there he recalled that he had been driving, watching a beautiful sunset that looked, “almost purple and gold”. He immediately called his wife saying, “if they offer it to me in the next two days I’m accepting.” And sure enough, about 3 days after coming home to Georgia he got the call that he would be the play-by-play announcer of the LSU Tigers.
When I asked him about his favorite sport to call, out of the three he is responsible for throughout the year, he said, “if you ask me now, its football, if you ask me in January, it basketball, if you ask me in April, it’s Baseball.” He said he doesn’t have a favorite as he loves all of them, (just seasonally), despite basketball being the hardest to call, as it is so fast paced. Noting that he really tries to make sure the listener has a clear point of view on which team, and player has the ball and what they are doing at a rapid pace. When I asked him about if he gets overwhelmed when the seasons overlap, he simply put it, “it’s not a grind, you got the best seat in the house, watching some great athletes, I love it.” After interviewing him it was very clear that he truly does love his job.
Other news from the luncheon:
Chevron Scholar Athletes of the Week:
Zachary Smith, Archbishop Rummel High School
- Cumulative GPA: 4.86
- 32 ACT Score
- Student Council President
- Football Captain
- Cheerleading Captain
- Member of Campus Ministry
- Volunteers for Hams and Fams and Krewe of Okeanos
- Awarded the Lasallian faith, community and service award from Archbishop Rummel
- Wants to attend Baylor University or Johns Hopkins University
Savannah Helter, Mandeville High School
- Cumulative GPA: 4.62
- 33 ACT Score
- Senior Captain of the softball team
- National Honor Society Member
- Mu Alpha Theta Member
- Student Council Vice President
- FCA Member
- Leadership Award from the Free and Accepted Masons
- 4.0 Academic Achievement award
- Wants to attend LSU and study chemical engineering