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Harlan Enjoys Telling Each Game’s Story

Jason Barrett

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“It’s first and 10. Morris to block. It’s wide open. The rumbling Kelce taking it to the house!”

Kevin Harlan, longtime national sportscaster, is shouting, his baritone voice resonating with excitement. And there’s more to come.

“It’s goal at the seven. Smith, Charles, the block by Kelce. The dive for six!”

Wearing his signature blue blazer and with a handkerchief neatly folded in the breast pocket, Harlan is calling play-by-play for the Chiefs’ season-opening game against the Houston Texans as part of the CBS Sports broadcast team. His emphatic vocal cadence is familiar to anyone who has watched NFL football during the last 31 years.

It’s something the Kansas City-area resident has been doing since 1999.

On Monday, Harlan will be behind the microphone again to call the Chiefs’ game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field, a place with which he is very familiar.

At 55, he is at the height of a career that got its start when he was a kid in Wisconsin.

“I kind of caught the bug,” Harlan said. “I would listen to games late at night on the radio that would come in from all over the country. … I didn’t have headsets, so I’d cup my hand to my ear and pretend I had a hand-held mic. I would go pretend to call games in the bathroom to perfect my voice.”

Harlan has always been surrounded by football. His father, Bob Harlan, was president and CEO of the Packers for 19 years. The oldest of three boys, Kevin took a stab at playing football and hockey, but “I knew I didn’t have talent on the field.”

Instead, Harlan turned to describing sports. His first gig was at his Catholic high school’s 10-watt radio station.

“I really wanted to be a commercial pilot,” he said with a chuckle, “and here was a way I could travel and be around sports, which I love.”

Once he got his driver’s license, Harlan traveled outside Green Bay to call high school games.

“Sports is so exciting,” Harlan said. “It’s a story that’s not been happening. You’re telling the story as it happens.”

His dad remembers those early days.

“When he was doing games in high school, I would sit at home and listen, and when he got home we’d go over the notes I took and he listened very carefully,” Bob Harlan said. “Once he made up his mind this was for him, he was driven.”

Harlan attended the University of Kansas at the suggestion of then CBS broadcaster Gary Bender, a Jayhawk alumnus whom Harlan knew through his father.

“I flew down, looked at the school and loved the school — that was it,” Harlan said.

By his freshman year at KU, Harlan was already broadcasting pre- and postgame shows for football; later came basketball games broadcast for the Jayhawks Radio Network (1983-1984). One of his KU classmates was John Holt, now an anchor at Fox 4 in Kansas City. The two worked together at KLWN-AM and FM in Lawrence.

“When you’re working for pennies as young college kids, you form a real bond,” Holt said. “It’s so fun to see that we’re both broadcast survivors and still love what we do all these years later.”

Harlan worked part-time at KCMO, then an all-news talk station that carried the Chiefs, Royals, Kings and indoor soccer teams. He became an essential member of the KCMO team, according to then-sports director Wayne Larrivee.

“We were the first station in the NFL to do a two-hour pre show, and Kevin produced it way beyond expectations,” Larrivee said. “That’s how he got started with us, and we recognized his ability, talent.”

Larrivee, who now calls the Packers games for its radio network, was impressed with the young Harlan.

“He seemed like he was far beyond a college senior in terms of his maturity,” Larrivee said. “As good as he was on the air, he was as good off the air. He had a vision of where he wanted to go.”

Mary Anne Murray worked with Harlan both in Topeka and then again at KCMO.

“Kevin was always so much fun in the newsroom,” Murray said. “He worked hard, was very resourceful. It was clear from the beginning that he was destined for greatness.”

Just a few days after getting his diploma KU, Harlan landed his first “professional” gig as the official voice of the Kansas City Kings NBA team.

Then came four years of broadcasting NFL games for Fox Sports. In 1998, Harlan joined CBS’ NFL broadcast team as a play-by-play announcer; this will mark Harlan’s 31st consecutive year. In 1999, he became part of the CBS Sports broadcast team for coverage of the NCAA Tournament, which Harlan continued through this year.

So does Harlan have a preference between the two sports?

“I like each sport in its season,” he said.

Harlan did Chiefs radio broadcasts for nine years, a stint he loved. It was during that time that he coined his signature, “Oh baby! What a play!” The expression came out during a Monday night game between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

During Harlan’s extensive sportscasting career, he has called preseason games for the Chicago Bears and Packers (he still does for Green Bay). He’s also called preseason games for the Chiefs (on KCTV-5) and the Jacksonville Jaguars, plus several Super Bowls.

Earlier in his career, Harlan was the voice of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves for nine seasons. In addition, he has called action for NBC Sports, ESPN and the Mutual Broadcasting System and provides the play-by-play voice for the NBA2K video-game series.

Harlan uses an enthusiastic, rapid-fire delivery no matter who has the ball. He gets tremendous satisfaction working in television but has a real fondness for radio.

“In TV, the picture is No. 1, the analyst is No. 2, the graphics and bells and whistles are No. 3 and play-by-play is fourth,” he said. “On the radio, the play-by-play announcer is the top dog.”

To read the rest of this article visit the Kansas City Star where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Derek Wolfe Joining 104.3 The Fan as ‘The Drive’ Co-Host

I am so insanely pumped to talk with you every afternoon on The Fan. We had a special connection when I was playing for the Broncos that’s only going to grow stronger every day on The Drive.”

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Former NFL defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is joining 104.3 The Fan in Denver as co-host with Darren “DMac” Mckee on The Drive With Derek Wolfe and DMac.

Wolfe announced his retirement from the NFL earlier this year after signing a one-day contract to retire with the Denver Broncos. He was the franchise’s top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, spending eight seasons with the team, including a win in Super Bowl 50.

“To the listeners in Denver, ‘The Fan Wolfe-pack,’ I am so insanely pumped to talk with you every afternoon on The Fan. We had a special connection when I was playing for the Broncos that’s only going to grow stronger every day on The Drive,” said Wolfe. “DMac and I are going to fight sometimes, maybe we’ll fight a lot of the time, but we’ll always be working together to entertain you. I’ve always kept it 100 with you, and that’s not going to change one bit.” 

“Derek is one of the most popular players in Broncos history, with the iconic image of his sack celebration in Super Bowl 50 forever etched in Denver sports lore,” said 104.3 The Fan program director Raj Sharan. “What’s so exciting about adding Derek is his connection with the audience goes far beyond his production on the field. He’s never been afraid to mince words and is unapologetically authentic. Those characteristics drew Denver sports fans to fall in love with Derek, and we’re thrilled to help Derek build on that relationship everyday as he entertains his ‘Fan Wolfe-pack!’” 

Wolfe enters a role previously occupied by former Bronco Tyler Polumbus, who departed the station in September. The Drive with Derek Wolfe and DMac will be heard weekday afternoons from 2:00 PM-6:00 PM.

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Sports Radio News

Chick Hearn Headlines Radio Hall of Fame Legends Inductees

Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.

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Chick Hearn

The Museum of Broadcast Communications announced today the selection of 10 new Legends inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame for 2022. This distinction honors those in the industry who have contributed greatly to it and have since passed away.

Chick Hearn, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be amongst those inducted in Chicago next month. Hearn was the voice of the Lakers for 41 years (1961-2002). Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.  

The full list of those to be inducted as part of the Legends class are:

  • MrDoug Banks– Nationally syndicated on-air personality;
  • MrJames Brown– Legendary singer, to be inducted as a radio station owner of WJBE Knoxville, TN;
  • MrBob Coburn– Host of the syndicated Rockline show;
  • Mr. Chick Hearn– Play-by-play announcer/voice of the Los Angeles Lakers;
  • MsBernice Judis– Owner and General Manager, WNEW-AM, 1930’s–1950’s;
  • MrSid Mark– Host of syndicated program, Sounds of Sinatra show for 60+ years;
  • Mr. Bobby O’Jay– On-air personality, WDIA-AM/Memphis;
  • MrPervis Spann– On-air personality, WVON-AM/Chicago;
  • Mr. James Thompson– Group W Broadcasting President and President of the Broadcasters Foundation;
  • Ms. Rosalie Trombley– Music Director of CKLW-AM/Detroit in the 1960’s–1970’s.

“The Radio Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the individuals who have made the greatest impact on our 100+ year old industry,” Kraig T. Kitchin, Co-Chairman, Radio Hall of Fame said. “I’m thrilled to see the Nominating Committee confirm the induction of these 10 individuals who each made such an impact on our industry in their time.”    

The Radio Hall of Fame will recognize its 2022 class of inductees, including the class announced in July, during a ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st.

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Sports Radio News

Tobin and Leroy Debut on WQAM Middays

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tobin and Leroy

After a brief hiatus and the closure of 790 The Ticket, Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard officially returned to the Miami airwaves on Monday on 560 WQAM.

Tobin and Leroy debuted in its new midday timeslot of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the station.

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Tobin added that the timing between when they made their exit from The Ticket and returned on WQAM was a bit off.

“It was a very weird week for us to take off last week. Because they were like, ‘Hey, you’re change times, you’re gonna change stations, and also it’s gonna be the busiest sports week of the year,'” he said. “So now we’re back, and nothing will happen this week.”

“There has been less action on days we thought we had to be here than what happened last week,” Hoard added.

Hoard actually arrived to the show late, citing traffic issues getting to the station. That was something even Tobin noted is an adjustment they have to make from when they were doing morning drive.

“We’ve all discovered here today is traffic is not the same at 8 a.m. as it is at 4 a.m.,” he said. “Very different.”

Tobin made sure WQAM listeners knew that even though they switched stations, the show isn’t changing. They continued with all the usual segments that fans know and love on Monday.

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