Passage: Three outsized talents

It happened this past week ... the loss of three masters of three very different crafts.

Tennis commentator and writer Bud Collins died Friday at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Known for his colorful wardrobe and his colorful opinions, Collins was the sport's beloved television presence for nearly 50 years on a series of networks, including for a time here at CBS.

Of all his insights into the game, his pithiest was perhaps his best:

"Either the ball goes over the net," he once wrote, "or it doesn't."

Bud Collins was 86.

Actor George Kennedy died last Sunday in Boise, Idaho.

He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a prison inmate in the 1967 film "Cool Hand Luke," in which he first bested fellow prisoner Paul Newman in a boxing match ... and then looked on as Newman bluffed his way to victory in a card game:

Kennedy: "He beat you with nuthin'. Just like today, when he kept comin' back at me with nuthin'."
Newman: "Well, sometimes nuthin' can be a real cool hand."

Not always a tough guy, Kennedy showed a more comic side in later years with roles in the "Naked Gun" movies.

George Kennedy was 91.

Author Pat Conroy died on Friday.

And despite a disclaimer to our Bill Geist back in 1995 about his success at writing bestsellers ("I cannot figure it out. It always seems like an accident"), Conroy's success was no accident.

Born in Georgia, and with high-school years spent in South Carolina, Conroy mined his unhappy childhood for a series of novels, several of which were made into films.

In "The Great Santini," he drew on his life with an abusive military father, portrayed in the 1979 movie by Robert Duvall, who turned a basketball game played with his son (played by Michael O'Keefe) into a war of words:

Duvall: "You're my favorite daughter. I swear to God you're my sweetest little girl."
O'Keefe: "This little girl just whipped your ass good, colonel."

Conroy's novels were his way of realizing the ambition that he laid out for CBS back in 1988:

"I always thought that if I told the story of the South, I would tell the history of the whole world. If I could figure out the South, figure out what is glorious about it, figure out what is hideous about it, if I could get it down, if I could get it right, I would tell the story of the entire human race."

Pat Conroy was 70.