Capping a nearly 34-year career as Louisiana's preeminent sportscaster and a local broadcasting icon, sports director Jim Henderson will handle his final sportscasts for WWL-TV Tuesday.
Channel 4 will look back on his legendary career in its newscasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., as he anchors his final sportscasts.
"All good things must come to an end, and for me, that's my career here at Channel 4 that has encompassed nearly 34 years," Henderson wrote in an e-mail to his WWL colleagues when he made his decision to retire in early January.
Henderson said he intends to stay on as the radio play-by-play announcer for the New Orleans Saints, a job he has held since 1982.
"This will allow me some much-needed time with my family and the things that I enjoy doing, for which there has just not been enough time during the football season in recent years," Henderson wrote.
"It's time to turn the page on the next chapter of life," he said.
Henderson's radio call of the moment in 2010 that sent the Saints to the Super Bowl remains as fresh in the fans' minds as the day he delivered it.
"Snap. Placement. Kick by Hartley and it is… it is good! It’s good! It’s gooh-hhh-hood! Pigs have flown. Hell has frozen over. The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl."
Hearing it still gives many fans chills. Like so many of them who had suffered through losing seasons, Henderson wondered if he’d ever get the chance to say those 32 simple yet memorable words that capped the 2010 NFC Championship.
Jim's commentary after the Saints Super Bowl
"I'd had that call in my mind for quite some time. I'm so glad the Saints could pull it off while I was young enough to remember what I was going to say. I think the day is fast approaching when I won't be able to," he joked to The Times-Picayune. "It's the only chance at immortality that I'll ever have."
Fans of his know better. Jim Henderson had written his way into local history, both as Saints play-by-play announcer and WWL-TV sports anchor, long before the Miracle in Miami. Covering that unbelievable season and Super Bowl win was just one of many career highlights. From “Hakim drops the ball!” to “Get ready to party with the Lombardi, New Orleans” and many other memorable calls.
The term sportscaster doesn’t really do him justice, as The Times-Picayune reminded us in 1998: "The former English teacher is more essayist than scoreboard jockey, his nightly scripts so carefully crafted and cleverly worded that you sometimes have to wonder if he wasn't raised on the road by Charles Kuralt."
A native of Rochester, New York, and graduate of the State University of New York and Syracuse University, Henderson came to New Orleans after broadcasting jobs in Atlanta and Panama City, Fla.
A WWL-TV fixture since 1978, he has admitted to having the best job in town. Those who have watched him since he was given the unenviable assignment of replacing sports legend Hap Glaudi on the anchor desk (and being greeted by picketers outside the station on his first day at work) know he has made the job his own.
His nightly sportscasts are frequently an eloquent mix of substance, style and wit. For the same reasons, his Monday commentaries on Channel 4 are must-see TV, for fans, players and even coaches. Written in ink, longhand and on looseleaf paper, they have brilliantly captured the mood of the Who Dat nation each week, whether critical or celebratory.
"Sometimes I get an idea before the game is even played," he told TV columnist Dave Walker in 2010. "The ones that scare the hell out of me are the ones where I go to bed Sunday night and don't have any idea of what I'll say. I pay a lot of attention to it, because I think it separates me from a lot of people who do what I do."
As a radio broadcaster, he has spent more than two decades in the press box on WWL broadcasts alongside Saints icon Archie Manning, a job since taken up by color analyst Hokie Gajan.
"I love the feeling of calling a real good game. It's the closest thing I think you can get to playing, being a play-by-play announcer," he told The Times-Picayune. "I'm one of 32 guys in the county who gets the chance to do it. I savor every second of it."
He has traveled the world covering not just the Saints but sporting events such as the Masters, Major League baseball, boxing and countless Super Bowls. He also earned the distinction of being a 13-time winner of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Sportscaster of the Year Award. This past year he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Press Club of New Orleans.
Henderson said his decision to retire will hopefully give him more time to spend with his wife, their two children and grandchildren. He also is sure to enjoy more time on the water, as an avid fisherman and sportsman himself.
"This has been a wonderful and much-appreciated run -- longer and more pleasurable than I could ever have expected," he said.