Almost a quarter century ago I suddenly became a sportscaster, at least I played one on TV. WWMT-TV to be precise, the CBS station in the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek market.
It was one of my days off in the winter of 1991 when my news director Perry Boxx called me at home, asking me to come into the station to “talk to me about something important.” I had worked there only about six weeks, and it hadn’t exactly been a smooth month and a half. I was having growing pains adjusting to the new job, mispronouncing Dowagiac and Ionia, mixing up South and Grand Haven, and had recently been part of the watery destruction of a news car. Watch the sinking right here: https://dennishouse.tv/2013/01/23/that-time-i-sank-a-news-car-on-a-frigid-winter-day/
When I arrived at WWMT, Perry had a serious look on his face and I immediately feared the worse. “I was being fired,” I thought. “Maybe I could get my old job back in Rockford, Illinois?” Perry told me the regular sports guy was getting the boot instead and I was now the new weekend sports anchor, albeit on an interim basis.
So, I’m an average sports fan. I watch games, know the teams and the major players, but I am by no means a sports expert. As a news guy, I need to know governors, mayors and members of congress and my brain can only hold so much information! And the teams I had to suddenly be an expert on in my state were numerous: the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, Tigers, not to mention the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and the list went on. I’m a believer that a sports anchor should we able to identify players by their numbers, and that skill was not in my toolbox.
My first sportscast was awful, and the local newspaper made note of it, in a somewhat kind way that still screamed “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
It was so bad, even the people at the Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids vacated the seats at the gate when I came on. A friend of mine snapped this picture, undoubtedly not admitting she knew that joke of a sportscaster.
I got better, and quickly. I studied, watched lots of games and filed some pretty cool reports. I interviewed a young baseball player at Kalamazoo Central High School named Derek Jeter and later a coach at Grand Valley State University named Brian Kelley, now of Notre Dame fame. Read about him here: https://dennishouse.tv/2013/01/07/who-knew-where-hed-be-today/ Later in my career, that sportscasting stint prepped me for assigments at the Pontiac Silverdome and a World Series at Yankee Stadium.
I did this for about four or five months until a permanent sports guy was hired and I got promoted to news anchor, all because of what I “accomplished” on the sports desk. Good thing, because that call from ESPN never came.
Categories: Growing Up