BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Gary Bender,  August 19, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Gary Bender,  August 19, 2008
Date:
August 19, 2008
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Bender, Gary Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Sweeney, Kate Date of Interview: 8/19/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 90 minutes

Jones: Today is Tuesday, August 19th, 2008, and I am Carroll Jones with Kate -- last name? ""

" Sweeney: Sweeney"

"Jones: Sweeney -- for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project. And we're in the Helen Hagen room, Special Collections at UNCW, Wilmington. Our special guest this morning is Gary Bender if the not the best-known play-by-play basketball, football announcer, then certainly a top-tier color commentator. University of Kansas, NBA Finals, NCAA College Basketball, Monday Night Football, associated with CBS Sports, ABC Sports, major league baseball and on and on, Turner Broadcasting. Welcome Mr. Bender. I can't go any further. We'll let you do it. "

"Bender: Well Carroll, I'm one hundred years old. "

"Jones: Would never have known it. Would never have known it. Just start anywhere, particularly a little bit about you, your background, where you're from, etc. "

"Bender:Well, I grew up in a coach's family. My dad was an outstanding coach. In fact, he's in the Kansas State High School Coaches Hall of Fame. And so when I was a young kid I was around everything imaginable: football, basketball, baseball, track. I was kind of the ball boy, the water boy, the mascot of the team. And so by osmosis I knew instantly that I wanted to do something that would associate me with the sports business. But unfortunately in the 7th grade my dad decided to get out of coaching, and we moved to the middle of nowhere. We moved 40 miles away from the nearest town, and he was taking over his father-in-law's farm. And so I'm in the 7th grade and all of a sudden I've been transformed from being in sports to going to a one-room country school, to being on a tractor every day. What I'd do, Carroll, is I'd get up in the morning and I'd milk two cows; I'd eat breakfast, I'd gas up the tractor -- plow to Noon, eat my sack lunch, plow to sundown, milk the same two cows and go to bed. "

"Jones: This was where in Kansas? "

"Bender: This is on the Kansas/Colorado line near a town -- I eventually went to high school -- Ulysses, Kansas, and near Holly, Colorado. But it was nowhere; it was in the middle of nowhere. But to survive those long days I decided I'd start making up ball games. So I'm on this tractor, and I would start out the day, and I would start the broadcast with the national anthem. I'd sing the national anthem. And I would do the games. "

"Jones: You did the whole nine yards? "

"Bender: I would go extra innings or sudden death or overtime until that tractor was to be shut down for lunch or whatever it may be. I did the commercials. You remember the Gillette commercials, "Look sharp and be sharp too." I did that one. I had the Pabst Blue Ribbon one down. I had "Lucky Strike means fine tobacco." I had all of those on, and I had them memorized, and I sang them. "

"Jones: Now let me ask you -- I've got to interrupt you here. Did you do the same teams over and over or did you just pick -- "

"Bender: No. I started my own, like in baseball, I'd have my own pennant race." " "

"Jones: You had your own pennant race. "

"Bender: And so I would have the lineups and I'd bring in at the end of the day what had happened if a batter had gone three for four or if he had struck out six guys or whatever. And so I had my own pennant race, and I would develop that, and I'd act like I was in Yankee Stadium. I'd act like I was in the Orange Bowl. I'd act like I was in the Los Angeles Coliseum. And I even had a network that was at that time very unfamiliar to most people. It was called the Liberty Broadcasting Network. And there was a guy named The Scotchman, Gordon McClendon whom I used to hear on radio. And he'd come and he'd say, "This is the Liberty Broadcasting Network, and that's how I'd start the broadcasts. And so the reason I tell that story is it had such impact on my subconscious that years later when I did a game I thought I'd done one before. "

"Jones: Is that right? That's amazing. That's amazing. That sounds very familiar to me. "

"Bender: Yes. Your son Andrew I'm sure could go through the same thing. "

"Jones: Oh Lord. So this was 7th grade and -- go on from there. "

"Bender: Well, I went to the 7th and 8th grade, and unfortunately for our family we came into the drought. You know, there was a terrible drought that hit during that time. We couldn't get any rain. I remember being out on tractor and looking on the horizon. And here would come this bank of dust rolling in like waves off of an ocean. And we would run into the barn, put our machinery away, run inside the house, put blankets on the windows, wet a handkerchief, put it over our nose and wait it out. And this went on for hours. It'd be pitch black at Noon. And that's hard for people to even understand that. You could not see outside at all. And so what happened was my dad couldn't make any money. And he had ended up then asking me to make spud nuts. Do you know what spud nuts are? "

"Jones: I've heard -- I know what they are. Those hard brick jawbreakers. "

"Bender: Well, they were actually the Krispy Kreme of their day, if you will -- the Dunkin' Donut of this day. And so he sent me to Waltzenburg, Colorado, and I learned to make spud nuts to get us out of debt, to try to pay all our bills. And I had a real technique Carroll. You've got to watch this. There was a spud nut cutter, and you'd roll out a 40-dozen batch, and you'd take the spud nut cutter and you'd flip them on your thumb, and you'd catch them on your thumb and lay them down on the proof sheet. I was the talk of the town in this little town; they'd come in to watch me flip those on my thumb. I should've put it on my resume. No one knows that but you. "

"Jones: Spud nuts. "

"Bender: Spud nuts. So then to go farther onto that, my dad then was asked to come in and coach, after he paid off every dime of his debt. The spud nuts shop had bailed us out, and I played for him in high school. In my junior year, we went undefeated. "

"Jones: And that was where? "

"Bender: That was in Ulysses, Kansas. "

"Jones: That was Ulysses, Kansas. "

"Bender: A town of all of 2,000. Maybe we had one hundred in my class. But we went undefeated. My dad had gone back into coaching; it was a thrill for me. I won all-state honors, the first ever in the history of that school, because the school was in the middle of nowhere. No one had ever heard of us, but we were undefeated, so I got recognition because of that. So that is kind of the beginning of what happened. I got a football scholarship to play in college. I wasn't very good. I went to Wichita University to play; I was a defensive back with no speed, and that's bad -- because you can't cover anybody. And I struggled through four years of football and then ended up going to graduate school at the University of Kansas. And frankly, the reason I went there is I couldn't get a job. I didn't know what to do. And my grades were good enough; they said, "Well, why don't you try this?" "

"Jones: What was your major? "

"Bender: It was radio, television, film. That's a surprise I'm sure. I had nothing else I knew to do. I got there; they, surprisingly, admitted me, and it began a relationship with a guy who became a mentor to me at the University of Kansas. He was the voice of the Kansas Jayhawks; his name was Tom Hedrick. And he had me spot for him, and I would fill in and do some games, high school games. And he came to me one day and he put him arm around me, and he says, "Gary, you've got a real future in this business." And that where I really decided, "I'm going to do this. I'm going to go for it." "

"Jones: That's how it started. When was that? "

"Bender: This would've been in 1962. So I finished up Carroll and I was in the same position. I couldn't get a job. I mean I was writing my thesis, getting ripped to shreds every day. I was in Kansas City living in the basement of my aunt with my wife. We'd been married a year. She put me through my last year of graduate school. "

"Jones: She must've loved you. "

"Bender: She was a teacher, making a lot more money than I could ever make. And I was waiting for that opportunity. And I got a call one day, and the guy calls me and says, "Gary. I think there's a job opportunity if you'll drive to Wichita, Kansas and go to this Kansas Association of Radio Broadcasters and talk to this guy, you might have a job." I borrowed money from my aunt, because we didn't have credit cards then. It wasn't like you could take -- "

"Jones: Uh-uh. No. I remember that. "

"Bender: -- you know, A VISA card and throw it down. And so I borrowed money from my aunt, who was driving me crazy. I was living in the basement; I was so humbled by all this. Drove to Wichita and waited outside the ballroom, and I waited for this guy. And he came out, and I ran up to him. His name was Fred Concord -- became -- he was a legend of broadcasting as far as management was concerned. And I said, "Mr. Concord, my name is Gary Bender. I want to work for you. And I started in and I gave him everything I had, which wasn't a lot. But I threw it at him. "

"Jones: And he took it. "

"Bender: Well, he stood there and he said, "Well, who told you I was looking for a sportscaster?" And I said, "Well, Tom Hedrick told me that you were looking for one." He says, "Well, why would I hire a sports announcer?" He says, "I do the sports. I don't want to pay for a sports announcer." And here I am, I've borrowed money to get there, I have no job. And he's looking at me, and I must've just looked pathetic. And he said, "Are you married?" And I said, "Yes sir, I am." And he says, "Well, what does your wife do?" I said, "She's a teacher." He says, "You're hired. I'm the president of the school board. I need a teacher." That's how I got my first job. It's pretty humbling isn't it? "

"Jones: Well, it's -- fate? "

"Bender: I know. I know Carroll. And then I ended up doing everything. I was a disc jockey, sports director, news director for a little radio station, a little -- "

"Jones: In? "

"Bender: In Hutchinson, Kansas, which was a wonderful town. And I ended up doing a country ' western show on Saturday nights. It was called Big Ben ' Ed the Redhead, and I was Big Ben. And I did a show called Perky's Party Line. This gal who was a legend in the Hutchinson area, and she sold stuff on the air, and I would engineer it for her. And I'd take the calls and they'd sell -- they'd say, "Perky. I've got this big chair for sale over here. Could you possibly --" you know, that's -- that was my beginning. "

"Jones: That's terrific. That's really -- well, you really worked your way up. "

"Bender: Well, you know, I had no choice. I mean I see kids today who just think they can start like in Wilmington, North Carolina, and those places don't always happen. You've got to start somewhere else. But I had a wonderful two years there. I got drafted by -- in Vietnam. That's what blew me up then. All of a sudden I came back, and in my mailbox, "Greetings from the President of the United States," -- sobering. And I swallowed hard, and I said, "Well, I didn't think I was draftable." I was married and my lottery number was not, I thought... You remember that whole thing. And so I got in the Air National Guard, and I spent six months in active duty. And I came back in, and this is the truth Carroll. I came back in for basic training, had no hair -- the phone rings, and I pick it up in our kitchen. And there's a TV station in Topeka, Kansas wants me to audition for the job. And I said, "Well," I said, "Mr. Holly," I said, "I've been gone for six months." I said, "I don't have any hair; I haven't been around." He said, "That's all right. You come on up. We want you to audition for the job." I had no TV experience, so I drove to Topeka, Kansas -- that's where it was, WIBW was the station, a powerful station. The guy that was leaving was a legend, and they were looking for some young guy."

"Jones: Um-hmm. Cheap probably. "

"Bender: Yeah. And you know who was on there was Bill Curtis, who's with A'E now. He was the news director. And Gordon Jump [ph?] who later played on WKRP Cincinnati -- he was the weather man. And so I go in there, and I'm intimidated, but I do my thing. And the station manager was a legendary guy. He was hard of hearing; he had a couple of hearing aids, and he said, "Well," he says, "pretty good." And he says, "We've got about four or five more guys that we'd like to interview. Can you hang around?" I said, "Sure." So I go over and see a fraternity brother and I go to the Topeka Zoo and I come back. And I'm sitting down there waiting, and the receptionist comes out. She says, "Mr. "Bender, Mr. Sandstrom will see you now." And I walked up and I sat down, and he said, "Well," he said, "glad you could make the trip in." He says, "Where have you been?" I said, "Sir, I've been in San Antonio." I'm saying sir because I've been in the military for six months. "Sir, I've been in San Antonio going through some basic training." He said, "Well, are you available to work?" And I said, "Well, I will be." He said, "Well, you know, we've decided to hire someone else." And I said, "Well thank you Mr. Sandstrom for allowing me to come and audition for the job." He says, "No, no, no. I'm kidding. We're going to hire you." And I am sitting there Carroll, and I don't know whether to believe him or not. And he says, "No, here. Call your wife and tell her that you've been hired." And that's how I got my first TV job. "

"Jones: So what did you do about the Air National Guard? You didn't tell Mr. President goodbye. "

"Bender: Well, I ended up getting transferred to Topeka, and I wrote the newsletter, the Air National Guard newsletter, and didn't have to make all of the meetings. I'd try to go once a month if I could and finished up six years. "

"Jones: Did you really? "

"Bender: But I was thankful because, quite honestly, I would've been in the rice paddies of Vietnam. That's how -- I mean here's a guy with a Masters degree, 24 years old, but I would've been right there. I did some games with some guys, like Rocky Blair of the Pittsburgh Stealers, who ended up right over there in that same position. He just got surprised and ended up doing it. But let me tell you an interesting story. Thad Sandster became the broadcasting giant in Kansas. And years later -- I'm getting ahead of myself -- but years later I'm looking at the wire service. I don't know if this is even pertinent, but you should hear the story. "

"Jones: I want to hear it. Whatever you want to say. Go right ahead. "

"Bender: And so I'm looking at the wire story and I read the story about Thad and I'm dumbstruck. I can't believe it. And what had happened was Thad had called his wife up who was down in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and said he wanted a divorce. "

"Jones: A nice guy. "

"Bender: And she drove all the way from Stillwater, Oklahoma, walked into his bedroom and shot him six times in the head -- "

"Jones: [laughing] Oh God. "

"Bender: -- and got in bed with him and slept that night, got up the next morning and called the police. And the reason I tell you that story -- I then started writing letters for her, and she finally got out, along with other people. She got out on, you know, the fact it was a rage thing and she had good time and she got out for -- "

"Jones: Mental lapse. "

"Bender: But he was a giant, but that showed me again, you know, in this business, you know, you sometimes -- some of these big egos in people can really be destroyed -- they can destroy themselves. I'm sorry for that little aside, but -- "

"Jones: Well, it's a lesson learned. That's a big lesson learned. Oh wow. All right, now -- you've got -- now you've got a foot in the door as far as sports is concerned full-time, right? And then what happened? "

"Bender: Yeah, and then all of a sudden the University of Kansas calls me and wants me to become the voice of the Jayhawks. And I don't want to leave television and go back to radio, but they recruit me and I do that. And I go there for two years. And that's when I taught. I taught at the university, and that's when I wrote my book. "

"Jones: Oh, this is in the 1960s, right? "

"Bender: This is in 1968, and the book I was using in a sports-casting course was called Sports-Casting, and it was written by a sports information director from Utah State. His name was Carl Klagis [ph?]. He's since passed away. And I used it and everybody used it; it was a brilliantly written book, but it was outdated. And I called him one day, and I said, "Carl, I've been encouraged to write a book, and I would love to quote some of your book and use some of the things that you've used." And he was -- he thought I was kidding him. He didn't think it was me. He says, "Aw, you're not who you say you are. You don't know who I am. How would you know who I am?" He was dumbstruck that he had had any impact on our business with that book. And so I wrote the book, and the book is kind of a textbook for why you should go in the business, why you shouldn't -- some of the elementary things that you might want to study. And it's been used quite some time. It needs to be updated again. "

"Jones: Now this is for sports broadcasting? "

"Bender: This is for sports broadcasting. It's not an autobiography; it's not a kiss and tell book. It's basically, Carroll, just a -- maybe how-to book. "

"Jones: Well, I think that was probably -- see in those days people listened to the radio too. "

"Bender: Yes they did. "

"Jones: TV was big, but they listened to the radio, in the car. You're going somewhere, you've got a sports thing on. "

"Bender: Well, that's a very good point. And I struggled with that because I'd gotten out of television and gone into radio. And even though it was great radio job, I knew I needed to get back in TV, because that was going to be the driving force eventually at that time. And so lo and behold I get a call, and I become the voice of the Green Bay Packers. And it was a thrill for me because they hired me on my tape. They never saw me; they never interviewed me other than by phone. And I went up there and I stepped out of a college atmosphere into the NFL, into one of the legendary places, Lambeau Field. "

"Jones: Yes it is. Cold, but legendary. "

"Bender: It is. My wife used to sit in stands in a snowmobile outfit. "

"Jones: Did you live up there? "

"Bender: We didn't. I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. "

"Jones: Well, big deal. "

"Bender: And I also worked for a station in Milwaukee that had the rights, WTMJ. But the reason I -- "

"Jones: That stadium, that Green Bay stadium, is an impressive place, but I can't -- the way it's positioned I would think you'd take your -- like the Chinese would call it -- 'seven coats cold.' "

"Bender: Yes. Yes. It is a piece of history. I always said, and I still say that, if you could do that job well, you could work anywhere, because those fans are so sophisticated. They know the game. "

"Jones: They're serious. "

"Bender: They are serious, they are just absolutely -- you know, they just overwhelmingly want you to be good at what you're doing. "

"Jones: Aren't they one of those teams where you start three days in advance to kind of work up to a home game? "

"Bender: Well, quite honestly, I worked seven days ahead. I wasn't very smart. So I used to do it. But I -- that was my break. And then I started doing the Big Ten Game of the Week for a company called TBS, which later became -- it was Eddie Einhorn's group, and they then transitioned into what is today ESPN. I did the Milwaukee Brewers baseball. And I was trying to get to the network. I had a friend who I was working with who said, "Gary, if you don't make it by the time you're 31 or 32, you probably won't make it." And I was that age. And I'm thinking, "Wow." So I -- "

"Jones: Tell us why. Why 31 or 32? "

"Bender: I don't know. I had so much respect for this guy. The guy's name was Merle Herrin who you may have heard of. He worked at ABC; I worked with him on the Brewers. He was kind of a father figure to me. And we drove to games and we spent time, and one day he just said to me in the car, he says, "If you don't make it now in the next two or three years," he says, "you may get passed over." So went to this very creative public relations firm and put together a very artistic resume and sent it out, and no one responded -- no one. Carroll, it was a study in futility. And so one day the phone rings, and I'm in the studio getting ready to do a TV show. And this guys says, "Is this Gary Bender?" And I said,"Yes sir." He says, "My name is Bob Rosen." He says, "I'm out of New York." And he said, "I've been told that you are network material. Could you send me a tape?" I said, "who are you?" He says, "I'm Bob Rosen." I had no idea who he was. And so I sent him a tape, and three days later he says, "CBS has hired you." "

"Jones: You didn't have an agent did you? "

"Bender: I didn't have an agent. "

"Jones: No. "

"Bender: I didn't know how to do that. Are you kidding me? At that time no one had agents except the big guys. And so I said, "Now, whoa!" I said, "who are you?" And he started telling me he represented Jim Simpson who I knew well and some other people. I said, "How'd you find out about me?" Here's how he found out: He was in a delicatessen in New York meeting with the president of CBS, Bob Wesler. They were talking about other clients; they got up to leave and Wesler as a last second thought said to Bob Rosen, "Hey, we just lost Jack Buck. He's leaving us to go to NBC. Do you know of any young guy out there that we could hire quickly to do the NFL on CBS?" Bob had nobody, and a guy sitting in an adjacent table overheard the conversation, got up, he says, "Excuse me," he says, "my name is Allen Lobell," he says, "I produce the Big Ten Game of the Week, and I know a guy to recommend." He recommended me. "

"Jones: Karma. "

"Bender: But I mean it just shows you how crazy this business is. I mean I tried all my sophistication and all of my cleverness to get there, couldn't get a thing done, and then a guy at a delicatessen gets me the job. "

"Jones: Did you get his name? You did? "

"Bender: I did. I worked with him several times; he was a terrific guy. And I came out of the Green Bay Packer broadcast booth, radio-wise. The next day I'm doing it on TV, I'm doing it with a legend by the name of Johnny Unitas. "

"Jones: Oh my gosh."

"Bender: He may have been the greatest quarterback that ever played the game, and I know you know that. You're family. And Johnny was -- "

"Jones: By osmosis I know a lot. "

"Bender: That's my wife -- she knows just enough to get out and talk it once in a while. "

"Jones: I know, just sit there and listen intelligently. "

"Bender: But Johnny was the most recognizable guy. Everybody knew him. I mean he was like a star. So I do the games with him. And we go through the first season and we have a great year, and we get assigned to a game, a playoff game, in Bloomington, Minnesota between the Cowboys and the Vikings. And this was the Hail Mary game. This was the first Hail Mary game. "

"Jones: And this was when, what year? "

"Bender: This was 1975. Let me tell you about this game. They were playing outdoors then. It's before they went into the Metrodome. "

"Jones: In Rochester? "

"Bender: In Bloomington, Minnesota. Yeah, with the Minnesota Vikings. Yeah, that's now where that big shopping center sits. In fact, yeah, you can put the home plates in the -- if you go into that store there a home plate where they used to play, the Twins used to play there too. "

"Jones: Those people are crazy up there. "

"Bender: Oh, it was cold, it was December. We had our NFL Today group with Brent Musberger and Phillis George and Jimmy the Greek and Irv Cross. And they were sideline-wise, and Johnny and I were to do the game. It was doomsday defense against the Purple People Eaters. The Purple People Eaters, obviously the Vikings, the doomsday defense is the Cowboys. And so the game was a defensive struggle, and what had happened was we decided during the course of the game, our director, to take a reverse-angle camera, which we used very extensively to bottle some things -- and put it into the line of scrimmage, because he thought the battle was being won in the trenches, between the offensive line and the defensive line. He just wanted to capture the breath coming out of their mouth, you know, the mud and some of the blood and all the stuff that was going on. Two minutes left in the game, Roger Staubach, the quarterback for the Cowboys, rolls right; they're trailing 14 to 10. And he throws the Hail Mary, which is a 50-yard touchdown pass, to Preston Pierson. Pierson caught the ball, but as you watch the play, it's a strange catch. He catches it on his hip pad. And there's a defensive back by the name of Nate Wright who reached out, and we couldn't tell, but it looked like he may have deflected it or at least kept it alive long enough for Preston Pierson to make the catch and go in for the touchdown. We didn't have a reverse-angle to show it, and they fired the director the minute the game was over. "

"Jones: Oh no. Did you have in those -- at that time did you have the TV runbacks? "

"Bender: Not replays. We did, but we didn't have that replay we needed. I mean we couldn't discern, we couldn't definitively determine that he had touched it or not. If we'd had a reverse-angle we could've. But it gets worse. The Vikings are now trailing, and they come back, and Fran Tarkenton who was the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, rolls out scrambling around like only he could -- and he gets sacked for a 14-yard loss. And he is furious. He thinks there's been something that's happened. I think at the time, as I recall, he felt like that he wasn't down and he got rid of the football. To make a long story short, he was incensed. He went running over to the official, took his helmet off, slammed it down on the field -- a fan threw a bottle out of the stands and hit the official, and he just went down. So we had two things going on at one time. I remember Johnny Unitas saying, "We're going to have to put up moats around our football team. We've got fans throwing bottles out of the stands." We thought the official could've been dead. He was -- he told me later he was just stunned and he was okay, but he was just shocked to be hit by a bottle. Well, to finish the story, Fran is over there arguing with the official; he's underneath his chin screaming and yelling. And his dad, who was a minister living in Atlanta, Georgia -- watching the game at the time -- died of a heart attack. So my first year at the network blew me away. That game almost made me not want to do it. And it's a long ways from the farm and on a tractor, and to see the responsibility, a director lose his job, Unitas, you know, lose his cool, and a fan throw a bottle and a guy die of a heart attack -- it really -- it affected me greatly. And that was the firs time in my life I thought, "I wonder if I really want to do this?" "

"Jones: That's sobering, but I guess -- is that just a direct reflection on the fans? "

"Bender: Well, I think -- Carroll, I think what it did for me is it made me understand that never -- and not that I was that day -- but never would I go into a game ever saying I could prepare any more than I had. And so it gave me a diligence and a discipline to prepare, and that's kind of, I guess, what I'm known for is to be a person who is very prepared. I may not be as articulate as the other guy; I may not be as colorful as the other guy -- but I try to get it right. "

"Jones: You take a first-aid kit with you. "

"Bender: And then -- that what I did and, you know, and I look back at some of these things -- I mean I can go different directions, but that -- I just give you that sobering story because a lot of people don't know what happens behind the scenes. There's so much more that goes on. "

"Jones: Yeah. No, I -- of course I don't know about that, but I have heard a lot of stories. I had an uncle who was head of NBC TV in Los Angeles. And I used to love to go up and watch when I was a kid and as time progressed just preparing for something -- I mean anything could happen. You know, and it was just, you're never safe. Another friend was head of ABC Sports, which then evolved into ESPN, and he traveled a lot. He said, "You know, these people are crazy." "

"Bender: We are crazy. But you know, that's the only thing you can control is your preparation. You can't control the weather; you can't control the guy that's working with you; you can't control how the game's going to unfold. I broke in John Madden."

"Jones: These emotions take over sometimes. "

"Bender: Yeah. "

"Jones: They ever take over with you? "

"Bender: Yeah, yeah -- I had to -- I started John Madden out. I worked with John his first two years. And he struggled early. And I remember we're doing a game in the Silver Dome at Pontiac, Michigan, the Lions' home field. And we start the broadcast, and we both have headsets on -- and his headset goes out. And he is just- he's just upset and he throws his headset over the side and they've got people trying to get it fixed. And finally they give him a hand-mike until they can get the headset fixed. And we're going along, and John just shuts down on me. He just doesn't want -- so I get to commercial break, and I said, "John, you've got to get tougher." I said, "You can't quit on me," I said, "you've got to fight through this." He said, "I know, I know, I know." And it went into the next commercial break, and finally he turns to me and he grins from ear to ear, and he says, "Gary," he says, "you know what's wrong with me?" I said, "Well, tell me. We've got to get this thing going." He said, "I can't talk with anything in my hand." So I took my headset off and put it on his head and took the stick mike. But he would talk like this, and so there's a lot of -- "

"Jones: This leads me to ask, for big productions like this there are no backups? "

"Bender: We have them, and they were crawling around at our feet underneath the counter trying to fix it. But sometimes no matter what you do -- now, you'll see anchors on the network have two microphones so if one goes they have another one. But we never did that in sports. I mean we always had the ability to what we called "vamp" until, you know, we could get the other thing going. "

"Jones: Oh gosh. I want you to keep going. This is great. But I do want to have enough time -- "

"Jones: Oh no, we've got plenty of time, and we go over as I said. But of course living here in Southeastern North Carolina we want to hit on a few ACC things too. But here's -- the college basketball games that you called, well you were a color commentator with Rick Berry and Bill Russell. How were they? "

"Bender: Well, that was the NBA. We did that in '81. We did the NBA finals. Carroll, that was one of the hardest combinations I've ever worked with. They didn't like each other. And we did the finals between the Celtics and the Rockets, it's when Hakeem Olajuwon was playing, and Larry Bird had come into "

"Jones: Household names. "

"Bender: And the Celtics were so much better. They couldn't play with them. And so we got to a game five in the Garden, Boston Garden. And we had a producer who was the best, who said, you know, "We're going to have to work out what we call blowout material." We used to have the ability to get stuff put together so if it was a bad game we could go and keep working at it. We would just let the game go; we'd come up with sidebar information; we'd come up with little, you know, things that would maybe create some interest and keep people watching. And so we get to that stage of the game; the Celtics are killing, and the producer says, "All right. Here we go." He says, "Gary, I'll just lead you. You follow." And so he comes up and he has this black and white picture of Bill Russell and KC Jones from the '60 Rome Olympics. KC Jones was his teammate with Celtics and played with him at the University of San Francisco. And they're standing there, and they both have a bottle of beer -- and Bill Russell is grinning as only Bill can. "

"Jones: This is on film?"

"Bender: This -- no, this was live. This was live television. "

"Jones: Radio -- it's television. So he's seen like this. "

"Bender: Yeah, it was live television on CBS. And Bill Russell is grinning, and Rick Berry -- I sat here, Bill sat here, Rick Berry sat here. Rick Berry says, "who was that guy with the watermelon grin?" And it was racially taken the way it should've -- and Bill Russell went nuts. And he shut down; he quit during the broadcast. So we limp through the game; we get through it. We get ready to leave, Bill comes up to me, because I was good friends with both of them. Bill said, "Did you know what he said?" And I said, "Bill, I don't know what happened." I said, "I apologize." I said, "I don't know what I could've done." He said, "I'm not blaming you." He says, "I will not work with him again." So we get in the car, and Rick comes in and Rick's acting like nothing's happened. And we get back to the hotel and Rick comes and says, "What's going on?" I said, "Well, Bill says he's not going to work with you anymore. We've got at least one more game to go." I said. "Aw," he says, "I didn't mean that. We always said those kind of things to each other." I said, "Well, he's taken it as a racial slur, and he had told me he won't work with you. 'Aw, I'll go up and, you know, I'll mend the fence.'" He goes upstairs and comes back down, he's just ashen, because Bill has told him just to get out of there. So we have a plan to fly to Houston for game six, and all the big guys, the big suits from CBS, show up. And we have a signal ahead of time in the production meeting that if it's not working in the production meeting we're going to change both guys and bring somebody else in to work with me. And so we get into the meeting and both of them seem to talk to each other, act like they like each other, and I get the high sign, 'We'll continue on.' So it was a case of bad chemistry. And sometimes, Carroll, you get that, and no matter how hard you work you can't make it work very well. I don't know if it's like a good marriage or what it is, but there are things that you just cannot be able to, by just subtly try to change some tactic make it better. And I've had some that I've just fallen into that are just so good and I don't know why they're good. And sometimes you don't want to know why they're good. You just go and let it happen. "

"Jones: Is it fair to ask you to name one or two of your -- the easiest or your favorite people to work with? "

"Bender: Well, there are so many of them. Madden would've been one of those whom I enjoyed immensely; Sonny Jergensen whose here from Wilmington -- "

"Jones: He's crazy. "

"Bender: He's crazy, but that was part of the magic. I mean Sonny, you never knew what you were going to get. "

"Jones: Right. "

"Bender: You know, you really didn't. It's like Forrest Gump, you didn't know what you were going to get with him. I mean I could go on and on, Billy Packer, Bill Curry who is one of my great friends to this day. I have worked with some wonderful people. I've had a who's who of America. And I think probably Bill and Rick, and then there was one other guy I couldn't get along with, Reggie Jackson in baseball. I did the ACLS with him, and Joe Morgan and I were working together, and they added Reggie for the -- "

"Jones: Little Joe Morgan, fastest guy in the world. "

"Bender: And I loved him. He was a wonderful guy. And they brought Reggie in, and it was like oil and water. It just didn't work, and Reggie one time came up to me before the broadcast and says, "I don't like to work with you." He says, "You make me nervous." So you know, there are those moments. But for every one of those I've been really blessed by people who basically wanted to make it better. And I have the philosophy that if your analyst is doing well you're doing well, because if your analyst is bad it's pretty hard for a play-by-play guy sometimes to carry the broadcast. "

"Jones: That must be -- let me ask something else. And this is something that I've been so amazed. When games run over and over, particularly baseball -- how do you keep going? "

"Bender: You know, sometimes it gets -- "

"Jones: You fill in time. "

"Bender: Yeah, I know. But sometimes that's kind of fun -- you don't want to do it all the time. But some of the great moments I've had have been in overtime or extra innings, because the interest is so intense and there's so much riding on the line. And it just cranks it up about two clicks. And you just -- our whole being just senses this is a moment you better be ready for. I mean you'd better be ready to do it. And I have done some games that no one remembers, but I remember because I knew I was good in them. There've been other games where I thought I was probably incredibly average, and they thought I was good. You just never know. But you just have to keep working and working and working to try to do better. I've never done a game the way I want to. Someday -- I would -- "

"Jones: Really? Which is? "

"Bender: Well, I've said something stupid or I didn't say something or I made a mistake. I -- my goal in life -- "

"Jones: But does anybody know it but you?"

"Bender: Well, yes and no. Sometimes yes, it's pretty obvious; other times it's only me. But I have a goal in life, and I don't have much time left, to be able to shut it down, stand up and turn to my guy next to me and say, "I did it. I finally did a game exactly the way I wanted to." "

"Jones: And what would his reaction be? "The guy's nuts. He's bragging." "

"Bender: [laughs] He probably thinks, "Well, you've done it the same way every time." But I know, and I just -- I -- "

"Jones: So you push yourself. "

"Bender: You push yourself and try to get better. That probably doesn't make a lot of sense. But you know, there're games that carry you. And you're talking about the ACC thing. Two of the great moments of my life were '82 and '83. "

"Jones: Yeah, I guess. Talk about that. "

"Bender: Well, obviously anyone in Carolina knows this, but I did the game in New Orleans where Dean Smith's North Carolina Tarheels beat Georgetown, the first NCAA championship for Dean. And it came down to a shot from a skinny freshman by the name of Michael Jordan who -- Carroll, we didn't know how good he was at that time. That game -- James Worthy had scored 28 points, North Carolina called a timeout. Billy Packer and I were doing the game; there were 60,000 fans. I remember before the game, it was the first game we had held in what you call the Super Dome. And I remember standing at center court before we went on camera looking up. And I said to Billy, I said, "Those people can't even see the ball up there." I mean it was just -- it was -- but they just wanted to be part of it. They wanted to be able to say, "Hey, I saw the game." But anyway, it came down to the end; Worthy had 28 points. He ended being the MVP of the game. And they called a timeout, and Packer and I go back -- and I listen to the tapes once in a while. That's another thing you do -- you listen to your tapes and you get very critical of yourself. We listened to the tapes, and both of us thought he'd probably give Worthy the shot to win it. And he gave it to Jordan. So Dean, in his genius, knew how good Jordan was. We didn't know how good he was. Now, you have to understand, he was good, but he wasn't great. He wasn't a phenom at that time. And he hit the shot, they go down to the other end of floor. Freddy Brown, the point guard for Georgetown, comes across the time line and throws the ball to Worthy, thinking it was one of his teammates that flashed out of the corner of his eye. And Worthy dribbled around and they fouled him. And one of the most poignant moments in the broadcast was after the game was over, John Thompson came over and put his arms around Fred Brown trying to console him. And I don't think Fred Brown ever recovered from that. He was like a junior that year at Georgetown. Fast forward to '83. We go to the pit in Albuquerque. North Carolina State's playing Houston, Phi Slama Jama, the number one ranked team in the country -- unbeatable -- maybe one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball. They had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde "The Glide" Drexler. Remember those guys? We played it in the small place called "The Pit" in Albuquerque. No one gave North Carolina State a chance. I won't go through the whole thing, but to say that Jim Valvano did a great coaching job is an understatement. He started fouling Houston; Houston started missing free throws, and it came down to the shot heard around the world where Derrick Wittenberg put up an air ball and Lorenzo Charles stuffed it home. After the game was over I was getting ready to go Augusta to do the Masters. And I went down to see Jim Valvano, and I'll never forget this. And Jim's down there and he's been thrown in the shower, his tie is, you know, askew; he's been disheveled and he's smoking a cigar. And I walked in and I said, "Hey Jim," I said, "what a moment." He says, "Pretty good wasn't it?" And I said, "I'm just proud to be part of this, just to be around it." "Yeah," he says, "you know something Gary," he says, "God must love ordinary people." I said, "What are you talking about?" He says, "God must love ordinary people." I said, "Jimmy, what are you talking about?" He says, "Well, God must love ordinary people, because he allows ordinary people to experience extraordinary things." "

"Jones: What a way to say that. "

"Bender: And I just -- "

"Jones: Did it go through you? "

"Bender: It just hit me. I didn't even have anything to say. I got -- kind of teared up and I said, "I'll see you later." and got on a plane and flew out. But it was, I mean being part of those two moments in this state is -- and then now to live here is almost ironic. "

"Jones: Now let me go back a minute. You yelled out, "Oh, he threw it to the wrong man. He threw to Worthy." "

"Bender: It was incredulous. "

"Jones: That was just a natural reaction at first? "

"Bender: Well, what it was -- and I talked to John. Fred never would talk to me about it -- Freddy Brown. But John felt -- and we both felt that -- that, you know, when players come down -- Fred was trying to get the ball down low to his all-American guard. And he was covered; he couldn't get it to him. And as he came across the time line there, time was running out, he thought he saw one of his own players go to the wing. And he just, out of the peripheral vision of his eye, anticipated his man flashing out there. Instead it was Worthy, and he threw it right to Worthy. So they never got a chance to win the game. I mean they could've won the game, and they never got a shot. "

"Jones: You know, these things, I guess, are what keep people on edge and returning and being fans. "

"Bender: Yeah. I think that's a good point. "

"Jones: And it keeps people, probably, like you -- you feel you go into a game and you don't know what to expect? "

"Bender: Well, I'm just watching the Olympics like everyone else. I did the Olympics in '88, the Winter Olympics, and I followed the Dan Janzen story. Do you remember Dan Janzen in speed skater? This was in Calgary. "

"Jones: Yeah. "

"Bender: And I had never done speed skating. I did 27 sports for the network. Now, I've got to tell you, of those 27 -- "

"Jones: I didn't know you did the Masters either. "

"Bender: Yeah. Twenty-seven sports, most of which you probably don't even know. I did a shark tagging show one time; I did a wrist wrestling show one time, (laughter) "

"Jones: No, I wasn't really up on that. "

"Bender: I did the battle of the NFL cheerleaders with John Madden one time. I mean we had ... "

"Jones: Now, that must've been fun. "

"Bender: Well, it was ridiculous. But we, my point is that I did all these things and become a fast, quick study. So here I'm in the Olympics in 1988, working with Eric Hayden, who was a legend, a doctor, kind of a kid I'd known because he grew in Madison and I'd followed him as a kid. And so we go into Calgary and we try to do a practice call, and we're terrible. And I'm thinking, "Oh man, this is going to be hard." I'd never had anything like it. I'd called races and track and field, and I'd done some other things, but I'd never done speed skating. So man, I'm working hard at it. Well, the day of the race Dan Janzen, who was our best chance to win the gold, his sister died of cancer. "

"Jones: I think I remember something about that. "

"Bender: And Dan Janzen was still going race, and I remember Eric saying, "He shouldn't race. He's not focused. He doesn't have what they call an edge." And in speed skating that means a real edge; you've got to be on your skates a certain way. Lo and behold, he falls, crashes. You know, I mean it's terrible, but it gets worse. He has four days later to come back for his main event, who -- he's favored heavily. He races again and, Carroll, ten meters from the finish line he crashes again, goes into a wall. And I can still remember, I said, "Oh no." And Hayden just, he was in shock. And he goes down. Here's what happened, our producer, Rune Arledge [ph?], I was at ABC then -- says in my earpiece, "Gary, I know you know Dan. We've got to get an interview. Get out of there and go get him." Now, I wasn't expecting to do it, and under those circumstances I wasn't real crazy about having to do it. So I busted out and I started -- it was an indoor skating rink in Calgary. And I busted out and I went down this hallway to go downstairs, and there's a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman there. And he said, "You can't come in here." Now, I had my ABC jacket on; I had credentials from my head to my toe. He says, "You do not have the right credentials." I said, "Sir, I am doing a live interview. I've got to get down there." He said, "If you come by, I will incarcerate you." That was his exact words. And I looked at him in disbelief. So turned around and I ran and I went outside this oval speed skating rink, around into the snow up to my knees, came all the way up through the mechanical room, ran up, put my earpiece in, and Jim McKay said, "Here's Gary Bender with Dan Janzen." -- and did the interview. "

"Jones: The show must go in, right? "

"Bender: Well, but no one knew that at the time. Well, the Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman said I had been abusive to him. And he turns me in. Well, the story gets out. Well, he gets really hammered because I hadn't been; I just was desperate, and it me "a hero" under the circumstances. But there was a second of disaster. If I'd been there a second later, I don't know what would've happened. But what was so interesting, I hadn't even really thought about what I was going to ask Dan. I was so busy running. And I got there and Dan carried me; he was just -- oh, he was unbelievable, because we had a relationship. See I believe in this business if you establish relationships those people can carry you when you need to have them carry you. "

"Jones: So I've heard. "

"Bender: And his eyes were teared, and he talked about it, and I remember Billy Packer called me and he says, "Gary, that may be the best interview you've ever done." Now think about that, how close I was to disaster. "

"Jones: But the interview was probably very touching. "

"Bender: Very emotional. I've had some of those where, you know, I'm hanging on, and I was hanging on with that one."

"Jones: Was that one of your most memorable times? Of course, you've got a lot of them. You've got a fantastic memory. "

"Bender: Probably the most moving. Yeah. It's one of my -- probably -- yeah. Of course, I'm -- I think -- my wife thinks I'm crazy because I -- when they play the national anthem for the gold medal ceremonies I weep about every time, you know. I'm -- so there's something -- I believe in this business there's a certain sensitivity that you have to have. You have to -- if I stop being impressed by what I see, I need to quit. But I'm still impressed Carroll. I see the athleticism; I see the great moments. I have these friends who I know the price they've paid and I know the emotion of that moment, and as an end result there are a lot of moving moments. I've been moved to tears many times, not so much on camera but before or after something that I've done. "

"Jones: I imagine that there have probably been some things that you may have felt and you have to hide."

"Bender: Yeah. I've had moments of panic. "

"Jones: Both good and bad. You probably had some moments that you think.."

"Bender: That's what I started to say. But I've had panic, I've had panic. I mean there's a fine line in this business "

"Jones: Really? Have you ever gone blank? "

"Bender: I've not gone blank, but I've had moments where I was just absolutely almost incoherent. I was -- I went into New York to host the CBS Sports Spectacular one summer; they sent me into New York. It was a show of -- just a potpourri of everything. We were trying to create sports. That's the reason I did the wrist wrestlings of the world, because we didn't have enough things to do. So were creating sports. "

"Jones: And when was this, early on? "

"Bender: This was early in my career. This would've been about '77, maybe, somewhere in there. And so they sent me in to host it, and I -- I'm a studio host secondarily. I'm more of a play-by-play guy, but I can do a lot of hosting. And so I'm sitting in the studio in New York. Now New York's an intimidating place. "

"Jones: It can be. "

"Bender: When you're in a studio and they've got all these union guys -- I mean they can't move a cable without a union guy doing it. And one guys comes up, puts makeup on, this guy's doing this -- the teleprompter is ready to go and we're ready to roll. And we open the show. And they come to me, and I've rehearsed the teleprompter -- you know what a teleprompter is. You're reading your copy. And I'm pretty good at that. And I start the show and the teleprompter goes out -- it goes completely out. Now, this is my first time. And the first thought was, "What is going on here?" -- for about a second. And then I started ad-libbing. You know, because it's all I could do, and I'm trying to lead to four different elements. One of them was something from Thailand; there was something from Japan, there were all these things going on. So I wasn't talking about football and basketball; I was talking about these sports that we had created. And I'm ad-libbing, and I remember the producer saying in my headset, "What the heck is going on out there?" Well, I can't talk to him. I have to just keep going, and finally somebody says, "His teleprompter's gone." And so he said, "All right. Die. Die." That means go to a commercial. So I got to the commercial. We got to that commercial, and I -- you've ever seen that -- what's that show where the anchor goes on and he starts sweating profusely? I can't remember it. That was me. And that was -- I was that close to blowing up. And it really showed me something about myself. I had a -- I think there's a fine line in this business between being excited and panic. And that was close to panic. "

"Jones: I guess so. Yeah. Well, you were a pro, so you could cover. "

"Bender: Well, and most people probably didn't even notice. You know, sometimes we think -- "

"Jones: That's good. Only you know. "

"Bender: Yeah, only I knew. But boy was it hard. And we've had moments like that. I've had -- people don't understand that what goes on on the truck is another world. It is a train wreck ready to happen in the truck. You are in there and you and your analyst are doing, let's say a college football game; and you have three people talking to you. You have a director, you have a producer, and you have an associate producer. The director calls the shots. He says, "Okay, we're going to take a close-up of Tom O'Brien on the sideline and then we're going to come back and we'll talk about the quarterback of North Carolina State." And then the roducer's saying, "Okay then..." "

"Jones: Excuse me. For the audience that will be hearing this, this is while you're in the truck itself? "

"Bender: No. We're sitting up in the broadcast booth, and all we have is a headset. And I have three people in my headset talking to me. "

"Jones: Okay, okay. There we go. "

"Bender: So the director's talking to me with the pictures, the producer's telling me, "Okay, coming up next we're going to promote the game next week." And then there's an producer says, Commercial. Ten, nine, eight. . ." and you've get out of the one, because the commercials are worth a lot more than you are. And so you've got these three people who can be talking to you at the same time, and you've got to sort it out and be able to make sense of it and to be articulate at the same time. Sometimes you do your job but they leave the switch on in the truck and you hear people screaming and yelling, "Get to that commercial! Why isn't it there!?" And you know, things just blow up. And you've got to be able to fight through it. I had a producer one time at a college football game that got so upset that he went over and forearmed the side of the truck, dislocated his shoulder, and they had to carry him to the hospital during the game. [laughter] We're nuts; we really are. "

"Jones: Well, that I know. That I know. I want you to continue with this. We're going to -- I'm going to ask you a couple of fluff questions just for a second, because we'll do another tape. How has your wife lived through all this, and your family? What kind of a dad have you been? "

"Bender: Great question. Well, a great question Carroll. My wife doesn't really have a lot of interest in sports. I mean seriously. We used to -- Carroll, we used to have a joke that only thing she'd do -- I would fly to a game and she'd watch my on-camera to be sure I got there and then turn the TV off -- to be sure I had the right tie with the right shirt or the right sport jacket. She -- we have two boys who are very interested in sports. And so through her -- through that she had, through osmosis -- "

"Jones: She had to. She had to. "

"Bender: Yeah. But she has no real interest and doesn't understand the emotion of it all. And I would take her to big events, and there would be moments where I would say, "Can you believe this? Can you believe what we just saw?" And I'd look at her, and she'd have this blank expression like, 'well okay.' It's like going to an art gallery and you see a piece of art you love and they don't understand. She didn't really understand. I think it was a great balance. I used to date a girl in college who was in radio broadcasting, TV broadcasting. And I thought, "Man, I ought to marry this gal. She knows as much about the business as anybody." But I soon thought, "I don't think I could come home at night and have her say, 'Why did you say that? Why didn't you do this?' You weren't very good today.'" So that's the balance we kind of have. "

"Jones: I think you do have a balance, and I think that's probably healthier. "

"Bender: Yeah. Well, we've been married 45 years. And so somebody's doing something right. I'll give her all the credit. "

"Jones: It's a little late to turn back. "

"Bender: No one else would live with me. "

"Jones: Well, okay. Possibly. "

"Bender: But she has been a great strength to me in other ways, and -- "

"Jones: Maybe that's what you needed was somebody who couldn't talk shop with -- or would listen. Was she a good listener? "

"Bender: Yeah. She is a good listener, but not about sports. We don't talk sports. "

"Jones: Oh all right. All right. "

"Bender: I mean I've tried, but it just doesn't work. "

"Jones: Yeah. And your boys are both into sports? "

"Bender: One of them is a sportscaster. "

"Jones: Is he really? "

"Bender: Yeah. In Phoenix -- and the other one has been in sports management. So they're both in it, surprising as it is. And I have a daughter-in-law who is a sports anchor. So they've all been in this. I tried to talk them out of it. I told them not to. You know, I think the business, Carroll, has changed. When I first came into the business and I applied for a job, there were maybe five guys in a radius of 50 miles that applied for that job. That same job today you'll have resumes from 50 states. "

"Jones: Yeah, I imagine. "

"Bender: I came up at the right time. I've been very fortunate. I'm just a grinder. I just get it right and try not to screw it up. I'm not flamboyant. I'm not very colorful. And I have been able to sustain that and I'm a survivor -- what you become in this business. "

"Jones: On that note, we're going to stop, take a breath, get up, walk around. "

"Bender: I'm sorry. Is this -- are we doing this the way you want? "

"Jones: Yeah. Wait just a second here. This is Carol Jones; we're on Tape 2 with Gary Bender And we're going to let him just keep talking. I really don't know that I've got -- I've got a lot of questions here, but I'd rather hear you just work it through. Gary, you talked a little bit about your own personal feelings, and could we gently go into that. I don't want anybody to see this and think, "Oh, that guy is really something else." Don't tell us anything you don't want anybody to know. But you must have had some feeling about favorite teams, favorite coaches, favorite players, favorite places to call your games-- that kind of thing. And just to give you kind of an overview, Turner Sports, Arizona, etc.-- a little bit about your personal life, which you've given us, and then what brought you to Wilmington. So let's go back a little bit, talk about some of the things that really impressed you, some of your favorite things you have a warm place in your heart for."

"Bender: Well, I think a lot of the things that impressed me most are the people I worked with, the individuals. The events themselves, we've kind of documented some of those and some of the moments that I consider to be, you know, great memories. But one of my best friends is a coach. His name is Dick Vermeil who obviously has had great success in college and the NFL and became a friend of mine that even to this day we keep in contact all the time. And I saw Dick Vermeil in a different light than most people, and I think that's what's exciting about our business. You get to know people away from the blocking and the tackling and the screaming and yelling of the fans. And I saw Dick Vermeil do things for young men in sports that never was documented. No one ever heard about it or said anything. He was tremendously loyal; I learned loyalty from him. I learned that he would be the last person to give up on somebody. He had a running back on time by the name of Lawrence Phillips who was out of the University of Nebraska, who had a lot of off-the-field problems, personal problems. And he was a remarkable player but just couldn't get his act together. And so Dick took him under his wing and tried to, I guess rehabilitate him is the best way to put it. And I watched because Dick wanted me to be part of it, and I was in some of the meetings, and I ended up spending time with Dick and saw how he nurtured this young man along. He'd actually meet him in the parking lot every day, bring him into the meetings, be sure at night he wasn't out carousing around. He encouraged him on the football field; he did everything in a positive way to reinforce some of his abilities. And one day the kid didn't show up; he just disappeared. "

"Jones: Disappeared disappeared? "

"Bender: Well, he just quit. He just-- he didn't show up to play, after all these weeks, maybe months, of trying to get him to play. And I went in to Dick and I said, "Dick, what are you going to do with this?" And he was quite devastated by it all. And he said, "Gary," he said, "I don't know." He says, "I really don't know." But he says, "You know, one thing I've learned is that none of that was wasted." And he says, "I've had players who years later would come back and tell me that 'I didn't play for you one down, but you changed my life.'" And so, I've learned that there were some bigger issues besides what I was seeing in front of me that was on camera, that I was describing. There were a lot of personal vignettes that were starting to play out in my life that built some character in my life, that showed me how I could nurture other people, how I could spend time with other people. One time I stepped over the line with him. He was coaching the St. Louis Rams, and I was part of the coaching staff. I was in all the meetings; I spent time in the film sessions-- I knew everything. And so one day the director of player personnel for the Rams came to me and says, "Gary, you're such a good friend with Dick." He said, "Would you please go in and ask Dick if he would change quarterbacks? We have a guy whom we think can play very well, and you know it, I know it, we all know it-- but Dick's so loyal to this guy he won't make a change." You know who this guy was? "

"Jones: No."

"Bender: Kurt Warner. And Kurt had been on the practice team but wasn't playing. We had another guy who was playing who was just killing us, won only four games. Well, here's the interesting part. Kurt Warner ended up being MVP of the Super Bowl; he ended up leading the Rams to a Super Bowl championship. But Dick wouldn't play him because he was so loyal to the other guy. So I went in to Dick one day, went into his office, sat down. He stopped what he was doing, looked at me, he says, "What's going on?" I said, "Dick, I've got to ask you a question." I said, "I'd like to ask you a question I've never asked you before. It's a football question." He looked at me kind of funny and he said, "What's the question?" And I said, "Would you consider this Sunday starting Kurt Warner at quarterback?" And he looked at me, and he said, "Gary, you and I are the very best of friends. But don't you ever-- don't you ever come into my office and tell me who to play in quarterback." And I crawled out of there. So there were issues that were continually going on away from the football field, and I learned. John Madden, I found that, you know, he couldn't fly. And so he was taking trains going from site to site, and I'd be doing games with him. We'd do a game in Tampa, and we had to be in Dallas-- he had to get on the train to get there, and that was a pretty good trip. And sometimes we had three or four days between games. "

"Jones: Why couldn't he fly?"

"Bender: Fear of flying, claustrophobia. And I had him on the absolute threshold of the plane ready to come on, and he broke out in a big sweat, got the shakes-- went back and got on the train and traveled on. We were in an elevator in Anaheim Stadium doing a Rams game. And we did-- we were doing a bunch of promos. We had to go back and change clothes it was so hot. And we got on the elevator, and he got claustrophobic and started swinging-- and people thought he was trying to be funny. But I knew full well it was a phobia that he had and to get him out of there. So I could go on and on, but there are so many stories that come out of this that you learn from other people. And the great ones-- they have moments. They have moments which make them very vulnerable that make you understand that, you know, we all battle through some issues." " "

"Jones: I guess so. Yeah, they're human being after all. "

"Bender: They are human beings. And Vince Lombardi, when I was with the Packers, scared me to death. I was scared of him. "

"Jones: He scares a lot of people."

"Bender: Well, and I was a young kid. I think I was 24 years old when I was doing the Packers. And we're in Palo Alto, California staying at Ricky Hyatt's House because we were playing a series-- you used to go out and you would play the 49'ers and play the Rams when they were in L.A. So we'd play one and stay over. One day I'm walking through the lobby and Lombardi was not coaching then, he'd stepped down the next year to go to the Redskins. And I walked by, and I'd never talked to him. And he said, "Bender" And I'm looking at him, and he's standing over by a bar. He says, "Come here." And I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, I have done something. I've absolutely blown it. I've said something on the air, I've done something he didn't like." Because during the game he'd be in the next booth, and I'd go to commercials sometimes during radio and look over and he'd be looking at me. But that was just him. He'd just stare at you. And so I go over to this bar, and I'm thinking, "My career is over." And he says, "What are you drinking?" I said, "A Coke." He said, "Get this man a Coke." They gave me a Coke, and he just left. But he just wanted me to know who was in control. "

"Jones: Okay. Interesting. "

"Bender: Now, I've had moments on the air where I have embarrassed myself, where I've said things. Let me share one story with you that goes back early in my career. When I was at the University of Kansas, my first really, I thought, big job in this business -- "

"Jones: Well, it was wasn't it?"

"Bender: Well, it was. It was -- I was young and I thought I was really on top of my game. And we go -- we have a great football team -- and we go to play the University of Missouri in Columbia. If we win the game we go to the Orange Bowl. And Kansas had not been to the Orange Bowl since 1947, this is '68. The scenario is we're leading 21 to 17, four minutes to go in the game. And I'm describing the game. Kansas with the football, they have the football at the 35-yard line, four minutes left in the game. If Kansas can hang on here, they'll go to the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1948. I'm sure many people here in the State of Kansas remember that 1948 team. I started naming the guys who were on it. So the Kansas Jayhawks come of the huddle, and we had a quarterback by the name of Bobby Douglas who played with the Chicago Bears later -- big rawboned, six-foot-four left-hander. And I'm describing the play, and he says -- I say, "Bobby Douglas takes the snap and he rolls to the left, he cuts up the field, a gain of five, second down, five -- the clock continues to wind down. We're getting closer to New Year's Day and Miami and the Orange Bowl." They huddled back up. I'm feeling this and I've got an analyst working with me, and so we come up to the next play. "Bobby Douglas takes the snap, he rolls right, he's buried by an avalanche of Missouri Tigers." He's hurt. He's down. Now, I'm starting to worry. "Bobby Douglas is down. Kansas has to have Bobby Douglas continue if they're going to make it to the Orange Bowl." And I was trying to describe the injury. And he was left-handed and he was hanging onto his hand. And I said, "Bobby Douglas," and I meant to say he hurt his pitching or his passing hand. And I said, "It looks like Bobby Douglas has hurt his pissing hand." "

"Jones: (laughs) Classic."

"Bender: I thought my career was over. "

"Jones: No. You probably had more people-- they remembered you even more didn't they? "

"Bender: Oh, the guy who was working with me said, "Oh no!" and got up and leaned up against the back of the wall. And I just-- I was smart enough to not repeat it, because sometimes I've learned if you go back you'll say it again. So I just kept going. We win the game, and I can't even enjoy the broadcast."

"Jones: So what did upstairs say about it? "

"Bender: Well, I got-- we're bussing back to Lawrence, Kansas, and one of the guys from the athletic department, when he sat down he said, "I heard what happened today." I said, "Did you hear about that?" He said, "Oh yeah, everybody's talking about it." But I-- in those days that was a big no-no. "

"Jones: Of course it was."

"Bender: Today you could say it and it was like -- and it wouldn't even phase them."

"Jones: Right. But they remembered your name. "

"Bender: That was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life. "

"Jones: That's funny. That's funny. Well, you know, it probably did you some good though. "

"Bender: What it did-- it showed me two things. One is that I really needed to control my emotions. I was-- I had lost it a little bit I was so excited that we were going to the Orange Bowl. I'd never been east of the Mississippi. And to think that I could be in Miami, Florida on New Years Day. "

"Jones: But Gary, a sports announcer, a color person, a play-by-play-- aren't they allowed to get into and-- I mean that-- "

"Bender: Yeah. That's a great question. "

"Jones: You know, and the thing is, how entertaining is it if you have someone droning on and on-- facts. Everybody can know facts. They're not going to watch the game if they don't know what's going on. "

"Bender: Your point is well taken. And I think you know this, because you've been around sports."

"Jones: Yeah. Who's the guy today, he's going to retire soon, who gets really carried away? "

"Bender: Dick Vitale. "

"Jones: Yeah."

"Bender: I worked with Dick. I used to work with Dick and I would go on camera with him-- "

"Jones: Dick Vitale is lovable. He says crazy things. "

"Bender: I would go on camera with him, and he would do his thing. And we never rehearsed, because he never knew what he was going to say-- and I'd almost forget what I was going to do because he would just go on these tangents. And Dick's a wonderful human being. Off the air he's quiet; he's just very reserved. He gets on and that red light comes on the camera and he's like an animal. And he loves what he does. But your point is well taken. You do have to know your audience. And what happens is if you're a voice of the team you slant it differently than if you're a network announcer. In a network announcing position you're supposed to cut it down the middle. Now I can't tell you I always have. I mean there are times where subtly or otherwise it came across, I'm sure, that I might've been maybe a little bit more for a team than I was another one. Maybe I knew the coach better; maybe I knew a player on the team; maybe I knew what was at stake-- all the above. I remember doing a game at Chapel Hill, between North Carolina and Miami, not too many years ago-- and John Bunting was the coach then at North Carolina. His job was at stake. And you know the story, and I went in to visit with him, and they're playing Miami that's ranked 4th in the nation. I end up doing the game and the field goal kicker wins the game with no time left, and the fans come storming onto the field. Roy Williams was up above me jumping up down. I'm sure if anybody is in Miami they thought, "Boy, that guy's from North Carolina." But you know, there was so much going on that you had-- so you try to be down the middle, but there are times you can't. And I've had that. I'm sure I'd come out of a broadcast and somebody would say, "Man, he's pro this guy or he's pro that." And then you might even have the exact opposite. Some people would see it entirely differently. "

"Jones: Do you like college football more than pro football-- pro sports-- college sports-- basketball and football particularly? "

"Bender: You know, yeah. You know, that's a great question because I try not to think that way because I like to do what I'm doing and think what's the most important. I have probably the most notoriety, if that's the word, for college basketball first and NFL football. In other words, if people remember me in any way, they'd say, "I remember '82 and '83 with North Carolina and North Carolina State or the Hail Mary game that I did with Roger Schtaubach or I worked with some big-name guys. So I think to answer to your question, they're entirely different. Their discipline's different, the emotion is different, you prepare for them differently. I think in a lot of ways college football is harder to do than NFL football, just because I think you have to understand the emotion; you have to understand--" " "

"Jones: Are the fans different? "

"Bender: The fans are different. Yeah. And part of that's a plus. I love college crowds. "

"Jones: Do you find one more rabid than the other? "

"Bender: I think, depending on the circumstances, what's at stake, but I think college fans are the best. And I love, you know, what comes up to them and what-- I have had probably-- what I love about a university is the energy you get from it. And I know teachers talk that way, the administrators talk that way-- as a student I felt that way. And what little experience I've had teaching I felt that way. And so the energy that a college game has is just a miracle."

"Jones: Do you think part of that is because when you graduate, for the rest of your life, mainly, you will be a Jayhawk fan, you will be a Tarheel fan? Whatever it is-- whether they're losing or not, there's always next year. You know, all that psychology. "

"Bender: There is. That's a very good point. Kelly Mehrtens, who's the new AD; I've known her in Kansas. I knew her in Kansas."

"Jones: She's great. What an improvement."

"Bender: Yeah. And I wrote a book-- I gave her a book and I said, "Go Seahawks and Jayhawks." Because I'm a Jayhawk and so she was there, and we know the Seahawk story. And there'll always be that for her because she was there. And there'll always be that for me because I was there, and I experienced that and it's a big part of my life. I'm going back in October to be inducted in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. "

"Jones: Really? "

"Bender: And I can't wait to go back to just-- "

"Jones: They are a live-- those people are devoted-- I've got some friends who are rabid, and every time they play-- well not every time because it doesn't happen a lot-- play Carolina or something-- they go nuts. "

"Bender: Yeah. Yeah, it's one-- "

"Jones: But at the same time Carolina people are a little bit out there."

"Bender: Well, and when Roy put on the Jayhawk this year, all Kansas fans loved it."

"Jones: Yeah, don't you love it? "

"Bender: Yeah. But I love Roy, so Roy's a friend of mine. "

"Jones: I wondered if he'd get out of there alive when he did that."

"Bender: I know that. Roy is a wonderful human being. "

"Jones: He is. "

"Bender: But I guess what you're trying to say is that there is a tremendous loyalty. You know, you can be loyal to the Celtics or the Packers, but it's a different loyalty. "

"Jones: But you can really get mad at one of your teams if they move, like the Rams. "

"Bender: Yes. That's a good point. "

"Jones: Never been forgiven for that."

"Bender: Well, and I always, when I was doing the games I always had to remind myself it was the St. Louis Rams. It just never sounded right. "

"Jones: It didn't sound right."

"Bender: I mean it always was he Los Angeles Rams. Let me tell you a funny story. You have time? "

"Jones: Yeah. "

"Bender: This story was given to me by Johnny Unitas. And it's a true story. The Baltimore Colts, then the Baltimore Colts-- not to be confused with Baltimore Ravens-- went to play the Los Angeles Rams, not to be confused with the St. Louis Rams-- in the Los Angeles Coliseum. And Johnny Unitas had been the quarterback that year; he got hurt. The backup quarterback was Gary Cuzzo, a University of Virginia grad who was later a dentist. He was a backup quarterback. He got hurt. And so the coach then was Don Shula. I mean this is way back. We're in the '60s. And Shula turns to a quarterback who'd played only in college by the name of Tom Matte. And he'd played at Ohio State, but he never threw the ball. And so they gave a crash course to Tom Matte to play the game in Los Angeles against the Rams. There's a minute to go in the first half, and the Colts make a goal line stand, and they hold the Rams at the one-yard line. And so Matte has to go in and kill the clock. He turns to Coach Shula, he says, "Don," he says, "what do we do?" And he says, "Just go in, be conservative, run the clock out. Don't take any chances. We'll take what we have and go into the locker room." So he goes running into the end zone and he huddles with his team, and there was big offensive guard all-pro by the name of Jim Parker. And he turns to him and he says, "Jim," he says, "what's Johnny Unitas call?" And he says, "Hey man," he says, "you're making all the money. You're a quarterback. You make the call." So he makes a call, they get up to the line of scrimmage and he's ready to take the ball, the snap underneath center. And his running back Lenny Moore is lined up over it, and he's saying, "No way man! No way!" And he looks over and he realizes the play he has called will have Lenny Moore running into the goalposts. The used to have the goalposts at the goal line; people don't realize that. That was in the '70s when they changed that. So Matte couldn't change the play, 'cause he hadn't learned how to do that. He couldn't audible-- they audible today into everything. So Matte improvises, says, "quarterback sneak on two." Now the fearsome foursome of Lamar Odem-- or Lamar Lundy and Merlin Olsen and Rosy Greer, Deacon Jones-- started giggling. They thought he was trying to deceive them. They're just laughing. Parker, the big offensive lineman, gets up out of his stance and looks at Matte like he's crazy, gets down in his stance. Undaunted, Matte says, "quarterback sneak on two," and he goes eight yards up the middle of the field. And Deacon Jones tackles him. And he's furious. "You can't call a play like that and tell us what's going on and gain eight yards!" And he says, "The next time you do that," he says, "I'm going to eat you alive." Matte's feeling pretty good about the time and says, he says, "Deacon," he says, "if you eat me alive, you'll have more brains in your stomach than you do in your in your head." That's a true story. "

"Jones: You know, stuff like that, most people don't know. I mean you can watch a game every night of the year and you still don't know that kind of stuff. Well, our family got-- two members got very upset because we lived in L.A. and when the Rammos, as they were known in our household, moved there were hurt feelings, and it's like, 'I'm not going to speak about it ever again, and I will never watch them.' You know, that sort of thing. Of course they were rather small people, but-- [laughs]. "

"Bender: But sometimes small people have more emotions about it than older people. "

"Jones: One of those small persons was so in love with the Rams that we knew some people who were with the club, and he got a complete uniform, helmet, signed everything, picture, and I think he would say his prayers at night and then bow to them before he went to sleep. "

"Bender: I think we've all done that. I used to do that."

"Jones: I know. It gets in your blood I guess. "

"Bender: I loved the Rams helmet. "

"Jones: They're beautiful. "

"Bender: Unbelievable. Still wonderful. That and the Michigan Wolverine helmets. Those are the two best. "

"Jones: Well, yeah. I like the Redskins. You ever do anything with that crazy club? "

"Bender: Yeah. I did several of course with Sonny Jurgensen."

"Jones: The one where-- one of those where you have to, I guess, inherit the tickets. It's a family thing. "

"Bender: Yeah. I did a of games for the network-- a lot of them with Sonny Jurgensen at that time. Sonny was, you know, in fact, when Sonny came back here to be inducted in the Wilmington Hall of Fame, I went out to see him. "

"Jones: Did you really?"

"Bender: Yeah. I just had a great time. "

"Jones: When did you move to Wilmington? We'll get into that in a minute."

"Bender: A total of two and a half years ago. "

"Jones: Oh, okay. "

"Bender: And so that was one of the first things I experienced here was to go out there. They had Roland Gabriel, they had Meadowlark Lemon, they had Sonny Jurgensen, and I can't think of the coach-- the coach at New Hanover High School-- Broggart? "

"Jones: It's Brockton-- Brockton Hall, Brockman Hall-- or something like that. "

"Bender: I think that's right. Yeah. And of course he had passed away, but they were all there-- "

"Jones: Yeah, Brogden Hall."

"Bender: Yeah. That's it. Just strike that. But anyway, I went out and I just had a great time, and Sonny was crazy. "

"Jones: He always was. "

"Bender: He did some crazy things. "

"Jones: He and-- his father pushed him as a youngster-- absolutely. But they used to-- he was a with a group, they'd play pick-up football around here. My husband grew up with him. "

"Bender: Well, you know, he went to Duke and they didn't even throw the ball. They were running out of a single wing and no one knew how good he was. And I had several coaches tell me that he was the most accurate passer they'd ever known. And so I got to know Sonny later in life, and he'd do crazy things. I remember one time we were doing a game in L.A., and he flew from Washington. I flew from Phoenix, and I'm waiting on him at the airport to take him somewhere. And he got off the plane and we got in the car to go to the hotel, and he said, "Oh my gosh!" I said, "What's wrong?" And he said, "I left my briefcase on the plane." So we went running back, and the plane had already left for Hawaii. So all the work that he had done getting ready for that game was on the way to Hawaii. He did things like that all the time. I never knew what to expect from him. "

"Jones: Yeah. He was -- well anyway, I guess you could go on talking about Sonny. We have some really wild memories of personally, I wouldn't repeat. We lived in Mt. Vernon together, and the George Washington Parkway was his speedway. "

"Bender: And he was without a driver's license most of the time that I worked with him. "

"Jones: Yes he was. Yes he was. And he was a wonderful example for his kids, whom some-- Andrew played against one of his boys, football, head-to-head. So it was-- his favorite dream was to just take him out, but they both decided they're going to take each other out, but it never happened. "

"Bender: I didn't realize you lived that close to him. "

"Jones: Yeah. Yeah, well Wilbur knew him growing up."

"Bender: Do you know Margo then?"

"Jones: Sort of. She really kind of stayed away from a lot of that stuff. "

"Bender: Oh, I know. Margo was a real-- she was the strength of the family. "

"Jones: Well, God bless her. "

"Bender: I know she had to be consistent because of his craziness. "

"Jones: Well anyway, he was a colorful-- "

"Bender: We'd better not go there, and we'd better just leave this alone."

"Jones: No. No, I think that's another time. We were talking about some of your favorite things. I hate to ask you, and you don't have to answer-- but were there any opportunities you didn't like, any things that came along or any things you missed that you wish you could've done?"

"Bender: Well, yeah, I-- "

"Jones: I don't want to go on the negative side especially. "

"Bender: Yeah, I think the hardest thing-- and it's a good question-- "

"Jones: But you did tell us about Reggie and that's in your book. "

"Bender: Yeah, some of the people-- I think some of the hardest--"

"Jones: And there are some people who were just idiots. "

"Bender: I think the hardest part for me was the politics. I'm not a politic type guy. I had a lot of things happen to me that surprised me and shouldn't have-- just people wanting my job or going after me-- "

"Jones: I wanted to ask you about that if you wanted to talk about it. "

"Bender: -- some of which-- there is a story out there someday I've got to tell, but I don't want to tell it yet because one of the guys is still in the business-- and what he did to torpedo me and to take me down. He hired a writer-- and Andrew might know this story-- someday I need to talk to Andrew about it. "

"Jones: He was down here this weekend for-- we-- our last one got married. After all these years we're free. We're poor, but we're free. "

"Bender: Well, but anyway the politics-- "

"Jones: And he said he'd like to interview you sometime. "

"Bender: Well, I'd love to do that too. I think the thing about politics is-- I really enjoyed people and I really try to treat as, you know, the old golden rule-- how I'd want them to treat me. And I was always shocked, and I was always surprised by people who really were out to get you and were out to do things. They wanted your job, and the way they manipulate things-- and I never played that game. I had several people who were mad at me that I didn't-- that I didn't get in there and maybe mix it up more, if that's the right expression-- not to battle for myself. As an end result, I got bumped one time from CBS and went to ABC, and the same guy came after me and got my job at ABC and I went to Turner. And it's a long story, and it sounds pathetic-- but it isn't so much pathetic. It's just that I stayed true to who I was and tried to do what I did best. I'd try to let my ability sustain me. And sometimes I'm not so sure that always works that way. Sometimes there are other issues that have to be played out. That was the biggest disappointment. The other disappointment is I didn't do some things very well-- that Reggie Jackson thing is a good example. Probably the worst experience of my life was doing baseball. I had done a lot of baseball-- "

"Jones: Did you like it? Did you like baseball? "

"Bender: Not as much. That's probably a good question. I liked football and basketball the best. But in those 27 sports that I've done, I'd put baseball in the middle maybe. I did baseball because I felt I needed to do it. And a baseball guy is a baseball guy-- sometimes that's all they want to do. And I'm not one of those. And I didn't do that very well. And I look back at that and I wish I could've done it better. I just didn't do it well. It's the only time in my life that I wasn't able to fix it. Usually you can fix it. I mean if you have a bad game, you can fix it or you can get better or you can improve it. I couldn't improve it. I went through the whole American League Championship Series between the Red Socks and As; they had a 4-game sweep, and that was a blessing, because for four games it was a disaster. And part of it was me; it wasn't all me. And that's probably the biggest disappointment of my career that I didn't do that better. "

"Jones: Did you find that baseball fanatics could hang with a team whether they won or lost or-- how would you rate them compared to, let's say, football or basket-- they're so different and yet you've got people who are so fanatically attached."

"Bender: Well, I think baseball people are a different breed than anybody else. You cannot fool a baseball guy. If you come on to a football scene-- I do believe that you can learn enough and get yourself prepared enough to overcome some of the nuances of it. In other words, they'll say, "Okay, he knows our team." For some reason, in baseball-- baseball people know that you haven't been with them all year."

"Jones: They have so many rules. "

"Bender: Well, but it's not only that. It's the little innuendoes, the little sidebar things-- it's the insights that they have been with that team for, you know, five months. And they don't-- they resent you coming in and telling them about their team because you aren't one of them. You aren't one of their guys that was doing the games all year long. In football and basketball you're jumping around enough that you can overcome that. But baseball is a very peculiar way of doing that. Vin Scully, whom I got to work with in golf, is a legendary baseball broadcaster. He works by himself. He never has an analyst; he's one of the few guys I've ever know to do that. And what Vin was able to do was he was able to paint such vivid pictures, and with baseball you are a real storyteller. In football, because of the rhythm of the game, and in basketball because of the rhythm of the game-- you do not have time to be the storyteller. You have to really do the nuts and bolts, down distance, time score-- and then allow your analyst to come in and then maybe supplement or lead them in another direction with a story that you want to develop. But you don't do it by yourself. When Vin came to see CBS to work with us and to do the NFL, he asked to do the games by himself. And CBS wouldn't let him. And he never enjoyed doing the games. They put Jim Brown with him one time, George Allen with him another time. And it didn't work, because-- "

"Jones: Different personalities there."

"Bender: Well, but also Vin is a master. I would sit with Vin at Augusta and study his notes. He'd let me do that because he kind of took me under his wing. And Vin would show me how he had, for instance, this is poetry-- he would know on the 18th fairway of the final day of the 72nd hole of the Masters-- he would have all the scenarios ready. If it was Jack Nicklaus walking down the fairway, he had the poetry for it. If it had been Tiger Woods, if it had been Arnold Palmer-- whomever-- he knew and he had it ready to go. Now it's not that he wrote them out and ad-libbed. You know when I was talking about writing our ad-libs out, which is an oxymoron? But he had them ready to where he could take that and run with it and you would say to yourself, "Wow! I wish I could've said that." I wish I could've described it. So it goes back to my storytelling. He was a great storyteller. But you had to give him room to do it. And baseball allows you to do that. "

"Jones: How about basketball, which is faster moving than either baseball or football and sometimes, even though they may be calling things, it's too swift to catch? "

"Bender: Well, and there's no natural place to bring analysis."

"Jones: And there's always something by mistake that ends up being a miracle."

"Bender: I know. And nothing's worse than having your analyst talk over it. If there's a great play going on and somebody's talking about something else, it drives you nuts. You've got to let the picture-- you've got to go with the picture. I've always said this Carol-- you can-- any-- a lot of people-- not anybody, but most people could do basketball, but maybe not well. "

"Jones: Really? "

"Bender: Yes. "

"Jones: They could pick up on everything that rapidly? "

"Bender: Well, I don't think the game is that complicated. I think you could get through the elementary teachers of it and get through it and do it okay, but not well. Football is so complicated and so, you know, it's-- "

"Jones: You've got time to think."

"Bender: Well, but it's also go so many rules, it's got so many things. You've got distance between you and the booth; you've got 22 guys on the field. You've got vision problems, weather problems, all the above. And so football is not easy for people to do. I think a lot of people can do basketball. I'm not saying they do it well. What you've touched on is that a good analyst in basketball realizes it's a ten-second world. In other words, when you say something and you lay out and there's that pregnant pause-- they have ten seconds to get it done. And they give it back to you because the play dictates that you take over again. The good analyst will do that. Football, it's so easy; it's just automatic. You call, second down five, the Colts have the ball at the 25-yard line-- bang! Replay. The analyst takes it. Replay ends, we're back at the line of scrimmage, you take it. There's natural places to do it. Basketball, you can go up and down the floor five times and, you know, if the analyst just keeps going, you know, there's like a miraculous play-- you miss it. And it drives you crazy. "

"Jones: Do you get your emotion involved when something really goes wrong, somebody throws the ball way or some little twerp comes running in and grabs it and, boom, they're down the other end? "

"Bender: Yeah. I think you've got to be spontaneous. And I think what I've said earlier is that I'm still impressed by what I see; I love the athleticism. I love the emotion of the game. I'm excited to be there. If I ever lose that I'm going to get out of this business. "

"Jones: Let's talk a little bit about Focus on the Family. "

"Bender: Oh yeah. Do you know that about me? "

"Jones: Well, I've got it right here. And evidently you were considered pretty good in that sort of thing and involved. "

"Bender: I don't know if I was very good. Here's what happened was I was living in Colorado Springs. Do you know who Focus on the Family is? It's a group-- it's a Christian organization in Colorado Springs run by Doctor James Dobson. His co-host for 15 years had gotten into some problems, had some problem-- and Dr. Dobson came to me and had asked me to replace him. At that time I was still working the network and doing other things, and I said, "Well, I will help you out." And I for six months co-hosted with him. Might've been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. And the reason I say that is I'm just a sports-caster. And you start putting your-- you think you have these elementary skills that you can transfer into another arena of broadcasting, and it's not necessarily so. Just because you're a sports-caster doesn't mean that you could be Rush Limbaugh or you can be a co-host with Dr. Dobson. And I, being the guy who always wants to be prepared, was almost overwhelmed trying to keep up. We did five shows a week. I mean our shows. "

"Jones: This was a daily show or you did them ahead of time? "

"Bender: Yes. Well, we were doing them ahead of time, but we had to stay a week up. In other words, we would record the interview, then I'd go back in to do the openings and closings and the offerings. And I would be down there eight, nine, ten o'clock at night trying to get this done for him. And then I would fly places with him to do interviews, and I was doing this-- it was just an unbelievable cycle of what was going on. And I wasn't very good at it. I found myself in some areas-- some subjects I could talk forever about. And there are other areas I'd find myself, "Wow. I don't understand. You know, I don't see the emotion of this." And Doc would say to me sometimes-- he would sit here, I'd sit here, and his guest would be here. And we would open up a broadcast, and he turn to me and have me make a comment. And he'd stop-- we were doing live to tape. He says, "That sounds read." And I'd say, "Really?" So I was really battling, and finally figured it out after six months. But it was very humbling, but had great impact. I had people calling me from all over the country; I had a blind guy whom I had spent time with who called and thanked me for being on the air and died about a month later, and I went to the funeral. I mean you just don't know the people that you're reaching. It's a nationwide-- it's an international broadcast. So I did that, not well, and it taught me one thing-- is that I am just a sport-caster. And I need to stay in what I do well. Now I think I could be a good teacher of sports-casting. I think I could teach, you know, beginning speech. I think I could do some of those things, but boy you take me too far off that beaten path and you try to get me to teach a history class or something else, and all of a sudden I think I'd be exposed in a hurry. I'm a specialist. "

"Jones: Have you ever taught sports history or techniques? "

"Bender: I have. I did at the University of Kansas. I taught a beginning speech course, an introduction to radio and TV, a sports-casting course, and I also worked in what they call television productions-- in other words, we would put people on camera and we'd critique each other. And I enjoyed that. It's something that I think I could do well. But having said that, when I taught then I didn't have anything to teach. Think about it. I was 26 years old. Now I probably do. I'm an old man now, and I've gone through the battles of this and I think I know some of the nuances of it. And I'd like to somehow sometime-- that's the reason I mentor. I don't know if we talked about this, but I mentor kids. "

"Jones: No, I'm coming-- that was my next thing. How do you do that? Speak about that and, first of all, how did you-- you're mentoring now? "

"Bender: Yes. "

"Jones: How did you come to Wilmington? "

"Bender: Our son, he was here-- he had married a girl from Raleigh. And he and his wife had bought a place down here at Wrightsville Beach, and we kept visiting and kept visiting. I went through a real scare physically, and he was there for Linda, my wife. And my wife said, "I want to be near him, you know, in case something happens to you."-- which, there's no reason to think it would now. But it was a life-threatening thing. And so we moved down here. "

"Jones: What does your son do here? "

"Bender: And Carol-- he's not here anymore. He-- his wife ran off and left him. We just finished the divorce last week. So it's been a long year. But it's so tragic-- she's lost. She's down in Mexico somewhere, no children. They were married nine years, but that's the reason we came here was basically to be near him and to-- it just shows you can't follow your kids around. "

"Jones: I hope you're going to stay."

"Bender: We are. We are. But I mean it's just-- it's just-- it basically comes down to the reasons we came here aren't the reasons we're here now. But we're very involved. I'm very involved in a church I've helped start here. I'm involved in a lot of studies. I'm growing tremendously. I just-- I love this area. "

"Jones: Let's get back to this mentoring children and some of the other things you do. "

"Bender: Well, I don't-- I meant-- what I'm doing is mentoring young men who are college graduates mainly. For instance, they're sports-casters. And they have come up in the business. I started a company called Sports Careers several years ago. And the company was in Phoenix, and I started it up with this guy by the name of Mark Toody [ph?] and the job-- it was basically to find kids jobs, entry jobs in the business, in every walk. Sports-casting, promotions, sales, production-- whatever it might be. And the company then grew and we sold the company, but I still spent time with it giving speeches and spending time to nurture it along. And that's where I started to understand that there's a lot of mentoring that can go on. I just helped a young man become the voice of the Virginia Cavaliers. "

"Jones: Really? "

"Bender: Two hundred applicants, he got the job. Another kid at Boise State, and what I do, basically nothing. It's not magical, it's not profound. What I do is I just talk them through it. They'll call me and they'll talk about, "Okay, what would you do here? How would you do that?" Then if I can help them with a call or if I can make a contact or-- I listen to their tapes. And I critique them, good and bad. I'm honest with them. I try to tell them, "Hey, I think you have a real career--""

"Jones: You have to be."

"Bender: Well, you do. A lot of people think they're good and they're not. And you can tell quickly. It doesn't take long. But there are so many things that come into play. For instance, this young man at Virginia, he is really uptight right now. His first game is coming up August 30th, and it's USC playing Virginia. "

"Jones: Oh, but now when you say USC you're talking-- "

"Bender: University of Southern California. "

"Jones: Southern-- oh that--"

"Bender: It's the biggest game in Virginia. "

"Jones: That USC. Because you see down here it's-- "

"Bender: Oh, I know what you mean. "

"Jones: South Carolina. "

"Bender: South Carolina you know"

"Jones: And I'm thinking, wait a minute-- just a minute. "

"Bender: The University of South California is coming clear across the country to play in Charlottesville. And he has called me at least once a week. "

"Jones: Notre Dame's going to Carolina. "

"Bender: That's right."

"Jones: Oh wow. God! "

"Bender: But I mean those are moments, so I love to do that. I think mentoring is a lost art. I see it here at UNCW. They're doing it in the business school. I think that's really good. As I understand there are a lot of Fortune 500 people who come into the university and that's what they're doing. "

"Jones: There are-- we have the highest concentration of retired mid and upper level Fortune 500 people here. As I may have mentioned to you, they may not live here all year round. Some do. And it's really amazing to find that they are willing to share their expertise, their rights and wrongs. Sometimes in a small way, sometimes on a continuing basis. Some of them have groups in their homes and some come here through Aerlie or the adults thing through (overlap)"

"Bender: I would've loved to have had that opportunity. See that's-- that's-- "

"Jones: You can. "

"Bender: Yeah, but I-- what I mean is I'd like to have had it as a young man. When I started, when I made that-- I told you that story about auditioning for TV, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I never had an internship, I never had had anybody come alongside me and critique me. Boy, if I could've had those same things happen to me, and that's what I want to do today. "

"Jones: And so are you hooked up with any particular group or the university or any-- or any -- sorry -- on your own? "

"Bender: No. What I'm doing right now is I'm doing the Phoenix Suns basketball on TV. And what I do right now is I kind of go back there for the season and then come back here. And I've agreed to do it for one more year. They tried to get me to sign a longer contract, but I'm going year by year. Quite honestly, I have talked to UNCW, I have talked to different people-- and maybe somewhere down the road I might be able to teach. And I'd like to do that. They don't have a sport-casting course. [laughs] I could try to do that, but I mean it-- "

"Jones: No, but there are some other outlets that are-- "

"Bender: Well, but I think we could create one is what I'm trying to-- I met with Rick Nelson. And I met with Mary Gorto, I met with Kelly Mehrtens. I've spent time with different people, and they're very encouraging. I don't know where it's going. It's all-- you know, it's all timing. "

"Jones: Well, it's great. "

"Bender: But I think that's what I'd like to do. I think that's where I could give back to the community. "

"Jones: I'm sure. I'm sure you could. But there are some avenues you could use to do this here. So I don't mean just UNCW but in the area. "

"Bender: Yes, I think the other thing that-- I really believe that there are some other courses that parallel-- I'm talking about just-- I'm not sure that enough young people are every told how to put resumes together, how to present themselves to potential employers, good interpersonal skills, the ability to sell yourself. You know, it's-- I don't know what you put that under. I don't know if that's a catchall, potpourri of everything, but I believe there's a lot of that can happen. And I'm always amazed at young people who show up for an interview and they're in their flip-flops or-- "

"Jones: Yeah. "

"Bender: Did I strike a nerve? I mean some of t his goes on. I mean it's just--"

"Jones: And like refer to you as "you guys." "

"Bender: And it's-- but it's common horse sense, but seemingly it's not being-- somebody is not pointing this out, and it's slipping through the cracks. And that sounds so simple and oversimplified. But there is-- there are some skills involved. I did a lot of acting, and I was very involved in drama. I was-- I spent some time in learning about how to communicate. I don't know if those things are being, if there's anybody that's-- "

"Jones: The presentation."

"Bender: Yeah. The presentation. "

"Jones: I don't know either. "

"Bender: We're wandering here I know, but I just ... "

"Jones: No that's perfectly all right, because it's what you're doing today, and that's just as important."

"Bender: Yeah. I think one of the things that I want is I want to finish gracefully. And I think finishing gracefully doesn't mean retiring. I don't want to retire. And I think the university is an avenue. I might write another book. You know what that's all about. "

"Jones: Oh, yeah. "

"Bender: I'm thinking about it. I really am. But I've got to-- thinking about it and doing it are two different things. "

"Jones: Gary, I can't thank you enough for giving us your time and your memories and your thoughts. This is a special interview, and it's going into a particular category I mentioned to you. We do these in categories. And I am sure that-- I'm glad you're here in Wilmington and you decided to stay. "

"Bender: Well, thank you. Thank you. "

"Jones: And I do hope that you'd go on to mentor, to teach, because-- and all kinds of things, including, that's a wonderful idea, young students, graduate students to whatever on how to present themselves and how to fill out a resume and how to do all these different things. And you're a perfect candidate because you still speak just like anybody should on the radio. I can't thank you enough. And I'm sure that Jerry is going to listen to this, probably take it to bed and listen to it. "

"Bender: You must not have anything else to do. "

"Jones: No, as a teaching aid. And I want you to come back maybe down the road and tell us what you're-- what's happened to you in the last couple of years and make some comments. Off camera I can ask you questions I can't ask now. "

"Bender: Well, thank you. I appreciate it. Enjoyed it. "

" "

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign