On Press Row Coming To An End

I’m not any different than most of the folks who heard the news of On Press Row coming to an end yesterday. I was shocked, but also understanding. Television and radio shows rarely go on forever. And fourteen years is a hell of a run. But this isn’t unprecedented. It’s happened in the past and it’ll happen in the future. And, let’s face it, Gary’s no spring chicken any more, though I’d like to have seen him go out on his terms, when he’s ready to hang it up for good – or unplug his mic for the last time.

I met Gary the very first time some time around 2010. I was dealing cards at the casino on the south side of Waterloo. I’d always been a marginal UNI fan, growing more as I had moved into the area around 2005. Whatever the case, one of my floor bosses told me who Gary was. It was cool to meet him and I could easily feel his love for the Panthers coming out. And in time, it infected me and grew inside.

It was about this time that he’d tipped me off about the On Press Row radio show. So I started checking it out. Over time, I became an almost daily listener. Most weeks I’d catch them all and very few times I’d catch less than four. Also in this time, I became a pretty regular caller. Got to the point where every in-studio producer knew or knows my voice when I call. Although, there’s been a few times I’ve disguised my voice. Called once as an insecure guy named Sol, that I stole from the Jerky Boys. That time I was able to get one over on Gary and the crew with some goofiness. And there’s a few times I’ve called in as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes from heaven.

But more importantly, over this same time frame, I’ve been able to call Gary a friend. I’ve become a relative attender of UNI Coach’s Shows, not to mention UNI basketball games and occasional volleyball matches. Which is tough for me, as I’m not a fan of being in large gatherings, namely because I hate traffic so much. He paid up on a bet one time and we had lunch at Old Chicago, which isn’t even around anymore, which tells how far we’ve gone back.

With his show, I’ve become a contributor on this website, as well as on air. Sometimes with Missouri Valley Conference Power Rankings in football and basketball, sometimes with an editorial and also with NCAA Bracketology the last three or four years. And just a few weeks ago, I even released a bracket with 64 viruses/sicknesses/illnesses. But with this format that Gary provided me, I’ve parlayed it into FCS Bracketology, Top 25 and many, many articles for College Sports Madness online. I never would have been able to do that without Gary’s show.

This last summer, after a preseason FCS show topic that Gary had me on in studio, he told me about an open position for the UNI Home of the Panthers.com radio call-in show. Told me I was the first person he thought about. With that recommendation, in combination with Jeff Stein going to bat for me, I ended up with that gig this last season. And it was as much fun as I’ve ever had – at least when the phones worked properly, haha!

But I’ve had a lot of fun busting Gary’s balls when he gets a little too Cub-centric during baseball season. Or maybe his UNI glasses are a little too purple during football or basketball, I’d call or text to try and reel him in a little. And I’ve done the same with many of his producers also, especially that Hawkeye apologist, John Leo. But I’ve crushed on Logan Blackman and Cole Bair more than a handful of times also.

I’ve become friends with some of the other listeners also. Mark in Protivin, the Leo family, Coach Mo, a few of the CourtKings players. Even had supper with a few of them from time to time.

None of this would have been possible without Gary and his vision for On Press Row. And thank you Gary for that vision and dedication. You’ve been an award-winning radio broadcaster a couple of times. Your daily storytelling and insight is something the Cedar Valley has had the pleasure to enjoy for these last fourteen years. You’re a great friend, mentor and friend. If you decide to get back into the daily radio thing, I wish you nothing but luck. If you decide to slow down and concentrate on just the game day stuff for UNI and your CourtKings, I’ve got your back there also.

Thanks for everything and God bless Marla Kay for having to put up with you more than she’s ready for.