A Dream of Gary Radnich
A few years ago, local Bay Area Affiliate KRON-4's late news team was assaulted by a fire drill that sounded like something out of War of the Worlds. Screeching and tenacious, the alarm reduced anchors Pam Moore and Tom Sinkovitz to nervous laughter and apologies.
Fortunately for them, one Gary Radnich sat to their right. It was time for his segment, The World According to Gary, and he wasn't about to let some noise disruption get in his way.
"The building could be burning down, but I have a story to tell." joked Radnich, looking relaxed as ever. He was unfazed by the disruption and barreled on through the broadcast, covering the alarm in real time as if it were a sporting event. For Gary, it was just another night in the studio, and an incident that serves as a fitting reveal into the secret of his longevity.
But lest we over-analyze - delving too deeply into the psyche of veteran San Jose sports broadcaster Gary Radnich is missing the point. Now entering his 21st year in sportscasting with local AM affiliate KNBR, Radnich has been inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. He's been named best sportscaster more than once. Radio Ink named him the fifth best sportscaster in the country. He also enjoys popular success on local news, where he offers up prosaic and compelling commentary on both sports and local color.
Those of us who grew up watching channel four news know who Gary is. His cherubic, jokester visage was a constant even thirty years ago. On am radio, Radnich has effectively grasped the sports mantle from since-ousted local sports jabbers like Ralph Barbieri and Ron Owens. He has also earned his fair share of detraction and praise from fellow critics and sports fans for his freewheeling, off the cuff style.
There isn't very much to say about Gary Radnich's life and legacy that hasn't already been covered. He's already been commemorated and run through the muck in local sports and broadcasting circles again and again, and yet he moves on, like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred. So why the interest? Why Gary? Make no mistake: I'm not here to run a standard bio on Radnich. It's been done to death. He's a local celebrity with his fair share of press. And as you well know, I'm not a huge sports fan.
First, no broadcaster's ascent is ever as miraculous as his longevity, and for Radnich to have weathered the media storm over the last thirty years is a miraculous thing. Gary's kept it about the game. He has remained almost supernaturally steadfast, constant and unflappable through otherwise crippling and profound disruptions in broadcasting and media, and in the business of sports itself.
What's the secret to Gary's success? He's either a trailblazing maverick or the Soupy Sales of sportscasting, depending on who you ask. He's brash, but he pairs every jab with a wink, something that has earned him grudging admiration. He's not a sports partisan. Unlike many tenacious broadcasters, he discourages the toxic emotion and blind idol worship that runs deep among most sports fans.
Radnich is, despite how he might want to be perceived, a court jester of local sports. He hams it up in public with fans, employing self effacing, blustery charm with everyone he meets. Like the court jesters of old, his only allegiance is to his craft. He cuts stars and icons down to size with harsh truths while joking at his own expense. It's a one two punch of misdirection that never keeps Radnich in hot water for very long.
Though Radnich's bread and butter is sports, he became lodged in my consciousness after a bizarre dream I had about him well over ten years ago.
In this dream, I wandered, lost, through Tuscany, a verdant expanse of low foothills and slanted vineyards on the eastern coast of Italy. I wandered there in the Summertime, like some sun addled extra from Stealing Beauty or A Walk in the Clouds, when I came across a cart and horse stopped on a path. The side of the cart was flipped up, and in it, jars of various sizes and colors stood on shelves, waiting to be procured.
A gypsy sat on the top of the carriage, proudly clutching the reigns in each hand. It was Gary Radnich.
Gary wore a hoop necklace in one ear and spoke in a native Italiano. I couldn't understand him at first, but as with most dreams, the language shifted and soon, he was good ole Radnich, sportscasting from his carriage. He was perfectly at home there, a native son of Tuscany consigned to his boyhood haunts, subsisting on various elixirs. He'd long since retired, and wandered the sun sheathed pathways and vine covered Tuscan trellises like an errant gypsy.
The image of Gary Radnich, jocular sports man, local broadcaster and all around man's man, astride a carriage in the noblest corners of the Italian countryside was a sight I won't soon forget. Never mind that it was a dream. Never mind how ridiculous it is. When I see the man, I see a kindly, avuncular, exotic figure, one living out his dreams of old Europe in an old cart. This is the Radnich I still see, despite daily evidence to the contrary. I know he's on KNBR from 9 am to Noon, gossiping about the latest trade or team scandal, but I can't help but think that if he ever retires, he might consider a villa somewhere and tend to the oldest, most resilient vines in all of Tuscany.