Friday, December 23, 2005

What a long, strange trip...

For me, it all started in October 1996, when I took a part-time job with Shockley Communications-owned WDSM, then on the verge of becoming an all-sports radio station. They needed people to come in and "run the board" (radio jargon for operating the control board) during sports games and other programming that couldn't be set up for computer autopilot. Along the way, you had a chance to record sports and weather updates, giving you a chance to be on the air every now and then.

Sometime before I got a chance to actually do a talk show, I started to get the itch. I felt like it was something I could do. Like many people, I thought it was easy until I learned differently. But even that didn't change my desire to be a talk-show host. I got my chance in the fall of 1998, hosting a Saturday morning show centered around local sports. My co-host was Chris Long, then getting his start as a weekend sports anchor at one of the local TV stations. Long and I got along very well, and the show lasted for nearly five years before they went in a different direction with it.

I was able to parlay our success into my own daily talk show, which premiered on April 12, 1999. At the time, I didn't know that I was going to end up doing this for a living, and I didn't know that I would end up on the air for almost seven years.

We had a lot of fun. I had a chance to cover some great moments in sports and allow people to talk about them. Phone calls were always a vital part of what I did. Without the occasional troll to rile me up, or the occasional disagreement that turned into a great debate, the show would never have been as good. And I never would have had as much fun.

I'll never forget the day Walter Payton died. Grown men calling in and expressing their admiration for a man they never met, and some of them having trouble getting the words out.

I'll never forget the Friday before the Vikings-Giants NFC Championship Game. Hordes of Viking fans expressing gloom and doom, while I, a freaking Packer fan, tried to calm them down and convince them that the Vikes were going to get it done.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Moss Moon. Bonds chasing history. The Twins' AL Central three-peat. The Brewers sucking. Mike Randolph getting fired. Mike Randolph getting hired back. Countless great high school games...players...teams. State tournaments. NCAA tournaments. Junior's Hobey. UMD in the Frozen Four.


9/11 was different for me. Here I am, Mr. Hardcore Sports Fan. It's what we talk about on the air. I don't do one of these dopey sports shows where we talk about the war, the Patriot Act, Medicare, traffic, and everything else that isn't sports. We talk about sports. So when 9/11 happened, I didn't know what we were going to do. I stayed off the air that day, choosing to let the national news radio coverage handle things. The next three days were the longest nine hours of my life. But they were among the best shows I ever had. We just shared our emotions. Our feelings. And we had some good discussion about the role of sports in all of this. As you may recall, we only had high school games that Friday night. Everything nationally was cancelled. And what an unbelieveable experience it was to be a part of. It was a great emotional boost for everyone who attended games that night.

It's today that I look back. It's been 2,448 days since I made my debut on a daily sports talk show. It's been close to 2,700 days since I first co-hosted a talk show. A rough calculation estimates that I have done in the area of 2,000 talk shows lasting a total of 5,750 on-air hours.

That's a lot of talking. I think I've gotten halfways-decent at it over the years.

But the talking will, at least temporarily, be coming to an end.

I have decided to take a hiatus from hosting a daily talk show so I can concentrate on other duties within our company. It's not a reflection on anything or anyone, other than me and my desire to succeed in management, and I don't feel I can properly focus on my duties while also juggling three hours of daily sports talk.

There will come a day, probably in 2006, when I get sick of not being able to vent every day. More specifically, there will probably come a day where my wife tells me to get back on the air. And it will happen. You have my word. But for now, tonight on KDAL marks my last talk show for some time. I'll still be around, doing sports reports and the occasional fill-in appearance, along with UMD hockey on KDAL.

I want to take this chance to thank everyone who has helped me professionally, especially John Munson and Mark Fleischer, who gave me my first jobs in radio. Muns might not remember, but he was the first to give me a chance to do play-by-play. And he kept reminding me that you can never say the score too often. Chris Long was my first, and best, co-host. And there are too many others to thank without forgetting someone who was vitally important.

Most of all, I want to thank all of you. Thanks for listening, and thanks for reading the blog, however often you have done either. Without your support, I'd be doing something less desirable for a living, instead of continuing to steal paychecks doing something I love to do.

Thanks, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

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