GREEN BAY – Longevity is not something to be taken for granted, but listeners to the Packers Radio Network can be forgiven if they have.
Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren will call their 312th game as a tandem for the Packers on Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit, matching the number of regular and postseason games called by their predecessors in the radio booth, Jim Irwin and Max McGee.
With McCarren serving as a bridge between the two eras, forming a three-man booth with Irwin and McGee from 1995-98 before teaming up with Larrivee in 1999, the Packers Radio Network has enjoyed an amazing run by the two dynamic duos over the past 39 seasons.
In brief, separate interviews with packers.com this past week, both Larrivee and McCarren expressed the utmost respect for what Irwin and McGee accomplished before them. The current duo has simply been proud to carry the torch.
“They became what we all aspire to, in the sense that they became part of the fabric of the game,” said McCarren, the Packers Hall of Famer who has been associated with the team in some capacity – as a player, local sportscaster, radio team member, and now analyst for the team’s digital department – since his rookie season in 1973.
“It’s like, it’s not a Green Bay Packer game unless it’s Jim and Max up there doing it. When you reach that point, and they did – I was playing when they were here, and they did reach that point – then hey, hat’s off to you. That’s as far as you can go. I really don’t know if we’ve reached that point.”
To many fans, they have over the past 19 years. Whether it’s Larrivee’s “dagger” calls at victory-clinching moments or McCarren’s jubilant “YES!” when the Packers make a big play, current fans consider their voices as synonymous with the Packers as others did Irwin’s and McGee’s from 1979-98.
Larrivee was the newcomer in ’99. A friend of Irwin’s who had done radio play-by-play for both the Chiefs (1978-84) and Bears (1985-98), Larrivee talked with Irwin about trying to take over for him when he retired.
A native of Massachusetts who rooted for the Packers growing up, Larrivee is forever grateful it worked out.
“I knew if I ever got a chance to do the Packers, it would be a no-brainer for me,” he said. “Because what broadcaster gets a chance to broadcast games for a team he grew up following as a kid?”
He added the chemistry he shares in the booth with McCarren developed fairly quickly. In the mid-’90s, if the Bears were playing an early game and the Packers were on later, Larrivee would listen to Irwin, McGee and McCarren on his drives home from Soldier Field, and he got a sense for McCarren’s style.
“Part of what helps with our chemistry is he’s not just an ex-athlete doing analysis,” Larrivee said of his partner. “He’s been in the business. He knows timing, he knows how to insert and when to insert his viewpoint. It was a very natural thing in that regard, because I could count on him as a broadcaster, not just an ex-player. That made it flow a little easier, I think.”
How much longer it will flow is an open question. Both said they’d love to stay in the booth as long as the Packers will have them.
For McCarren, whose various duties over the years are too extensive to compile into one list, doing the game-day radio broadcast “will be the last thing I walk away from, should I have a choice.”
To break down the numbers, Irwin and McGee’s 312 games included 296 in the regular season and 16 in the postseason. Larrivee and McCarren’s are at 288 (after Sunday) plus 24, and counting.
The first 14 of Irwin and McGee’s seasons together included only one trip to the playoffs. This is just the sixth for Larrivee and McCarren without a postseason berth.
“We’ve had a lot of good teams to follow,” Larrivee said. “We’ve had one or two bad seasons, and that’s been it. We’ve been lucky. It’s flown by.
“The beauty of Jim and Max was they did the team when they were down for so long. They had a schtick that’s much different from ours. We’re more football, X’s-and-O’s oriented. They were more that homespun-humor type, which they needed to be, to keep people interested.”
For that, McCarren can’t give his predecessors enough credit.
“We have them to thank for making Packer radio relevant,” he said. “I think a lot of team radio, it gets listened to because people get caught in their cars and things like that.
“People actually tuned out the TV and listened to Packer radio, and they still do it to this day, and I think we have Jim and Max to thank for making it part of the game.”