On Monday evening, July 16, Randy Shaver will sit down on the news set of KARE-11, the NBC affiliate in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minn.—something he has been doing for nearly three decades. However, this Monday night is different. He will not be off to the side of the set, delivering his customary sports report, for which he has literally become an institution in the Twin Cities. Instead, he will slide on over, front and center, as the “new” coanchor of the news at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
And this is “third time's the charm” for Shaver, who was twice passed over for the job previously; the first time came back in 2003, after Paul Magers made like the NBA’s Lakers of long ago and left Minneapolis for Los Angeles. But this time, when anchor Mike Pomeranz left to take a broadcasting job with the San Diego Padres, KARE finally got it right.
Shaver deserves the gig and is the right guy. In fact, I can only think of one bad decision he has ever made in 30 years: He gave me my first-ever break in the business.
During the fall of my freshman year at Boston University, where I studied broadcast journalism (and girls who were out of my league…not a very exclusive club), I knew I was headed back home to Minnesota for the summer. So I lobbed a call that September into the sports director at KARE, Randy Shaver. He took my cold call, and when I explained to him who I was (or, more accurately, wasn’t) and that I wanted a summer internship, he told me it sounded good and to call back—you know, when the job wasn’t 10 months away.
So I stayed on him— or more like borderline stalked via phone. Shaver held to his word, and that summer I was a sports intern at KARE. For a 19-year-old who was dying to get into the business, it was a dream job. I watched games during nights and logged highlights and wrote up “shot sheets” for the anchors to use. Problem was, I never wanted to leave. So I quit my summer day job picking up trash and mowing lawns for the city (I know, huge sacrifi ce) in order to basically hang around in the sports department all afternoon, too.
Shaver and his crew rewarded my hunger, letting me go out on some shoots. I will never forget the first time my voice made it onto the air, when I interviewed a high school tennis player (my triumphant, eloquent question, captured on local NBC air during the network’s halcyon days: “And the pressure…?”). Eventually, they started letting me tag along with a cameraman to interview pro baseball players before and after Minnesota Twins games. That didn’t start out so hot. The first time I eagerly asked a (stupid) question of curmudgeonly Twins manager Tom Kelly in a press gaggle, his curt, dismissive answer in front of everyone was the pro sports equivalent of what the girls back at Boston University used to say to other inquiries.
One of my other Edward R. Murrow-esque moments came when I was trying to interview a few Twins players after a win, and a topless Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek— who was built like a professional wrestler and smelled my rookie blood in the water—kept following us around, flexing his muscles and grunting behind every teammate I tried to interview, which basically rendered our footage useless.
Nevertheless, I learned a ton that summer and it launched my career, all thanks to Randy Shaver giving me a chance.
So forgive me if I am biased, but I couldn’t have been happier when I heard the news that KARE was shifting Shaver over. Well, almost as happy as the news that he has logged 12 years of being cancer-free after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Shaver has raised nearly $5 million for cancer research, according to a local newspaper).
It will be strange not seeing him do the sports when I am home in Minneapolis. (Hey, wait a second: Do you guys at KARE need a new sports director? Call me!) But I can’t wait to flip on the evening news and see the guy who gave me my first shot deservedly getting his.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman
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