DETROIT - Cats Win! Cats Win!! Cats Win!!!
For 'Nova Nation, those six words mean everything. The call, of course, belongs to Ryan Fannon, the play-by-play radio voice for a basketball team that is two victories away from adding a bookend national-title banner to the Pavilion rafters. At the end of each and every win, that's the way he concludes his postgame show. It's a tradition unlike many others.
Except last Saturday night in Boston, when he did it at the end of the game that put the Wildcats in the Final Four for the first time in a quarter-century. Actually, as a special request from an anonymous reporter.
"My voice started to crack," he admitted. "You've got to love it."
He does. And it shows. A 1993 Villanova graduate, he's been doing this for just more than a decade, alongside color man Whitey Rigsby, the former Wildcat. Fannon also is the analyst for Villanova football, which is actually where he came up with his signature signoff.
"It wasn't planned," he said. "About 8 or 9 years ago, we'd won a big game, and I was doing the postgame show with coach [Andy] Talley. And for whatever reason, I said, 'What a victory for Villanova.' And I gave the final score. Then I said it. It just came out. Somebody heard me and said they liked it, so I used it again.
"People will come up to me and say the postgame isn't complete until they hear those six words. It's a great high, with that enthusiasm and passion I genuinely feel for the school and the program. This is my dream job. I always look forward to doing it. When we lose, I hate it. Then I just have to give the final score and say, 'Goodnight, everybody.' "
The legendary Harry Carey, of course, used the same pet phrase with the Chicago Cubs. But Fannon insists that's not where he got it.
"It was weird, because I'd never thought of that," said Fannon, who lives with his wife and 6-month-old son in Alexandria, Va., where he also works with a minor league baseball team. "It just happened . . .
"My dad played baseball at Virginia in the '50s. So I grew up as a kid going to Charlottesville in the Ralph Sampson era. In fact, I was at the Spectrum in 1981 [for the Final Four that the Cavaliers played in] when I was 11 years old. I used to listen to the postgame show on the drive home, and I'd say, 'I want to do what that guy does someday.' But never did I imagine it would be at Villanova.
"When I got the job, my dream was to do one Final Four in my career. I almost got there in 2006. That stuck with me for 3 years. That's why Saturday, at the end, was probably the most emotional I've ever been on the air. For me, that's saying something."
And he got to call one of the great endings ever, when Scottie Reynolds went 60 feet in 5 seconds to beat the buzzer.
"It was like chaos," Fannon noted. "I said, 'This game is not over. They're going to put time back on the clock.' I had to get that right. When [Levance] Fields' shot missed, and the ball was in the air for 2 weeks, only then did I say that the 'Cats were going to Motown."
And what if they should win on Monday night?
"It'll be similar, with an extra twist," he promised.
'Nova Nation will be listening. *