Jeff Dantzler “Dantz” has been my mentor ever since I began writing for Bulldawg Illustrated three years ago. He has helped to improve my writing in many ways; not to mention, he has an amazing knowledge of stats. I recently sat down with Dantz to discuss his experience as a journalist covering the Olympics and what he did while there. Of course, we digressed to discuss some Georgia football.
Q: How did you get your start as an announcer?
Dantz: I got my start in broadcasting in high school for the local radio station in Statesboro. They covered all of the Georgia and Georgia Southern games. They did the Hawks, Braves, and Falcons too. They also covered local high school events like football, baseball, and girls and boys basketball. It was a great start, and I got to cut my teeth announcing some of the events they covered. Then I started working for the great Claude Felton at Georgia, and then I got into radio and have kept on going. With the Olympics, my friend Mark Parkman, who was the tennis sports information director at Georgia back in the 1980s, was higher up with the Olympic broadcasting services, and he basically got me the job. It’s been a lot of fun! 2016 was the third Olympics I covered; London in 2012; Sochi in 2014, and now Rio in 2016.
Q: Of the Olympic games you’ve been to, which is your favorite?
Dantz: London in 2012 was great. It was my first one, and it was set up with the park right across from where we were staying. The way it was organized, and I think also just getting that first experience; it was fantastic! I loved London!
Q: What is your role while you cover the games?
Dantz: It’s different than what I do here. Primarily we do feature stories about athletes and venues, and also we’ll do feature stories on folks just around the community. In Sochi, we interviewed a guy who was a tour guide for people who tried to climb Mt. Everest. The stadium where they played hockey, which was the sport I was covering, was a dome, and he led the building crew because it wasn’t flat. It was really neat to interview him. When the games start, we primarily do interviews and feature stories on the athletes. That’s pretty cool because I’ve done swimming, ice hockey, and basketball. I’ve interviewed Manu Ginóbili, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Pau Gasol, and then in London I interviewed Michael Phelps and all of the Georgia swimmers like Allison Schmidt. I’ve interviewed some hockey guys like Sydney Crosby, so it was all pretty cool.
Q: What is it like being surrounded by major athletes?
Dantz: I’m not really star-struck by them. You know me I’d much rather meet some of my Georgia heroes. I met Marv Albert [the voice of the New York Knicks] in Rio, so that was a lot cooler for me to meet him. The neat thing about the Olympics is that it is the best of the best from all over the world, and when you get there, the politics get buried and you realize how remarkable it is for any of the athletes. They really are at the top of their field, so just to get there is a major accomplishment. My goodness, if you’re one of the athletes to win a medal, well, you have just won the most prized trophy in sports.
Q: What’s your favorite highlight from any Olympics you’ve been to?
Dantz: Let’s see, there were a lot of great basketball games in the tournament this year. The one that stood out for me this year being in Rio and in South America has to be Brazil vs. Argentina. It was 111-107 in double-overtime. Argentina won. Ginóbli hit two free throws to clinch it. Just the atmosphere there, I think it just showed so much about the growth of basketball around the world, and how big it is. In Sochi, when the US beat Russia in hockey in overtime, it was just a fantastic game. And in 2012, Phelps won his record-breaking 19th gold medal. It was also cool to see fellow Dawgs like Coach Bauerle. I saw Allison Schmidt win three gold medals, which was very neat too.
Q: On into football, what is the one major thing the Dawgs need to work on, and what are your thoughts on the Smart era?
Dantz: I think the major thing Kirby is going to do is build up the depth of talent. The recruiting had slipped just a tad, specifically, on the offensive line. There might be some bumps in the road like Tennessee, but Kirby will have us on top very soon. I think it will be the 80s all over again, and our future will hold many national championships.
Q: You are a very superstitious person according to your girlfriend, Emily, so what are some of your Georgia football superstition stories?
(Dantzler’s girlfriend called him “Winston Churchill” because when he is watching Georgia football, he is pacing back and forth with a cigar in his mouth just like Winston did during WWII.)
Dantz: My mom has orange hair, and one year when we played Clemson, I said what are you going to do with your hair, Mom? I would not allow her to go in the game with that hair, so I made her wear a hat.
In the ’82 season we played Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. I was wearing a red t-shirt with Georgia spelled on it in white letters. The letters were peeling off, so my mom made me get something new to wear. I got a Herschel jersey, but to this day I’m convinced that we lost that game because I wasn’t wearing my old shirt.
Also, after a Georgia loss, I’d grab an old softball bat and beat down on an old pine tree in my backyard. I’ve never gone to school on Monday after a loss. Besides my parents and grandparents, I’ve loved Georgia football longer than anything and hated Tech longer than anything. There are some bad people in this world Hammy, terrorists, communists, and Tech graduates.
This was a fantastic interview. I love being with Dantz. Like I said earlier he’s been my mentor, and he has been by my side through all of the ups and downs of my writing. Thank you, Dantz, aka the guru.