Announcer preparing for last hurrah
The Middlebury Union High School football team will play its home opener against Mount Mansfield on Friday night, but the 2-0 Tigers will also close an era.
It’s no secret that longtime announcer Dick Bullock is seriously ill with cancer, to the point he has a checklist of things he would like to accomplish before he checks out.
Bullock has done play-by-play or color work for Tiger football for 33 years in all, many with former partner Ziggy Livingston before Ziggy reached the end zone a few years back.
What that duo at times lacked in detailed description of the action, they more than made up for in enthusiasm. A typical exchange might have gone: “Wow, Ziggy. Did you see that?” “Holy cow!”
They had chemistry. When Ziggy passed, Dick shared a memory. Ziggy moved away for a couple years, but they had not spoken for months. Dick was watching a pro football game when a punter uncorked a boot that bounced about 90 yards. The phone rang — it was Ziggy, wanting to know if Dick had seen it. “Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention,” Ziggy said.
In recent years, Cornwall’s Dave Sears has shared the booth with Dick, who is also known — among many other things — as a key figure at American Legion Post 49, a booster of the MUHS softball program, and — I can say this objectively — a hell of a good softball umpire.
Sears this week confirmed that Dick is all but certain on this Friday to put a precious check on his list — announcing at least part of one more game. With help, possibly from the Tiger athletes, the Salisbury resident will ascend the steps to the booth at Doc Collins Field, take his customary place behind the microphone, and broadcast at least the first quarter on WVTK-92.1 FM.
“He’s pretty determined,” Sears said. “He’s definitely going to make it.”
Game time is 7 p.m., but the broadcast will begin at 6:45 p.m. Sears plans to tap Dick’s memories, including asking him who were his five favorite Tiger players and what were his two favorite games (I hope he chooses MUHS 3, Hartford 0 in the 2002 Division I final). Dick might also remind everyone that he lined up at center for Middlebury High School in the first night football game ever played in Vermont, at Mount St. Joseph in 1948.
The impact someone like Dick has on a program over the years cannot be overstated. At least two generations of athletes have given post-game interviews to Bullock and felt the support he has for all the players and coaches.
As Sears said, when in preseason Dick addressed all 95 Tigers on the varsity, JV and freshmen teams and their coaches, there were a lot of misty eyes.
“He believes in the kids, and he believes in the high school football program,” Sears said.
This year’s MUHS football program, the one with the roster and pictures, is dedicated to Bullock, who will also be honored before Friday’s game.
Sears said Dick seems more excited about the radio gig, though.
“It’s pretty emotional,” he said.
Sears said his friend and broadcast partner has retained a positive frame of mind this summer.
“He still has that dry sense of humor,” he said.
Back when Sears first signed on to work with Bullock, I interviewed them both behind the broadcast booth, a talk interrupted when Dick was distracted by two middle-age joggers.
I gave him a hard time about it, but Dick just laughed.
“Listen,” he said, “when you get old enough, the grandmothers start looking good. When you get even older, the great-grandmothers start looking good.”
May they all keep looking good for as long as possible.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].