KRAVITZ: At age 79, Colts' announcer Lamey is back for his 32nd season and is still going strong

Indianapolis Colts play-by-play announcer Bob Lamey chats during training camp Monday, August 6, 2018. (WTHR photo)
Bob Kravitz

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - Every year about this time, I approach Colts play-by-play announcer Bob Lamey and ask him, "Is this it? Is this your final season?''

I don't say this with the intention of running Lamey off or retiring him prematurely, but for crying out loud, he'll soon be 80-years-old; when I'm 80, I will be playing golf and drinking beer every day – which, honestly, isn't a whole lot different than what I do at age 58.

And every year Lamey, sitting in his personal golf cart on the sidelines of Colts practice, smiles and says the same thing? "Taking it year by year, Robert. Going year by year. Day by day. Minute by minute. But don't we all?''

See, it's all about love with Lamey. Whatever you think of his broadcasting style – some people love his hyper-emotional approach to it and some would prefer he tone it down and be more objective – the bottom-line truth is, he loves it. Loves the craft of it. Loves the lifestyle. Loves the team. He's found his passion in life…how many people can make that claim, and for those that have, why give it up just because of some stupid calendar?

That's why he is here, sitting in his golf cart on the sideline at Grand Park, working his way through the 180 names, 90 players for each team – before the Colts take on the Seahawks Thursday in Seattle. Because it's his passion. It's his challenge. And he doesn't drink – not since college, he said – and he doesn't golf, telling me he throws his clubs farther than he hits the actual ball. And so he will embark on this, his 32nd season broadcasting Colts games, beginning this week.

"This is my hobby, this is my job, this is where I have fun,'' he said. "I enjoy being around young guys, watching this team get better.

Even when you have tough years like last year, watching Jacoby Brissett and how he handled the worst situation I've ever seen for a quarterback. So there's always something good. I want to get back to the playoffs…I'm really looking forward to Thursday night. I hear Andrew (Luck) and Frank (Reich) talk about jitters, well, so will I. I haven't done anything in nine months.

"As long as my body holds up and my health is decent, I'll be here. My health now is as good as it's been in 30-years. I don't have issues. Now, like everybody walking out here, five minutes from now, who knows? You don't know when that time is going to come. But right now, I'm exactly where I want to be.''

More important, he still believes strongly that he's on top of his game. When he's not, he says passionately, he will know it and he will walk away, but after 32 years of chronicling the Colts' successes and failures, he still feels he's a sharp now as he was years ago.

Now, there have been some challenges; four years ago, he found out he needed cataract surgery after noting that he was having difficulty identifying some players. There have been some bloopers, including the misstep when it sounded, at least to some of us, like he dropped an f-bomb during a 2016 broadcast. Then there was "He fumbled the freakin' football.'' He hasn't been perfect but, then, who is? As a writer, I have editors, or I can go back into my column and fix a mistake. For Lamey, or any other sports announcer, the faux pas goes out into the ether and stays there forever.

"In most ways, yes (I feel like I'm still on my game),'' said Lamey, who will turn 80 Dec. 23. "Now, memorizing 180 players take a little longer; it's part of growing older…I'll tell you this: When I see it, when I hear it, I'll walk away. They might fire me – who the heck knows? But when I'm riding home thinking, `You were really, really bad,' then I'll start thinking that it's time to go to Florida. But I've never felt that way.''

Indianapolis is home to two very different styles of play-by-play announcer, with Lamey on one end of the spectrum and the Pacers' Mark Boyle on the other. Lamey acknowledges it readily – "I'm a homer, I'm a homer,'' he said. "I don't care if a Steelers or Patriots fan is listening; I care about the Colts fan who is listening to us.'' Boyle is more objective, more emotionally untethered from the team. Ultimately, it's a matter of taste.

Here was Lamey the night after the Colts finally knocked off the Patriots in the AFC Title Game and earned a berth in the Super Bowl.

"That was the best,'' he said. "That was the most fun. Then, something I don't do often, we got out of the stadium and I told my wife (Kim), instead of driving home, let's go downtown to the Circle and watch Indy celebrate. It was so great watching people have fun like that.

I'd love to have another one just like it.''

Lamey began his broadcast career by accident. He was a go-fer for the radio team at his high school in Victoria, Texas, and then late in a blowout loss, the regular play-by-play person, who knew Lamey had an interest in announcing, told him, "You handle the fourth quarter.''

And Lamey was hooked. He studied at Texas Christian and Ohio University, then did basketball and hockey play-by-play in Charlotte. Once he got to Indy, he announced for the Pacers (1977-84) as well as both the Indianapolis racers and Indianapolis Checkers hockey clubs. He's also worked the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In his 32-years on the Colts, he has missed just one game. One game, his voice went south and he was relieved by Kevin Lee, but that was it.

This is his passion, though. It's why he's still doing it at age 79, with 80 right around the corner. It's why he's sitting in his golf cart, as he does for every Colts practice, looking at the rosters for both the Colts and the Seahawks.

"My biggest compliments come from people saying, `I feel like I'm there…and by the way, I'm blind,' and you go `Wow,' '' Lamey said. "And it hits you. You don't think that's what you're doing, but you are. I've got to paint a picture. When you have someone who is blind and you can describe the game and make them feel like they're seeing the game…Sometimes I get too emotional. Like players, guys get kicked out of games because they become too emotional. Who knows? Maybe I'll get kicked out of a game.''

The day will come, eventually, when the Colts decide they want to go younger or Lamey will no longer have the ability to keep pace with the team he's loved since Johnny Unitas ran the show in Baltimore. But that time isn't here, and health willing, it won't come for some time. "There's nothing else I want to do,'' he said.

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