Hark the Sound Woody Durham Visits Country Bookshop
BY SARAH BROWN
Those who are "Tar Heel born" and "Tar Heel bred" have surely listened to one of Woody Durham's Carolina game play-by-plays.
Over a span of four decades, Durham's voice anchored the radio broadcast ship of 1,800 UNC-Chapel Hill football and men's basketball games.
Now Tar Heel fans can reflect and reminisce with Durham in his autobiography, "Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice" - a collaboration with Durham and Chapel Hill-based author Adam Lucas.
Durham's book signing tour will take him to about 15 locations across the state and in South Carolina. He will appear at The Country Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines Thursday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m.
"They're keeping me busy," Durham says with a laugh.
He says people asked him when he would write a book for years. "I'll do it when I'm finished," he would tell them.
That finish came after the men's basketball team lost to Kentucky in the regional final of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Durham decided to retire shortly after the loss.
Although Durham says he wished he could have gone out on a win, his career saw no shortage of Carolina victories - the "Voice of the Tar Heels" was behind the mike for 23 bowl games, 13 NCAA basketball Final Fours and six title games.
The book chronicles the sports icon's life from his down-home roots in Albemarle to his stint as a high school football player, although he says he knew early on that "I wasn't big enough or good enough."
At age 16 came a career-defining moment for Durham - he scored his first radio gig at WZKY in Albemarle with Jeff Presson.
"It was the perfect chance for me to combine my interest in broadcasting with sports," he says.
Durham graduated from UNC with a broadcasting degree in 1961 and began his illustrious career in the Tar Heel sound booth 10 years later.
Even as a Carolina sportscaster, Durham says he made a significant effort to provide a balanced perspective, researching the opposing team and helping the audience see both sides of the game.
He jokingly calls his style as an announcer "partial objectivity" - there was little doubt in his mind where his loyalties lay.
Preceding each of the book's chapters are snippets of actual calls that Durham made during major Carolina wins. These are his favorite parts of the book.
"People reading will be able to share in the real experiences," he says.
After hundreds of wins, losses, championships, tragedies, and nail-biting finishes, could Durham possibly pinpoint one Carolina game as most memorable for him?
"Coach Smith's first national championship victory in '82, and Coach Williams' first in' 05, those were particularly thrilling," he says.
He recalls the final seconds of the 1982 Georgetown-UNC NCAA final. Carolina held a slim lead, and the Hoyas had the ball and a timeout remaining.
"My mind was complete mush at that time," Durham says. "I thought, what on earth am I going to say if Georgetown gets the basketball and manages to win the game?"
The worry was short-lived - UNC stalled Georgetown's surge, giving the Tar Heel team its first national title under Dean Smith.
Another contest that Durham names on his list of favorites is a 2004 UNC-Miami football game in Chapel Hill. UNC kicker Connor Barth scored a late-game field goal for the Heels, spoiling almost certain success for then No. 4-ranked Miami.
"It was the first time Carolina had beaten a top-five team in years," Durham says. "The crowd was unbelievable. It had the atmosphere of being a much more important game than it was."
After a journey that has taken him to 38 states and five countries with various Tar Heel squads, Durham can now sit back in his Chapel Hill home, smell the roses and reflect on his ride on the Carolina blue wave.
"Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice" has allowed him to do just that.
"It's been great to see how people responded to the book and to have them come to me and say what a great job I did for Carolina," he says. "That makes me feel awfully good."
Contact Sarah Brown at email@example.com.
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