As two of Albuquerque’s favorite sons prepared for their 1997 super flyweight unification fight in Las Vegas, Nev., Johnny Tapia was asked by KOAT-TV reporter Bob Brown if the boxer’s brewing feud with fellow Duke City boxing champion Danny Romero would split the city in two.
“He said, ‘Come on, Bob. Albuquerque is always going to be the same,’ ” Brown recalled of Tapia’s response, downplaying the significance of the split allegiances among sports fans back home.
The 56-year-old Brown announced this week his retirement from a 35-year broadcasting career – 28 of which were in Albuquerque, including 18 years on television and the past 10 as the host of “The Locker Room,” a five-day-a-week, three-hour sports call-in radio show on KQTM-FM 101.7 The Team/ESPN Radio.
Brown’s final show is Friday at 4 p.m., though he said he’ll still do freelance and voice work with the station and pursue contract work and other opportunities.
His is the latest in a string of longtime sports reporters shifting careers away from full-time sports journalism in the past six months, including the semi-retirement of the Journal’s Rick Wright after 40 years and KOB-TV’s J.P. Murrieta, leaving his job after 25 years. The television station Brown worked at from 1990 through 2009 doesn’t even employ a full-time sportscaster anymore.
So, when asked about that changing sports journalism landscape he is now leaving, at least on a full-time basis, Brown said he has thought about Tapia’s quote a lot.
“I kind of want to answer it like Johnny did, but it’s changed,” Brown said. “… I feel like journalism has changed in the past few years and I’m not sure it’ll ever go back. But change can be a good thing.”
And change for Brown means spending more time with his wife, Catherine, who retired about a year ago after about 25 years working with Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque.
The two moved to Albuquerque in 1990 from their home in Georgia after they “literally pulled out an atlas, opened a page, put our finger down and it was Albuquerque,” Brown said. Since then, her career in nursing and his in broadcasting often had them on opposite work schedules.
“It’s almost been like parallel tracks for us,” Brown said. “I’m always sort of working on the show – I always have one eye on the show and thinking about my responsibilities on the show because that’s my career. … It’s just not fair to her. This is her retirement, as well. She wants to go out and do things and enjoy this time, too.”
Brown says he’s looking forward to being able to pick and choose whatever comes next, though he does plan to do voice work for ESPN and work with the station on occasion.
“It’d be foolish of the station not to maintain a relationship with Bob Brown,” said 101.7 The Team President Joe O’Neill.
In his nearly three decades in Albuquerque, Brown has built a reputation for hard work and meticulous preparation.
“He was usually in the office a minimum of three to four hours before the show started, and you could tell he already spent a couple hours preparing at home,” O’Neill said.
That, Brown says, is a source of great pride.
“I can honestly look back at it and say I grinded it out every day,” Brown said. “I never mailed it in. I can look back on 35 years of broadcasting, and say I gave everything I had and never showed up unprepared or with an unwillingness to do (the job) in order to get the job done.”
Brown also embraced helping interns or young show producers breaking into the business, both in television and radio.
“When Joe hired me at the station, Bob didn’t bat an eye,” said Mike Burt, the three-year producer of “The Locker Room” whose first job in the industry was with Brown. “He instantly took to teaching me anything he could. The thing that I appreciate most about our working relationship is that Bob would try anything I would throw at him. He was never too big for the bit. … I will always recognize the impact he has had on me and my career.”
As for the future of drive time radio on 101.7 FM?
“Our first responsibility is to make sure that we send Bob off with a bang,” said O’Neill. “But we are confident that we will be able to maintain the same level of quality in the years to come.”
Nothing specific has been announced, but O’Neill said the next couple weeks will feature some form of live, local content and then the station will air Major League Baseball playoffs, which would preempt the show anyway.
After that, says O’Neill, is something he will announce at a later date, but it will definitely be a local show in the time slot.