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Hannity

Jim Nantz Pays Tribute to Father

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Jim Nantz is one of America's best-known sports casters, and in his book "Always By My Side: The Healing Gift of a Father's Love" he recounts some of the most memorable moments in American sports. It also pays tribute to his father, who inspired his extraordinary career.

And I sat down with Jim to chat about him and the book and much, much more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: You like politics. I do follow sports very closely. So it's kind of weird that, you know, I'm watching you, and you're watching me, and we're sort of in different fields. But sports is the greatest thing in the world for kids. Isn't it — it really tests the human soul and the human spirit?

JIM NANTZ, AUTHOR, "ALWAYS BY MY SIDE": I think so as long as it doesn't get out of line. I think sometimes, you know, we deviate from what the purity of the sport should mean and what we should take from it.

Video: Watch Sean's interview

I'm not a big fan of the way that people I think sometimes cheapen sports and shorten it down to a collection of highlights of people who are focusing on themselves, branding themselves.

You know, I call games for a living, and this year I great to do the Super Bowl again. I get to do basketball games, golf tournaments. I'm not a big fan of the guy that you can almost now see, the preconceived, you know, "look at me" cutaway shot, the slam dunk. And then feeling like the presence of the director's lens on their face, looking for a little bit of this to be about me.

I'm into team work. I'm into people that like to build something together, unite together, and do something special. And that's where sports is at its best.

HANNITY: Isn't that the real lesson of life, though?

NANTZ: It is.

HANNITY: I mean, hopefully, it's not about us. There's something greater than us in the universe.

NANTZ: That's how you win, by the way. Those are always — in the team sports, those are the ones who win, that buy into this idea that there's something bigger than just ourselves. If we can unite together with a group of people with the same cause and the same vision to victory, they win.

HANNITY: Yes.

NANTZ: The ones that have — the grousers on their teams, and "it's all about me." And "I'm not getting enough catches; I'm not getting enough at-bats," those are the ones that ultimately stumble and don't make it to the finish line.

HANNITY: All right. I honestly am reading your book, and I wanted to — it brought tears to my eyes. It really did. Because this story, this love that you had for your father. And you describe how your father would go to your events, and your father was a big sports fan.

NANTZ: Yes, he was. But you know, bigger than that, he was a fan of people. He was a fan of stories about people who triumph, usually overcoming adversity.

He wouldn't watch sports. I don't watch sports. I watch you. OK. This is not some sort of...

HANNITY: This is a sport.

NANTZ: This is not a suck-up answer here. I'll tell you, my father was into stories about people and learning things. He loved to gain knowledge.

HANNITY: Yes.

NANTZ: Erudition is huge for me, about all things: countries, cultures, people, places, and things. And then for me to be given the responsibility to tell that story to the American public in the biggest events like the Masters or the Super Bowl, I take that to be, you know, a huge responsibility. That's the way my father looked at the world too.

HANNITY: Well, I look at the world the same way. And I felt that your father and my father, I was identifying with him a lot.

The thing that really touched me a lot, is here you're his son. He called you son. And he would go — and he'd forget about the sporting event as soon as you were going to go on the air. And for however many hours you were going to be calling that game or that golf event, he would sit and watch you with admiration the entire time.

NANTZ: Well, my father, I think, had this look in his eye, too, when he was in the booth — let's say, at a golf event or a football game — and he was just off camera, sitting on a light kit with a spare headset. And he had this look in his eye, this sparkle in his eye like he couldn't believe that this was really happening to his only son.

Because he knew the dream for me was — since I was an 11-year-old boy was to one day work for CBS. I wanted it right down to the network.

It had nothing to do with being on television, by the way. I could care less about being on TV. I wanted to tell the stories.

So my father, I felt like — I've now worked half my life at CBS, coming up on my 25th year this year. But my father heard every show that I did until he passed away last June 28. Now, the last 13 years of it, Sean...

HANNITY: He was sick.

NANTZ: ... he was really way deep in the throes of Alzheimer's.

HANNITY: Yes.

NANTZ: And I don't think anything was really resonating with him. But I knew when I was on the air that my voice was being heard in his room.

HANNITY: The thing — the sad story that you tell that one day, it was before an event, moments before air, he came into the booth. He was confused, a little disoriented. You said, "Dad, you need to go out and get some rest." It turns out that in that interim he'd had a mini stroke.

NANTZ: He had, and that was the start. That really triggered — that was the onset of Alzheimer's. That was 1995. I was at the Colonial golf tournament down in Fort Worth, Texas, and life was never the same after that. He collapsed as I urged him to go back to the clubhouse.

HANNITY: But nobody told you, because your mother wanted you to finish, you know, the broadcast.

NANTZ: You know how moms are, you know. We've got to make sure that we do a good show. And I was on the air for a couple of hours, sitting next to Ken Venturi, the legendary...

HANNITY: Yes.

NANTZ: ... analyst I worked with for so many years. And I got off the air, and very gently Frank Trekini and our producer and director said, "Jimmy, there's been an episode. There is a car waiting for you. Your dad has collapsed. He's going to be fine, I want to assure you."

But that was really the start for him of life never being the same. And it took 13 years for that to run out, and then — and then he passed away last summer, and fought an unbelievable battle. But you just...

HANNITY: I mean, as we head into this Father's Day, though, it just reminded me, No. 1, of the special relationship I have with both my son and daughter and the special relationship that fathers have with their sons and the impact.

And your dad just reminded me of that — that everyday dad, hard- working, great values, you know, instilling those values in their kids, proud of their kids, you know. And I just thought that, you know, for the rest of your life knowing your dad loved you that much and cared for you that much, I just thought it really — at one sense it warmed my heart and it broke my heart, because it was such — you know, we lose these people we love so much.

NANTZ: My father was really the every man. My father was never rich, not even close. He was never famous. He never sat down and was interviewed by anyone. He was just a great dad.

And the things that he espoused in his everyday life were the things that I wanted to write about in "Always By My Side." And really, what the book became was a tribute to those who stepped up, not only my father's, you know, traditional American values of faith, family, friendship, kindness, generosity to others, but the people who stepped in and became surrogates, you know, mentors and guiding lights.

HANNITY: Talking about...

NANTZ: And they became like that figure that I needed, because my dad was incapable anymore of really having a cogent conversation about anything. And I really believe that in our world of sports television, we often harp on how we want these athletes today to be role models. And some are mavericks about it.

And we end up branding them and saluting them and giving them the big advertisements and commercial deals, because they're — you know, they're counterculture or something. But more than just the athletes who I expect to be role models, I expect everybody has a responsibility there.

HANNITY: You mentioned once in an interview with a mutual friend of ours, Rush, that you might go into politics one day. You thought — you never thought I was going to ask you that.

NANTZ: I will if you will. I'm telling you, Sean, we need you.

HANNITY: No. No.

NANTZ: I really do believe we need you.

Seriously, I will say this. I think — and I, again, I'm an ardent follower of your show, and I love listening and watching you. And we know some of the little dirty details about the day in, day out world of politics.

But as 41's told me before, he believes that there is still so much goodness in the world. You've met 41 many times. He admires you, I know.

HANNITY: He's a good man.

NANTZ: And he thinks it's still a noble profession. You know, and I love being able to ride on his coattails. I've been lucky to travel all over the world with 41.

HANNITY: Well, you had stories in there about him. We don't have time to get to it, unfortunately. You're going to have to read the book.

Jim, it's been a great honor, honestly.

NANTZ: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: I loved the book, by the way. And it is a great Father's Day. It's a story of really the special bond and relationship between a father and son.

Jim Nantz, always see him on CBS Sports. I'm watching you every weekend. Thanks for being with us.

NANTZ: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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