A Snowy Saturday Night

If you’re joining us in progress, this is the week NBC 30 moved out of the brick bunker it’s been occupying since 1954.  Which puts us in a semi-nostalgic state of mind. 

January, 1979.  I was making my way from Storrs to West Hartford.

Courtside at the Field House at UConn.  Pure 100% polyester.

Courtside at the Field House at UConn. Stylin' in pure polyester.

I had just done the UConn basketball game on the radio, and was headed to Channel 30 to anchor the 11 pm sports report.  My workday had begun before the sun rose, at WPOP radio in Newington.

I was 26 years old, and fried from a seven-day-a-week grind, still hoping it would all pay off.

Tom Monahan was the weekend anchor, and the deal was that on nights I had a UConn/Channel 30 doubleheader, Tom would prepare a sportscast, and I would get there as soon as I could to work on it.  But on this night, Tom was off.

I would tell you who the substitute was, but I don’t want to.  He thought he was bright, so let’s call him Sun.  And let’s give him an ethnic-sounding last name.  How about something like Ovabich?

Anyway, this Sun Ovabich knew what the deal was, and when I walked in after driving through a moderate snowstorm, he handed me my script for the sportscast.  An introduction to a network report on rodeo.  I complimented him on his sharp sense of humor, and asked where the real script was.

“That’s it,” he said.  And really, that was it.  There was UConn basketball, Whalers hockey, and football playoffs going on.  And I had a story on rodeo.

At that precise moment, I knew that it was my last night at Channel 30.  I sat down and wrote a radio sportscast.  No film, no video, no graphics, no nothing.  Just me.  On camera.  For the entire time.  I sat down at the set.  Sun Ovabich also produced the show.

“You have two and a half minutes.”

I am not a fighter, but Sun became just the second person in my life I threatened with physical violence.  (Brothers don’t count.)

“Sun, listen to me, and listen good.  I’m gonna start with the top page, and I’m not gonna stop til I’ve read the bottom page.  If you try to stop me, I will hit you on the air.  I promise.”

We could have become local television news legends that night, but Sun enjoyed his visage far too much to stand the thought of it being marred.  I sat there and read about six minutes of sports, and after the last page, I stopped speaking and smiled benignly into the camera.  That Sun Ovabich smartly took the cue, and wished the viewers a good night.  Which was more than I wished him.

I left Channel 30 that night knowing that, for my mental health, I had to pare my schedule back to my full-time job at WPOP and nothing more.  (It was a good job.  I was the sports director.  Whenever I wanted to hold a meeting of the entire sports staff, I’d go into the men’s room, look in the mirror, and call the meeting to order.  The news director thought I was a little nuts.  Smart young woman named Nesti, as I recall.)

I walked out the door, and I didn’t return until...(to be continued.)

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About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
This entry was posted in It's all about me, Living in the Past, TV Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Snowy Saturday Night

  1. Don Ennis says:

    Now THAT is a great story!
    Amazing also that somehow I can hear your voice in my head telling it, too. Thanks, Gerry, and keep ’em coming!

    PS If I buy you a drink, will you tell me Sun Ovabich’s name?

    • tbone says:

      It’s too bad the mets still stink in HD…great job on the 11 am- you should be proud of all the hard work you put in.
      May your continued success of being number 1 in news in CT continue…channel 3 who?

  2. Gerry says:

    What, you think I’m that easy?

  3. hendu says:

    You are if it is a John on the rocks

  4. Gerry's Mentor says:

    You have forgotten the spiffy plaid sports guy jacket with Channel 30 breast pocket patch.

  5. Peter N says:

    I THINK I remember this very night. In fact, I know I do, Gerry. You showed great, almost inhuman, self-restraint. That’s why we love you and tonight, we’ll see you and Keish in Hi Def. (AHHH!!!) Serously, finally.

    Keep it up, my friend.

  6. Peter N says:

    P.S. I had just turned 26. Those were the days, but most of ’em have still been pretty good.

  7. Gerry says:

    Hendu and Peter, you’re right on both counts.

    And Mentor, that sports jacket you’re thinking about had a 3 on it, but no zero. And it was butt ugly.

  8. Bill S. says:

    Brooksie –

    Ah the good old days of working 3 different jobs to get to the precipice that you now enjoy as a venerable TV anchor man…following in the footsteps of Cronkite.

    I just want to know why the picture of you at courtside at the Fieldhouse at Storrs xdoes not include your play-by-play partner…I remember he was outstanding…And carried your butt through the broadcasts. LOL

  9. Gerry says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, my UConn partner in crime, Mr. Bill Schweizer. He, in fact, tells the truth about carrying my butt. We could tell stories about those years, but you wouldn’t believe them anyway.

  10. #2 says:

    How refreshing….am looking forward to the next installment, can’t believe this didn’t start…” I was born In Boston back in 50’s and spent my formative years in Framingham, Ma……just think how much material you would have……you could go forever….
    Love ya”
    2

  11. Lori says:

    I can’t stand the suspense!!!!!!!!!

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