Irish American announcer Tom Durkan, recognized as one of the greatest race callers of all time, has decided to step down from covering the Kentucky Derby on NBC and other Triple Crown races but will continue to call New York races.
“It’s always been stressful,” Durkin, told Daily Racing Form adding he had seen a psychiatrist to help handle the stress.
“It’s just the stress got to be too much,” Durkin told DRF . “When you’re walking around with a pit in your stomach for three months a year, just a general bad feeling and nervousness. You look up stress in the dictionary or online, and I’m a classic case of it. Sometimes you have to look out for your professional life; more importantly, you have to look out for your personal life. This is a bad professional decision and a good personal one.”
Durkin said he called NBC to withdraw but then agreed to do it
“I couldn’t sleep for two days and I called him back and said ‘forget what I told you,’ ” Durkin said. “He said ‘good.’ About three weeks ago, when you start turning up the pressure cooker, I just wasn’t up to it.”
“I’m disappointed in myself; it was a battle of nerves that I lost,” Durkin added. “And at the racetrack, you don’t like to lose.”
In a prepared statement, Ken Schanzer of NBC said “Tom Durkin is a legend. He is not only one of the great race-callers of all time, but I have been honored to call him my friend for more than a quarter-century. While I regret that he has made the decision not to call the Triple Crown for us, I understand it and wish him nothing but the best.”
Added Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports Group: “It’s rare in this business that you find someone who has such extraordinary talent, who works relentlessly, and never ceases to be the nicest person in any room he’s in. We will truly miss Tom on our Triple Crown broadcasts.”
Asked if he regretted any call Durkin said he was late to spot Mine That Bird when he took the lead late in winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
“You wish you could get that call back,” Durkin said. “You do your best and you don’t beat yourself up over it. If I didn’t prepare, I could beat myself up. I walk in there ready.”