It’s one of the most brilliant calls in sports broadcasting, and it happened in the fourth quarter of a 21-0 game that had long since been decided. But when a drunk fan ran on the field during a 49ers/Rams game in Week 1 last September, Kevin Harlan transformed into full play-by-play warrior, narrating the drunk fan’s movements on the field as security chased him down.
“The guy is drunk! But there he goes!” Harlan exclaimed. “Somebody stop that man!”
It was brilliant.
“Well, when it happened, I was working with Kurt Warner, and first of all, he’s kind of a partner in crime on this whole thing,” Harlan said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He should not go unnoticed because he was there kind of egging the whole thing on. He was laughing and giggling, although you couldn’t hear it because he hit his cough button while the guy was out there. So in a boring game, you’re looking for anything to kind of keep your focus and keep you on your feet. That certainly did, and (Warner’s) reaction did. That kind of fueled me.”
As the evening wore on, however, Harlan wondered if he had embarrassed the NFL or, perhaps more importantly, his employer.
“I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind,” said the TNT, CBS and Westwood One broadcaster. “Luckily, my flight took off and I fell asleep, and when I woke up, there were all these text messages. I thought, ‘This is either really bad or kind of good,’ and it turned out to be okay. As it turned out, people kind of enjoyed it. You don’t prepare for that kid of stuff. But it was kind of fun. But I’ve done it once. That’ll be it. I’m done calling drunk guys running out on the field.”
Harlan remains one of the most recognizable voices in sports and is now getting ready for his 19th straight NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve seen a lot of them and they get more compelling every year,” he said. “I think we’re really in store for a wonderful three-week run with the NCAA Tournament coming up.”
Harlan also loves covering the NFL and NBA.
“I never take any of them for granted,” Harlan said. “I love each sport and its season. We have four children, so it’s kind of like asking who’s my favorite. I love them all. I love all the sports. I feel blessed to be doing them – lucky, fortunate – and I never take them for granted.”
In some ways, college basketball is the most difficult sport for which to prepare. After all, with 68 teams in the tournament – and seemingly infinite matchup possibilities – March Madness presents challenges that, say, Aaron Rodgers versus Matt Ryan does not.
“Until Sunday night, we can’t start preparing for the field of 68,” Harlan said. “So it’s challenging, but hey, listen, come on. It feels like I would do it for free. I don’t say that too loudly, but you find time for anything, and sometimes you do it right to the kickoff or right to the tip-off of the game. You prepare and then you hope you have enough and you do the game. Then you just do the game, and that’s kind of my philosophy.”