31 Flavors of Football: Jack Cristil

To help you and me get through the drudgery of August, I will present in this space a daily scoop of MSU football-ness, as inspired by a certain ice cream chain. August has 31 days, so I’ll let you work it out from there. Here is today’s flavor.


I remember as a child riding in the car with my dad one fall Saturday in Jackson, and he was trying to find the Mississippi State game on the radio. He finally did, and then remarked how much he enjoyed listening to Jack Cristil call a game. That rich, textured baritone and smooth delivery were one of many elements that made days like that one so memorable for me growing up.

Cristil, as you know, called MSU football games for 58 years, retiring in February of 2011 because of health concerns. He’s one of the last of his kind: The voice of a football program, for years the main conduit of information for fans on game days before technology rendered radio a secondary medium.

Cristil is a delightfully colorful character. I’ve heard many a story about him, like when he upbraided an official during a basketball game and then slipped right back into radio mode when the commercial break ended. He was a guy who certainly rooted for MSU, but his allegiance did not interfere with his ability to tell listeners exactly what was happening. He didn’t sugarcoat anything, and he didn’t let his emotions cloud his objective eye.

Cristil talks in real life just like he does on the radio, except that he’s perhaps a bit more animated in a one-on-one conversation or interview. He not only loves to talk, he’s very eloquent. I could talk with him for hours about anything.

He’s had a stretch of Highway 82 named after him in Starkville. His name is on the ring of honor at Davis Wade Stadium. He’s been honored in numerous other ways

If you really want to get to know the man, short of speaking with him, you need to pick up a copy of Sid Salter‘s biography of Cristil. It does a good job of tracing Cristil’s family history as well as his upbringing and what influenced him in both his life and career. It’ll give you a much better picture of the voice you’ve heard on the radio.

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