Earlier this week our Andrew Bucholtz talked to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim about his feature article on the decline in significance of the local sports anchor. In an age of Twitter and TikTok, highlights and interviews are everywhere instantly at your disposal. Even SportsCenter has seen its influence wane over the years nationally. But there once was a time when the local sports anchor was everything to fans. That person was the voice delivering highlights to your favorite team, the one who opened up a whole new world to your favorite athletes, and even maybe gave your high school a taste of the big time. Today our staff pays tributes to some of their favorite local sports anchors over the years to pay tribute to an industry that may never be the same.
Brandon Contes: As a devout SportsCenter viewer in my youth, the only time I watched local sports anchors with regularity came while scouring the news for snow reports in hopes of hearing school was canceled. But even as a kid, Warner Wolf was a local New York sports anchor who cut through as a legend. In addition to watching him on CBS, I remember being on my way to school and hearing him on the radio with Don Imus.
His funny highlights, constant laughter, and famous catchphrase of “Let’s go to the videotape” will forever be entrenched in my brain, as will his performance sitting alongside Stu Nahan in Rocky IV. I was later ecstatic to learn Wolf’s voice sounded exactly the same off-air as it did on-air while screening calls for him as an intern at ESPN 1050.
Michael Dixon: My favorite was Mark Ibanez at KTVU Fox 2 in San Francisco. First of all, he had a fun name to say as a little kid. For a while, I thought his name was “Marky Banez.” But his postgame shows on the local Fox affiliate gave me a great connection to the 49ers of the 90s — and not just the ultimate superstars like Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
He knew the guys better than the national reporters, so he knew who the best interviews were. And the guys generally knew him well enough to feel loose enough with him to open up. As a young fan, seeing the more human side of these players that I saw as superhuman only made me cheer harder for them.
Matt Clapp: I’m going with a “local” news broadcast that was shown nationally as a superstation- WGN. As a Chicago sports fan that has spent much of my life outside of Chicago, I relied on the WGN Superstation for Cubs games and Bulls games for many years. But the WGN News was also my way of getting Cubs, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks highlights and news that were so hard to find anywhere else until 20 or so years ago.
A moment I particularly looked forward to each week was “Instant Replay,” a 20-minute sports segment after the WGN News at 9:40 pm CT on Sunday nights. It would recap major events of the week/day and especially was a must-watch for me after a Bears game, a Bulls playoff game (and there were many in the ’90s, of course), or any major Chicago sporting event that weekend.
Instant Replay — and WGN News sports coverage in general — was hosted by sports anchor Dan Roan (and sometimes Rich King), who was with WGN from 1984 until retirement in 2022. Roan also did some fill-in play-by-play for WGN sporting events and even called Sammy Sosa’s 66th home run in 1998. In the ’90s, he was the equivalent of a SportsCenter anchor to me.
Chris Novak: Len Berman at WNBC-4 NY (the enterprise of NBC of course) had a huge impact on my sports fandom. I always watched him growing up at my Nana’s house, so that holds a special connection with me. I always liked his voice.
Spanning the World also always encouraged me to appreciate sports of all kind, something that still sticks with me to this day.
Ken Fang: I think back to the 1980’s when Boston had three strong sports departments – WBZ, WCVB and WHDH. You had Bob Lobel heading WBZ with Bob Neumeier backing him up, Don Gillis then eventually Mike Lynch at WCVB which also had Keith Olbermann for a brief period, then WHDH led by John Dennis. And also independent WLVI had a decent sports department. It was a massive rivalry among the all of the channels which covered the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox and the Doug Flutie days at Boston College. On the weekends, each channel ran 10 minutes of highlights. You won’t ever see that again.
This video is in the heyday of WBZ when it was an NBC affiliate. Bob Lobel would record cut-ins for the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and there would actually be production values like black and white video or inserting Lobel as a guest with Johnny. This has to be seen to be believed.
Ben Koo: With its transplants galore and intense focus on tech, the Bay Area has never really stood out as much of a sports market but it certainly didn’t feel that way with growing up with Vern Glenn on KRON, the local NBC affiliate.
Glenn was actually the number two sports anchor to the much more curmudgeonly Gary Radnich. He was energetic, fun on the air, and very approachable out and about at various sporting events. Particularly known for his Mr. Involvement segments, Glenn was at his best mixing in some humor with himself being the butt of the joke. He didn’t take himself or sports too seriously and seemed to get along with just about every athlete the city had. When I think about the many reasons the ’90s seemed so awesome, Vern Glenn is mixed into that big bowl of nostalgia.
As I got cable and SportsCenter became essential viewing and my local fandom waned as the Niners and A’s struggled in the late 90’s right before I went off to college, Glenn became a smaller presence in my life. I wasn’t alone.
KRON lost its affiliate status with NBC and ratings to the local news dried up. A very popular personality, Glenn all but disappeared for more than a decade, and worse, his status and job responsibilities fell off a cliff which is something I wrote about in 2012.
Glenn did a decade plus moonlighting, taping and editing weddings and children’s soccer games, while lugging this whole contraption to press conferences at major sporting events in the area for his day job. Ultimately he landed at KPIX, the local CBS affiliate and became a multiple-time Emmy winner. Glenn’s enthusiasm, joy for sports, and affability was an inspiration to me as a child growing up. His patience, dedication, and faith in himself to achieve a comeback after a decade plus in career hell, or at least purgatory, is an inspiration to me today. Vern Glenn is a freaking legend.