COLUMN: We Sure Love Sports Broadcasters, Don’t We?
STILLWATER, Okla., -- Dave Walsh was behind the mic for nearly every single Wyoming football and men's basketball game over the previous 38 seasons.
I'm 38 years old.
Quite literally, Walsh has been the voice of fall on the High Plains my entire life. Friday afternoon, the school announced he is taking off the headset for good. He stopped calling basketball two years ago, easing us all into the inevitable.
Now, it's official.
Growing up just 45 miles over the hill in Cheyenne, I was lucky enough to make it to Cowboy football games with relative ease. I had a streak of 27 straight seasons without missing a single one until this thing called life decided it was time for me to join the club.
When Wyoming was on the road though, I depended on Dave.
Most games didn't appear on television in those days. Those tilts in Honolulu never did. That, coupled with the four-hour time difference, had me playing the part of amateur radio engineer around the stroke of midnight, attempting to keep the volume at a desirable decibel while also not waking up my grandpa. His snoring didn't help. Neither did my emotional outbursts or fist pounding the carpet in disgust.
Ah, the life of a fan.
Those meetings with Hawaii always stick out to me when I think about Dave. He, along with color analyst, Kevin McKinney, was our lone connection to what was happening those nights inside Aloha Stadium.
Seriously, think about that for a minute.
Newspaper deadlines were toast. We weren't going to read one thing about the Cowboys' trip to the island -- or see a photo -- in print until Monday morning, at the earliest.
No internet. No smart phones. No social media.
Just Dave and Kevin.
I wanted to know what uniforms the teams were wearing. I wanted to know what the crowd looked like. I wanted to hear what Paul Roach had to say postgame. That duo provided all of that and more.
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I'll admit, there were times I would get upset with Dave. The passion in his voice was so true that you'd think Ryan Yarborough just snagged an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Hughes. Nope, it was a gain of five. Dave! What are you doing, man?
Now that I'm older, I look back at those moments with fondness. He was excited. He shared that with us. Who doesn't want an excitable pay-by-play guy?
I once had a front-row seat to the flip side of fun, too.
I joined Dave and Kevin in the booth high above War Memorial Stadium for a game late in the 2009 season. I was a sophomore at Laramie County Community College and was shadowing the duo for a mass-media class.
Hated BYU was in town. It wasn't pretty.
Let's put it this way, I got an education in what veteran broadcasters do during a blowout. It's not fun. And trust me, their passion is real.
As the 52-0 shellacking got under way, I'll never forget Kevin slamming his headset on the desk during a commercial break and not-so-calmly saying, "I thought we closed the gap with these guys?" Three more hours of head shaking followed.
It's amazing how much we fall in love with broadcasters, isn't it?
As a lifelong Phillies fan, I couldn't wait to hear Harry Kalas's baritone call of the final out of the 2008 World Series. It didn't disappoint:
Chills. Pure chills.
When Kalas died in Washington DC just six months later, I wept -- more like bawled -- as I attempted to deliver packages for my meaningless FedEx job. I'll never forget Phillies' chairman David Montgomery, with his thick Philly accent and a quiver in his voice, udder the words: "Today, we lost our voice."
Kalas, who coincidentally called Phillies games for 38 seasons, collapsed in the booth inside Nationals Park before a game on April 13, 2009. This is how that emotional broadcast began:
Rick Jeanneret is another announcer that means so much to me.
The voice of the Buffalo Sabres for 51 seasons, Jeanneret turned off the mic one final time this spring. The team celebrated him all season long. He means that much to the fans of Western New York. He means so much to me:
These guys don't just call silly games, they are in your living room nearly every night during the season. They are a constant, synonymous with the teams we love. We mimic their memorable calls. We brag that our guy is the best.
Dave Walsh is very much in this category for me.
"Down he goes!"
And, of course, "The score, Oh the score!" That catchphrase followed each UW victory. There was obviously more gusto behind the call when it came after an upset.
For 38 seasons so many throughout the Rocky Mountain Region relied on Dave. He was with you at deer camp. He sat shotgun on your long drives. He was an honored guest in your home, showing up each fall and winter.
So, Dave, there is only one thing we can say ... Thank you for the ride. Thank you for the memories. Simply, thank you.