I would imagine you would be hard pressed to find someone who spends an hour with Jim Ross and doesn't come away better.
You might be asking who Ross is, and if so, you're not a professional wrestling fan. Every one of them knows Good Ol' JR because his voice may be the most attached to that form of entertainment. For 25 years, he was on the air almost every week calling matches, much of that on what was the highest rated show on all of cable television, Monday Night Raw.
But you might not be a wrasslin' fan. That's OK...do you like football? Well, JR loves it, and he loves Oklahoma University. He goes to nearly every game, home or away.
So knowing he'd be trekking to College Station, I was able to get in touch with the Hall of Famer, and he graciously agreed to appear on Aggie Gameday to talk about his beloved Sooners.
Two hours before kickoff, the team arrives at Kyle Field. Ross hops off one of the team buses, as he's traveling with the Sooners this weekend, staying at the team's accommodations. He's greeted by anyone and everyone in crimson and cream. Walking down the sidelines of a near-empty Kyle, he passes Bob Stoops. The Sooner head coach is busy taking and reviewing notes alone on a bench, but Stoops stops for a quick chat with his good friend and passionate supporter.
In the buzz of the Aggie Fan Zone, a whole lot of folks know JR. He could probably blend in with the crowd a bit if he didn't wear a black resistol hat, but it's a relished trademark, always donned, always noticed. And he stops for each and every fan that wants a handshake or a picture. They're people of all ages, from current Aggie students to older Sooner supporters. They tell him they've listened to him for years. They tell him how big a fan of wrestling and his they are. They thank him for what he's meant to them, and he thanks them.
Not only is he approachable, he does the approaching. A small group near the KBTX live van is chowing down on the food of the Fan Zone when he goes over to talk and see what they've got. Ross has a burgeoning barbecue sauce and beef jerky business, so he's often scouting grub. A couple of young kids are sitting on the ground nearby eating Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
"You bring one for me," JR asks them. The kids, silent, mouths full, point towards where the chicken stand is.
He'd surely smile if he could, but Ross has been hit by Bell's palsy three times, his face partially paralyzed as a result. The third bout, in part, led his longtime employer, World Wresting Entertainment, to pull him from the air and rework his role with the company. He now evaluates talents for WWE and works behind the scenes at its monthly pay-per-views.
"It's the hand you're dealt," he tells me. "I see people in the handicap section sitting in wheelchairs that will never get up, and I walk by and wave and say hello to them respectfully, and I think I'm a pretty lucky guy. If this is the worst hand I'm going to be dealt in my career, I've had a pretty good run."
As passionate about wrestling as he is, the 58-year-old says a dream job would be becoming the radio voice of his Sooners. After 50 years of calling games, Bob Barry is retiring after this season. JR says it's very early in the process to find Barry's successor, but he'd love the gig if the offer was made.
It's obvious the man still has what it takes. Mic'ed up, resistol hat in place, he sits on the Gameday set and rattles off memories of OU/A&M games, analyzes Saturday's match-up, and plugs his barbecue, all with precision and a southern drawl.
"The three-point spread kind of surprised me a little bit, to be quite frank with you," he tells Darryl Bruffett and John Wilson during the show. "I think people take into consideration the talent the Aggies have and the home field advantage." He then breaks down the standings and the scenarios that could come out of Saturday's game.
JR often talks about sitting under learning trees of influential people. While in his shade, I tell him about my personal Mount Rushmore of favorite announcers: Jack Buck, Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist and him. I ask him if he has advice for broadcasters.
"I think you should set your goals higher," he jokes. "I think that I'm a bad role model."
And then, he proceeds to prove why he's not.
"I've always believed that my success, if any I've had, was because I was doing what I loved to do, and I was doing it with a company that I wanted to be working for at the time. If you ever leave College Station, it should be because you have a great opportunity to work with great people, but as long as you're working with great people and you love the community you live in, you're a lucky guy."
I can't tell you how many times I've met someone with some measure of fame, whether it's someone of prominence locally or a person known across the country, and they completely fail to live up to expectations. Jim Ross exceeded mine. He's personable. He's honest. He's poignant. He's quick-witted. He's knowledgeable. He's modest. And for all that and more, he's legendary.
And I'm better for the hour I had with him. Boomer Sooner.