Jim Nantz, Brandt Packer Remember Frank Chirkinian
The news of Frank Chirkinian’s passing saddened many in the sports industry this week. Industry veterans from across the industry fondly remembered sports broadcasting’s ayatollah, and several, including CBS Sports Lead Play-by-Play Announcer Jim Nantz and Golf Channel Live Tournaments Producer Brandt Packer, shared their thoughts with SVG.
“When I think of Frank, I think of my days of working for him and being tutored by him, but I really think of him as a guiding light and a mentor,” Nantz says. “He retired back in 1996, but we not only didn’t lose contact, we were closer than ever these last 15 years. He was like a father to me and a real loss in my life.
“He was a genius at television,” Nantz continues. “He had this ability to compartmentalize so many things. It’s almost impossible to describe to people all the things that he handled at once. He not only directed, but he also produced, so he was calling cameras, telling cameramen where to zoom in, where to pan, how to shoot. He was calling for graphics, queuing announcers, and, at the same time, he was fully aware of where every golfer on the course stood, all in relation to the tournament. There was just so much information there, I don’t know how he processed it, but he had a very fast, brilliant mind. At the end, his mind was still as sharp as ever.
“I came on board when I was 26, and he knew that he had a young broadcaster with a golf background and a passion for the sport. He had a chance to sculpt what he thought an anchorman should be for golf because he had his hands on me early. I went through many steps along the way with Frank teaching me, and I was an eager and willing student. Along with that came the rough, tough outing you in front of your colleagues for your mistakes. That was automatic. But, after a while, I transitioned from being mortified at the thought that I was going to make a mistake and Frank was going to scold me in front of everyone to the point that I really liked it because I finally got it. People warned me early that, if he yelled at you, it meant he liked you, so I figured he liked me a whole lot.
“I was eager to listen and learn from the feet of the great man” Nantz adds. “I was fully aware of who Frank Chirkinian was and the fact that I could get a chance at age 26 to work with the guy. What a blessing. I think I’m the luckiest guy that Frank ever worked with, because I really got to come in green and have Frank Chirkinian make me a better broadcaster.”
Years later, Nantz introduced Packer to Chirkinian.
“I told [Chirkinian] that my dream in life was to become a golf producer,” Packer recalls. “He gave me one piece of advice and that was, ‘Kid, always tell the announcers what hole you’re going to next. Then, lay out when you’re there. Then, tell them where you’re going next. Then, lay out. Simple as that.’
“All of the great ones see complex situations in such a simple manner. I always think of his advice before, during, and after any show I produce,” Packer continues. “He will always be the ultimate standard of golf production.”