50 Years Of WBBM Newsradio Sports Reporters: George Ofman & Dave Kerner

George Ofman
May 14, 2018 - 10:36 am

Photo provided by George Ofman

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- In honor of WBBM Newsradio's 50th anniversary, some of WBBM Newradio's sportscasters, past and present, have shared their Newsradio memories.

WBBM Newsradio's George Ofman and Dave Kerner sat down to look back at their careers with the station and talk shop.

George and Dave have been together at WBBM Newsradio for almost eight years, though they have known each other for a lot longer than that.

Ofman: Dave I will tell you one thing, it has been a very interesting decade, a decade of championships for both of us to cover.

Kerner: Oh really, when you look at the last 10 years, actually go back to the last 11 years with the Bears going to the Super Bowl, of course they didn't win a championship, but they had that Super Bowl experience, which they only had one other time. But you are right, from that, three Stanley Cups from the Blackhawks, you got a World Series Championship for the Cubs, and of course, one for the White Sox in '05, well that goes back a little beyond the decade, but interesting to say the least. All kinds of things I think we can look back on and kind of etch into the 50 years WBBM has been around.

Photo provided by George Ofman

Ofman: We've been lucky that we have both been able to cover some of these events, in particular, the Stanley Cups. I was in Philadelphia, before I got here, when the Hawks won the Cup. You were in Boston and we were both at the United Center when the Hawks won their first Stanley Cup since 1938 and that was a very odd night. Do you remember what happened?

Kerner: Well I remember the oddity of the Stanley Cup being a little slow in showing up. [Ofman: I think it was really late.> Yea because of a horrendous rain storm in the area. It was difficult even for us as media to get to the United Center. In fact, if I am not mistaken, I think I got there before you, didn't you have some issues actually getting to the arena or even getting out of the car and getting into Gate 3.5 and even getting into the place?

Ofman: The weather was really bad, but I remember when the Hawks won, the place went crazy, and then of course, we had known ahead of time that the Stanley Cup was somewhere near O'Hare airport, because in the case the Blackhawks lost, they had to take it back to Tampa. Well in the third period they decided to make the move to come to the United Center, of course this is traffic and a rainstorm so I believe it was at least a 30-35 minute delay before the Cup was finally rolled out and I remember when the crowd was cheering when they won the Cup, when they finally brought it out, there was eerie silence as if there was this reverence for a Stanley Cup.

Kerner. Particularly a Stanley Cup in Chicago, which obviously was the coup de gras considering in '10 in Philadelphia, '13 in Boston. Let me just share a couple of memories, if I may, about Boston in '13. That was of course Game 6, and honestly for 57 minutes it looked like the Bruins were going to win Game 6 and I am thinking alright, the logistics of coming back to Chicago, who's going to be available the next day, how's it going to work for Game 7 in two days and I am in the bowels of the media room at TV garden and all of a sudden we are looking at TV monitors realizing a.) the Hawks tied game late and 17 seconds later of course immortality and we are going from wondering what's the schedule going to be like the next two days to get in line here and get on the ice to talk to these guys in a matter of minutes. It's amazing how you can go from that situation to literally winning a championship in that short of period of time.

Photo provided by Dave Kerner

Ofman: That was the Blackhawks and then Dave and I had the luxury of covering the Cubs in 2015 and 2016 when they won their first playoff series, it was against the Cardinals, their first playoff series since 1945; and then they won the pennant at Wrigley Field and the one thing that I remember most about that is we were downstairs, it took 15 minutes for us to be allowed on the field. It was the first time I was on the field with the crowd cheering - what I remember was deafening. It was the loudest I've ever heard a stadium, I am talking about inside and out, that's the first thing that hit me, what a revelation, what a thrill it was to be on the field watching the Cubs and Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer accept the trophy for winning the pennant and then onto the World Series they went.

Kerner: And of course, the rest speaks for itself given what they did in Cleveland, pulling out the Game 7, I can remember of course we covered the three home games for the World Series and of course, the Cubs dropped the first two and were trailing three games to one and I remember going to the ballpark for Game 5 and wondering did they real blow it? I mean all the expectations and here they are down three games to one. And did they really let this get away? Fortunately they did not and managed to go on and get it done in Cleveland. 

Facebook

Ofman: So interesting because we have had the chance to speak to other people who have worked here for many years like Ron Gleason and Tom Share and Brian Davis and Brent Musburger when things we a lot different and reporting was different. We have the luxury of course of the Internet and cell phones to get things out immediately, we have social media, so even for us, that's changed over the course of time and it has really helped our reporting.

Kerner: Helped in a lot of ways. First of all, other people that find stories that put them out instantly on social media can be of a tremendous help depending on situation, where you are, what you are doing. And the other thing too, which kind of adds to our responsibilities, we have to get the word out through social media, as we have through Twitter, through pictures, through stories, through quotes - someone says something funny, once upon a time you'd come back to the station, you'd cut it up and people would hear it the next morning. Now you are tweeting it out, you are even putting the audio out in minutes.

Ofman: That's the immediacy of it and that's the way our job has really changed.

Kerner: Changed a lot! We are wearing more hats now it seems more than ever, when really we are doing the same thing we were doing 20 years ago. And that's one thing obviously we try to do here, we try to report factually, fairly, we try to tell stories in terms of reports that we do obviously for that evening and the next day if it's a night game. Now that social media just kind of adds to that.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/KRT

Ofman: Dave and I have also been lucky to cover some very interesting people. Now there was Mike Ditka back in the 80's. [Kerner: Who I missed.> Yes you missed him, but you didn't miss Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie Guillen is one of the most fascinating people that I had ever had the chance to cover, because he had no filter, and when we say no filter, we mean no filter.

Kerner: Most definitely. When it came to responding to other member of the media saying things, his quips about Wrigley Field, especially when he had to come to Wrigley and talk about rats being the size of cats, or things like that. You never knew what you were going to get out of Ozzie, but of course, he was great for our purposes, the purposes of getting audio and not knowing what he was going to say, but it was essential that every White Sox game we covered, we better made sure we got Ozzie Guillen beforehand, because you just didn't know what was going to come out of his mouth.

Ofman: I remember one particular story. I had been out of work for a short period of time. I finally went back to the ballpark. I wasn't working so I step on the field and Ozzie is having his pregame talk with the media and he sees me out of the corner of his eye and he flips me the bird. And I said, "I'm back. I feel so comfortable, Ozzie remembers me." That's what is way...he was really interesting and helped the White Sox win a World Series.

Kerner: Without a doubt, so instrumental in that. You know, the handling of personnel. You look at that White Sox team that won the World Series and had to go through three different closers and Ozzie had to find a way to make that all come together. And use those guys at the proper times and it worked like a charm for him for one season. 

Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Sipa USA

Ofman: Then there was a different quote that we had the chance to get and that was the incomparable, I don't know if that is the right word for it, but we will use it for now, Lou Piniella.

Kerner: Oh... you name it there were all types of quotes. Questioning the intelligence of certain reporters, for example, enjoying of course the post game song, in his mind that was called 'Go Cub, Win,' not 'Go Cubs, Go.'

Ofman: I think there was a stream of unconsciousness with Sweet Lou.

Kerner: In fact, I was reminded of his mangling of a particular Cubs name at one point after a game, Scott Eyre, the left-handed relief pitcher. He decided to call him after a game, Stevie eye-er, which sends me rolling to this day when I hear that. 

Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT/Sipa USA

Ofman: We've had a lot of things that we have covered over the course of time here at WBBM. One of them I remember, not with great fondness, was the Bulls playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. We were of course reporting live from there and that was the day Derrick Rose went down. As soon as he went down in the playoff game, I turned to some other reporters and we said the same thing, 'he's done.' Torn ACL and in fact a couple hours after the game, came the word, a torn ACL and that was just the start of bad news for the Bulls. And being there, you'd like to be there for good news, that''s one of those bad news days.

Kerner: There is no question. That was a franchise-changing situation and I don't think we really realized it at the time. We chalked it up as a knee injury, he's out for the playoffs, this is unfortunate, but he will be back and be as good as he's been and the Bulls will just kind of carry on and be a force in the Eastern Conference, as they were at that time and that never really happened after that and it was really a shame for the franchise, that's not in the throws of rebuilding again.

Facebook

Ofman: We've had some time with colorful coaches and some others guys like Marc Trestman, Vinny Del Negro, and even Robin Ventura, which was a real surprise hiring, probably more surprising to me than the hiring of Ozzie Guillen. 

Kerner: I always though at least during Robin's tenure that he really wasn't comfortable with the situation. He tried to tell you many times, 'oh yeah I am fine with it, I am good with it,' but you just kind of saw how he acted and how he went about his business and it was almost like he was doing Jerry Reinsdorf a favor here and it never really clicked.

Photo provided by George Ofman

Ofman: We would be remised Dave if we didn't talk about one of the most popular guys at this radio station and somebody that we worked with for a number of years, Eric Brown, who we lost almost four years ago. Eric was infectious, and I mean that in a very good way. There was no way anybody, anybody could get mad at the guy. He had a great personality. He was a very dedicated professional. He was a guy who absolutely loved hockey, played hockey. I once played tennis with the guy and he was pretty good and he was a consummate reporter and somebody who just simply exuted a wonderful personality. He is greatly missed by all of us here and was simply just a terrific guy to have and be around.

Kerner: George, you know, I think about that night when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013 in Boston and I was in Boston and Eric was on the air and he and I did a dialogue for about 20 minutes or so talking about that Stanley Cup victory and just the Blackhawks history and how they have come so far. It was such a thrill. He was such a great person to work with, a great person to know, a wonderful human being. His sense of timing was impeccable. I don't know how many events I would cover in evenings and he of course would start at 7:15 p.m. as we would working the evening shift and I would call at 7 o'clock and 7:05 and at 7:06 and nobody is answering the phone, but I knew, well if it is Eric, he is going to answer it from 7:07 and on and darn if he didn't. It's as if he walked in right at 7:07, answered my call, let me know what he needed from me and went on a did his job like the pro he was. I miss him terribly.

Ofman: Well things haven't changed as far as what we do in the studio. We still have sports at :15 and :45, we still do our reports, we still do the overnights, so that part of our business hasn't changed, which is great. 50 years of WBBM - it is really amazing how this radio station has thrived for 50 years and for me, I know I am speaking for you as well, it's a great pleasure to be part of a group of people that include Brent Musburger, Rich King, Brad Palmer, the late Eric Brown, on and on and on. We've had a wonderful group of sportscasters over 50 years here.

Kerner: It has really been a heck of a legacy and quite frankly, an honor of being a part of that legacy, as I have been since I think about 2004, 2005. It's been a real treat.