Ray Christensen | 92

For more than 50 years, if you followed Gophers football or basketball, you listened to Ray Christensen calling the games on WCCO radio. 

He called 510 football games, 1,309 basketball games. For me, one stands out.

Oct. 22, 1977. In our backyard with my mom and dad, raking leaves. On the picnic table, an oversized transistor radio wrapped in faux leather that to this day I swear had only one setting:

830-AM.

Minnesota vs. No. 1-ranked Michigan. Christensen’s clarion voice as crisp as that fall day. You could always tell 10 seconds after switching to a Gophers game who was winning by the way Ray sounded. On this day, vibrant, exultant.

Thinking about days like this, before every game was thrust into your living room in high-definition, the memories are almost sepia toned.

Christensen, calling one of five Michigan turnovers. “Fumble! Behind the man, he can’t get to it and the Gophers will!’’

Christensen, calling Marion Barber’s TD run. Christensen, as the clock ticks down on an improbable Gophers win. Feels like yesterday. “And the Gophers have upset the No. 1 team in the nation, Michigan, 16 to nothing.”

By the end, I felt I was there.

Through the years I’ve discovered how universal this sort of memory is for Minnesotans my age. Fall or winter, raking leaves or puttering in the garage. For decades, generations, it was Christensen.

Could he be more Minnesotan? Multitalented but modest. A man of words whose eyes would twinkle at a good pun; one time he transitioned from the sound of the Gophers band playing the William Tell Overture to an ad for a bank. “Now we take you from the Lone Ranger to the Loan Arranger,” he said.

Perfect.

Kent Youngblood