I first saw word of Bud Collins leaving NBC late Sunday night/early Monday morning when Michael Hiestand’s article came out in USA Today, buried down deep. Then the tennis beat reporters at Wimbledon found out. Charles Bricker of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel posted it on his Wimbledon blog and later filed a story. Neil Best followed with his reaction in his Newsday blog. Then Palm Beach Post tennis beat reporter Charles Elmore had three versions of his story on Bud, the last being updated at 6:36 p.m. ET.
Bud’s own paper, the Boston Globe chose to run wire copy on its website. I’m hoping someone at the Globe will write a much better story than that for Tuesday’s editions. We’re talking one of the ambassadors of the game here.
Before tennis had a big explosion in the 1970′s into the early 1980′s, Bud was one of the few American writers who would regularly cover tournaments. He would go to Wimbledon, the French Open, go to the Italian Open, do play-by-play of tennis tournaments on PBS during the summer, especially from the Longwood Cricket Club outside Boston. Bud’s expertise got him hired by not only PBS, but NBC and CBS. For a while, he did color on NBC with Jim Simpson doing the play-by-play, was the lead announcer on CBS for the U.S. Open and also did play-by-play for PBS with Donald Dell as his color man. And through it all, he filed his stories for the Boston Globe.
Yes, his signatures on his broadcasts were his loud pants and the nicknames. Steffi Graf was “Fraulein Forehand”. John McEnroe was “John Patrick McEnroe” during big points. Wimbledon became “The Big W”. When Boris Becker got up after diving for a point and celebrated, Bud called it “the Becker Boogie.” Sure it was corny, but you accepted it from Bud. And whenever there was a big tournament, you knew Bud would be there.
His writing was as colorful as his television commentary. And because he had been to so many locations, the Globe used him in its Travel section. Why not? Bud has practically been everywhere.
But when NBC decided to hire John McEnroe for analysis, Bud’s role on tennis telecasts got smaller and smaller. First, it was third man in the booth. McEnroe was so good, that there was no need to have Bud there. And then Mary Carillo soon filled that third person in the booth role. So Bud would offer taped reports and would be on the sidelines for interviews. But now, NBC is moving away from features and the post match interviews are conducted by the host broadcasters that Bud is practically being shoved out the door. NBC is planning on a tribute to Collins at the end of its Wimbledon broadcast on Sunday. Two minutes simply cannot do justice, but Jimmy Roberts and the NBC staff will try. It just won’t be enough.
If you read Bud’s Wimbledon diary on his website, you’ll see that he’s lost nothing off his fastball. And during the post-match press conferences aired on Radio Wimbledon, you can hear Bud firing away at the players.
I do hope CBS, ESPN or the Tennis Channel hires Bud. He won’t be on the U.S. Open on USA Network as it’s owned by NBC, so scratch that off your list. He’s forgotten more tennis than any of us will know. Here’s hoping that he’ll be gracing our televisions in time for the Australian Open come January.