Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Santos was the voice for a generation of Patriots fans

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Things I think about while the coffee is brewing and the bagels are toasting — light brown, but toasting.

If you are a sports fan, radio and television broadcasters are more than that. Over time, they come to feel like friends, or at least like the sound of your season.

So it was with Gil Santos, the longtime Patriots play-by-play broadcaster, who died on Thursday. Santos died on the date of his 80th birthday and 57th wedding anniversary.

How much was Gil Santos beloved in New England? Well, for a short period of time in the 1980s, Santos was sidelined from broadcasting the Patriots games. He worked for WBZ, the legendary Boston radio station, and WBZ had lost the rights to those broadcasts for a decade.

The late John Carlson and the legendary Curt Gowdy took their turns being the Patriots' broadcaster. But as good as they were, when Santos returned to the microphone in 1991, New England football fans rejoiced.

Depending on your era of fandom in New England, you have been extraordinarily lucky to have among the best voices of that particular era on your radio or TV.

Ken Coleman and Ned Martin on Red Sox radio and television, Bob Wilson doing the Bruins and of course, the legendary Johnny Most high above courtside watching Larry Bird and Bill Russell's eras. Santos belongs with those legendary names.

If you want to discuss NFL local broadcasting legends, Santos is up there with Pittsburgh's Jack Flemming, Merle Harmon who did the Jets, Jim Gordon of the Giants, Al Meltzer of the O.J. Simpson-era Buffalo Bills and Chuck Thompson with the old Baltimore Colts.

I don't think current Patriots play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci would mind not being included in this group of legends. If you listen to the Pats on radio, you know that he is as good as it gets. In fact, if I am looking to hire someone, he and Lee native Wayne Larrivee of Green Bay are at the top of my list.

There was a great Gil Santos story in Friday's Boston Globe, and as a former play-by-play broadcaster myself, it made me laugh.

He was doing a high school football game in southeastern Massachusetts, and had detailed spotting boards set up for the contest. Those are the lineups by position with notes on each player, and done up usually in multiple colors.

Well, it poured, and his boards were washed away in the rain. From then on, he did games from the game program rosters.

Rest in peace, Gil Santos.

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By this time next week, NFL fans throughout New England will likely know 40 times of guys from schools those same fans never knew existed.

The NFL Draft begins with the first round on Thursday night. Rounds two and three will take place Friday, with the rest of the seven-round draft occurring on Saturday.

I'm not a big fan of this three-day Draftapalooza. If I had a weekend off I would watch the coverage on Saturday and Sunday, just sit on the couch and watch. This is too hard to keep an eye on.

If you are a Patriots fan, this draft holds a great deal of intrigue and interest because, thanks to the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots have the Rams' first-round pick, No. 23 overall, and their own pick, No. 31. So, for the first time in a while, Patriot fans can pay attention to the draft.

In recent history, Bill Belichick has made it a habit of trading back in the draft, collecting numbers of picks instead of drafting a stud.

So, if you haven't heard of Marcus Davenport, Christian Kirk or Leighton Vander Esch, you're excused. Honestly, I didn't either until I started reading up on mock drafts from various experts.

For the record, Davenport is an edge rusher from Texas-San Antonio, while Vander Esch is a linebacker from Boise State and Kirk (who is not a starship captain) is a receiver from Texas A&M.

If you're asking me who the Patriots — or for that matter the Giants or Jets — are going to pick, I couldn't tell you except to say it'll be someone the team's executives will say they have scouted extensively, and feel like he will make a positive impact on the team.

But if you are looking for a couple of the more interesting actual names in this year's draft, start with TCU offensive tackle Joseyph Noteboom. I can see it now, Joseyph lowering the Noteboom on a linebacker.

Or there's Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. Sounds just like a running back to "Kerryon" after that handoff.

So, like me, I'm sure you'll be hanging on every analyst's comment on every player your team drafts.

Then, they just have to prove they're NFL players.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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