Pierce: James Bates returns to Utah to call Blaze game
CBS Sports Network • Voice of many BYU-Utah games might work Ute games again soon.
Published: June 11, 2013 11:27PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:33PM
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Scott D. Pierce

Depending on whether you bleed red or blue, James Bates’ voice either sounds sweet or grates on your nerves.

His most famous call of a local football game came in 2006: “Final play of the game barring a penalty. All the time in the world for Beck. Can anybody get open for him? Finds his guy! Touchdown! Johnny Harline comes all the way across the field!”

Bates always sounds excited, but he sounded especially excited as BYU QB John Beck threw a game-winning TD pass as time expired. And it was a bit of a revelation to a confessed “SEC guy.”

“It was all a bit of a mystery to me,” said Bates. “Even the BYU-Utah rivalry, which you quickly find out is every bit as big as things I grew up with — things like Tennessee-Alabama, Florida-Georgia and Texas-Oklahoma.”

Three of the five Utah-BYU games Bates called from 2006-2010 were decided on the last play of the game. Another on a TD scored with 38 seconds to go.

The only game that wasn’t competitive was Utah’s 48-24 win in 2008.

“To have been a tiny part of it was truly an honor,” said Bates, an all-SEC linebacker who was a captain of Florida’s 1996 national championship team. “It’s one thing I’m really proud that I got to participate in, and they’re memories I’ll never forget.”

After the demise of The Mtn., Bates moved to the CBS Sports Network. He’ll make his second trip to Utah this season to call an Arena Football League game — Saturday’s Utah Blaze-Jacksonville Sharks game on Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT.

“When CBS Sports Network called me and asked me to do it, I was really excited,” Bates said. “It’s such a fun, fast-paced, high-scoring thing.”

His father, Jim — a longtime college and NFL assistant (and the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1994) — was an assistant with the Detroit Drive in 1988 when that team won the ArenaBowl in 1988.

“I love it,” Bates said. “I really am glad I’ve gotten a chance to call these games this year.”

And there’s at least a chance he’ll be back in Utah this fall. Bates just signed with Fox Sports, where he’ll be working in the studio and as an analyst — switching over from play-by-play — for Pac-12 and Big 12 football.

“I’m really looking forward to that. I’m fired up about it,” he said. “And it would be great to work some Utah games.”

For my money, however, Bates’ most memorable moment has nothing to do with Utah. Nothing to do with football, for that matter.

In February 2012, he was doing the intro for a Dayton-Xavier basketball game when his stool collapsed. Broke to bits as Bates fell on his butt right on the court.

“A big-time rivalry, not a big-time stool,” he shouted in his let’s-hype-this-game way. “But a big-time need for a win for both these teams.”

You had to admire his ability to keep things going and recover quickly.

“The first thing I remember is looking up into the front row and there are a couple of old ladies with their camera phones already out and I’m thinking, ‘If we can pull this off, this is going to be the best thing ever,’ ” Bates said.

And, not surprisingly, the various versions of the clip on YouTube have gotten several hundred thousand viewers.

“Even though they’re laughing at me, the thought that at least 500,000 people saw it and got a kick out of it and laughed is pretty cool,” he said with a laugh. “Even if it is at your own expense.”

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce.