This morning, I got numerous texts from friends noting that Billy Packer had died. As one friend shared, “If you’re our age, it’s like the Big Bang – Billy Packer and college hoops were always there, before time.” And that is true. He called every Final Four in my life that I can remember. Billy Packer was a legend in North Carolina where I grew up, having played for Wake Forest before becoming a ubiquitous college basketball color commentator. Love him or hate him (and some people did!) Packer was a key part of the landscape.
I grew up in an NC State household. My dad went to NC State and was followed by my brother. I wasn’t that interested in college basketball until I was 11 and the 1983 NC State “Cardiac Pack” pulled off one of the greatest runs and championship upsets in all of sports history. Even now, watching that final shot and Lorenzo Charles’ thoroughly improbable last-second dunk gives me chills and fills me with emotion (even today, I probably watch it at least three times a year). That’s when I became addicted to college hoops and the sweeping narratives that grip the country every year during March Madness. And, of course, Billy Packer called that game.
In a certain sense, I realize that sports are trivial, but experiencing that championship with my dad was one of the highest points of our time together on this earth and I can’t think of those moments without hearing Billy Packer’s voice (“THEY WON IT!”) RIP Billy Packer.