Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm Not the Voice of the Cardinals Anymore

Interviewing Peter Salvatore after the 2002 FCIAC Championship Game
"All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves." - Amelia Barr
I have to write this: I will no longer be calling Greenwich football on WGCH.

I probably needed to write this about a month ago. Then, suddenly, I didn't. So I began to relax and forget about it. In fact, yesterday I told you (my trusty reader) to forget about the whole thing.

Moments later, my various means of communication began to light up.

Now, I'm back, needing to say it out loud.

After 14 years and 161 games (give or take), two state championships, five FCIAC titles, and countless other moments, I'm done.

I was first a part of GHS football for a playoff game in 1999 as a sideline reporter and analyst at Boyle Stadium, as the Cardinals beat Fairfield Prep to move onto the state championship game. When Sports Director John Connelly stepped down the following summer, I ascended to the lead role.

I worked with great people. People who became friends. The staff at GHS, through three athletic directors, have been phenomenal. The great Brian Kennedy, who set me up time after time with anything I needed, is a true pro and a friend. The same can be said for the coaches, from Rich Albonizio through Wayne Gioffre and TJ Ostruzka. They, among so many other coaches, all made me feel welcome and trusted me with information. I thank them all.

Of course, it's the players who make it all work. From the Longo boys to the Jones brothers to Pat Wilson, Ricky Riscica, Justin Gaccione, Jeff DeVico, Peter Salvatore, Mike Lefflbine and beyond, I've been blessed to broadcast them, and I can't possibly name them all. Many of them are now friends. Beyond that, I watched John Sullivan go from being a high school great to a Viking.

I also got to know their parents. Whether it is Susy Bawol, Alyce Kavanagh, Roe Lefflbine, the Riscicas, the DeVicos, the Hahns, Cindy Poletsky or anyone else, I've loved you all for allowing me to know your kids and for your kindness. You invited me to join you for the captain's breakfast, or tailgates, or even postgame beverages.

The Chelwicks, Dick Leonard, the late Bob Darula, Evan Dubin, Avery Belicka, and too many other people to name...just all the best. The backbone of the GHS football family. We laughed in the booth too many times to count. Or on the field. Or at film night.

My fellow reporters, from Dave Fierro and Tim Parry to Jesse Quinlan through Paul Silverfarb. We all seemed to get that the right thing was to cooperate with each other. That will continue, regardless.

For the listeners, many of you didn't always like me. Maybe it was my sense of humor, or you wanted more, or you didn't like me getting excited when another team scored, or whatever. The criticism helped - both positive and negative.

Lastly, the WGCH team that was assembled over the years was remarkable. In the beginning, it was just Sean Kilkelly and I. It evolved through Mark Rosen and Ian Handwerger. It added Tommy Dee, Tom Polina, Tom Kane, Ricky Fritsch, Chris Erway, Chris Kaelin, Ryan DeMaria, Jason Intrieri, Nick Angotto, Matt Hamilton, Tom Prizeman, Max Barefoot, Nick Fox, Rob Crowley, Zach Fisher, John Collins, Amanda Romaniello, and a few others. I've tried to name you all and have likely failed.

It's been a remarkable run. I'm told that I called more games than anyone else in GHS/WGCH history, and I'm honored if that's true. I've tried to give you my best while being honest and fair. I wanted to stay a lot longer than I did.

I guess that comes around to the simple question of what happened...

I heard back in the mid-summer that another broadcaster was going to come aboard with promises of sponsor money and maybe even a big-name analyst. Assuming he could, I was likely out. While I tried to hold out hope, I also had to get my own fall schedule in order, including my list of games for HAN Radio.

Last week, I heard various things disputing the above, but it was soon discovered that, with some work and cooperation, I'd be back. I began to prepare for year number 15 at the microphone, with the task of finding other play-by-play voices to jump in on HAN.

Yes, calling Greenwich games meant that much to me. It often took precedence over my real job, or my personal life. So, as I've done before, I crafted out a game plan to get me on the WGCH call. I passed it along to the management of both WGCH and HAN. Marty Hersam at HAN was on-board. It seemed, at first, that WGCH was as well.

I found out yesterday that I was out, when friends reached out to me. I have yet to hear anything official from my radio home since 1997, but I'm a fairly bright guy.

I don't know if this means I'm totally done at WGCH (some want me to walk out now, but that's not how I am). There is certainly some anger at how this was handled. If it is, I was honored to do this for as long as I did. Nothing lasts forever.

If it is, my thanks climbs immeasurably to Bill Brehm, Mike Mora, John Spang, Mark Smallwood, John Connelly, and so...so...many others. Owners. Management. Salespeople. Lindsey Romeo, Joy Marshall, John Iannuzzi, Jim Thompson. Other show hosts. Man...the list is endless.

What you learn is nobody owes anyone a thing. You can do a show for free for two years and it means nothing. You can give and give and give. It just doesn't matter. It's business. Nothing personal.

I'll still be around Greenwich with HAN Radio (we have at least three football games lined up for this year). Except now, more than ever, I have to treat Big Red like just another team.

Sean Kilkelly, the first person I called when I became Sports Director, and my friend, will now be the voice of the Cardinals on WGCH. I wish him good voice and good games. I also understand that it's an opportunity. Take it and run.

I hope you'll all come find me over at HANRadio.com.

So thanks, Greenwich. Thanks for these wonderful football memories. Thanks for everything. It's been an amazing honor.

To better days...

1 comment:

Mike Zito said...

Hey Rob,

I'm sorry to hear this. There were many highlights to Greenwich/Staples football games, but what I looked forward more than any other was sharing time in the broadcast booths covering the game for our respective stations. I can't begin to thank you enough for the respect you gave to the Staples High School broadcasters, or begin to describe what a class act you've been.

It's been a pleasure to get to know you a little bit over the years, and hope that your work with HAN allows us to cross paths often.

Sincerely,

Mike Zito