Greetings once again from the West coast headquarters of BSMW in American Canyon, CA.
I was out getting coffee this morning, and switched on KNBR, the huge sports radio station out here in the Bay Area. To my surprise, at that moment, the topic of conversation was…
WBZ’s decision to let Lobel go after 30 years was a big topic on the show, mostly from the angle that if a legend like Lobel can be let go, whose job IS safe? They made mention of the fact that Lobel turned down an offer from CBS to host College Football Today in the mid-80’s, which opened the door for Jim Nantz to take the position.
Several callers with ties to the Boston area called to give their recollections of Lobel, and it was noted that Lobel had lost a little something in recent years.
I’ll take this opportunity to give my own Lobel story.
About a year after I started BSMW, I had been getting short emails from Lobel on occasion, usually notes of support, or a quick observation on the topic of that day. Eventually Lobel invited me to come down to the WBZ studios to hang out for the evening and watch the production of that night’s newscast.
I accepted and met Lobel at the studios. He couldn’t have been more gracious, taking me on a tour of the building, showing me the newsroom, introducing me to the staff, (I was shocked at how many of them were familiar with BSMW)checking out the Sports Final set, and then going into his office while he got ready for the newscast. You might expect a huge, spacious office for someone of Lobel’s stature, but that wasn’t the case. It was a small, narrow, cramped room, without any windows, perhaps a little over double the size of a janitors closet. Just outside the office was a larger room where the sports staff was putting together highlight packages and there was a vast wall of sports highlight tapes and film.
The inside of Lobel’s office was just covered with photos of Bob with just about every local athlete of note in the last 25 years prior to then. (This was in 2003) Above his desk were several small TV monitors. It was a busy night, as the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics were all playing on that particular evening. All the games were on the monitors. We sat and talked for quite awhile, chatting about the current state of sports in Boston, about some of the personalities in town, who he got along with and who he despised. (As I recall, he wasn’t too fond of a certain WEEI morning co-host not named Gerry Callahan.) He also had a ton of sports books laying around the office, many of them brand-new review copies. He gave me several.
When it came time for first the TV38 10:00pm newscast, (At the time, WBZ was also producing a 10:00pm newscast for TV38.) he brought me into the studio with him. He introduced me to the news anchors that night, (Sarah Underwood was one, and she was incredibly nice as well.) and settled me just off the set where I could watch the entire proceedings. Lobel seemed to have a somewhat uneven relationship with meteorologist Ed Carroll, they needled each other constantly off the air, and I couldn’t really tell if it was 100% friendly or not. When it came time for sports it was the show that we’ve seen for 30 years, shuffling the papers, going through the highlights, (The “Gasoline Alley” Red Sox bullpen was a hot topic that night) and delivering a wisecrack or two.
When the newscast was over, we chatted for a few more minutes, and then with a few words of encouragement, he saw me out the door. It was a terrific, memorable evening, and I have only fond memories of Lobel to this day.
It’s been a rough few years for Lobel since then, and though his performance was certainly not up to what it was in his peak, he was still a sports media legend in Boston right to the end. I expect we’ll see and hear some more of him in the future, be it on radio, or perhaps in another television role.