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.
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.)