It’s an old cliche of course but there is truth in cliches and certainly in this one: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
So it is with the Voice of the Blue Devils, Bob Harris.
Now that retirement is here, fans are left to wonder: what will Duke broadcasts sound like now?
His successor has not been announced, but we’ll be very surprised if he has a regional accent. The days of guys like Bob Harris and Woody Durham, both from Albemarle, both with deep, lush, unapologetically North Carolina accents, those days are over.
There’s no reason why it has to be that way of course. Bob’s predecessor was from Connecticut. Red Barber was a legend with the Brooklyn Dodgers and no one seemed to mind that he was from Georgia.
But it would be a bit of a loss, a little more regional identity gone. There’s no way to avoid it though. Radio and TV have been leveling accents for decades - radio for nearly 100 years - and the Internet has just accelerated the process.
Most of us have no idea who the candidates are, much less the ultimate successor and honestly being from here is less important than being of here, than understanding what makes Duke Duke.
Bob went to State for two years but he became the ultimate Duke guy and being the kind of guy he is, he’ll do everything he can to help his successor be just as good as he was.
One more comment about Bob Harris - well, two. He’s probably best known for his iconic call of The Shot, the Laettner play that beat Kentucky. That defined his public career.
On a quieter level, there were two other defining things.
He told us once that he never signed a contract with Duke, that he was so happy that Duke never felt the need for that. Well, the reason Duke never felt the need for that was because everyone understood the quality of the man. Bob is as good as his word.
The second thing, we suspect, would embarrass him a bit but it was one of his finest moments.
During the lacrosse hoax, Bob went to vote and ran into then-D.A. Mike Nifong. Nifong made his electoral pitch and Bob expressed some general disgust.
“This isn’t about Duke, Bob,” Nifong said.
“No!” Bob snapped. “It’s about the truth!”
It was the only time we really saw even a trace of anger in the man.
That was about the time he realized a TV camera was filming.
He grimaced and said something like “oh, shoot...” and got in his car and drove away.
We felt bad for him when it happened because he obviously had no intention of being filmed. At the same time it was both hilarious and exhilarating. He was the last guy we expected to tell Nifong off on TV and he was magnificent.
It pales in light of his career but it was a beautiful moment for those of us who saw it.