As a person who grew up in the Boston area, I think I am like most locals when I say that ever since I can remember caring about sports, I was a fan of Bob Lobel. He was a rockstar sportscaster, who was the #1 guy in town. WBZ TV was his home, and almost the entire region tuned in to get their sports rundown from him every night at 6 and 11. He was tight with all the best athletes in town and was single handedly responsible for one of the most iconic photographs in Boston sports. The Ted, Bobby and Larry photo. Nobody could hold a candle to his popularity in the city of Boston. He was TV royalty.
In 2001, my soon to be wife moved to Massachusetts. Not long after her arrival I was watching the late news with her one night. They came back from commercial and Bob Lobel came on to do the sports. I remember her saying that he seemed almost disinterested in his reporting. Although I tried to defend him, and give her a history lesson about who he was and about his status in the city of Boston, I couldn’t help but notice the accuracy in her assessment. He did seem disinterested. He still had the snarky personality that he was known for, but something was different. I typically didn’t watch the news to get my sports info anymore, because there were so many other avenues to do so, but I watched him a few more times over the next couple of weeks and nothing changed. He really was disinterested. What had happened to Bob Lobel? He used to be a god. Then it hit me. That was the reason. He USED to be a god. Now he lived in a world in which his 8 minutes, at the end of every broadcast, had been reduced to 3 because he was no longer the only source for sports news in Boston. He was a relic, and he knew it. Just a guy going through the motions. My wife and I began watching him more often just to laugh at the utter distain he seemed to have for what he was doing. It almost appeared as though he was doing it on purpose. Knowing him, he probably was. Either way, this wasn’t the guy who commanded your attention, as he did for so many years. His mojo was gone.
In 2008, our clan decided to move to my wife’s hometown area of Dallas. Shortly after settling into our new place, we were watching the late news, and when it got to the sports segment, this Brian Dennehy look alike named Dale Hansen came on the TV. I distinctly remember my wife saying that he was the Bob Lobel of Dallas. A long time figure in the local sports world, and a rockstar in his own right. I found myself interested in what he had to say because I thought he would be a good source for me to acclimate to the Dallas sports scene. I just hoped that he was a little more happy to be doing his job than the ex-rockstar I had left behind.
It wasn’t long before I began really liking Dale Hansen. He was witty and engaging, and most definitely NOT disinterested. Over the next couple of years I learned that he was one of the key people who uncovered the slush fund scandal at SMU, during the Pony Express days, which led to the only “Death Penalty” in NCAA history. It also led to a Peabody Award for distinguish journalism. Those are the kinds of things that lead to bigger and better job offers, but if there were any, he clearly turned them down, because he remained at WFAA. Much like Bob Lobel, he had his Sunday Sports special and his charity work, but all the years behind the desk, and decreased face time, hadn’t changed his demeanor or commitment at all. In fact, he may be better now than ever before, because he did something that my hometown guy didn’t do…………. he evolved.
He evolved his game by taking the time to occasionally inject some social commentary into his reports. Not every night. Maybe not even once a week, but when he did it it became much watch television. So much so, that when one of his commentaries centered around Michael Sam, the video went viral, and led to an appearance on Ellen.
Most recently, he tackled an incident involving racism at a high school basketball game. He could have been content to just share his thoughts on the topic, but he chose to also share his own personal experience as a child raised by a racist father, and how some of that racism rubbed off on him as a young man. He wanted to make it clear how easy it is to fall into the same patterns as your parents, but that it doesn’t mean you can’t change. HE clearly did, and he wanted it to be clear that others could too. It was insightful and eloquent. His commentaries always are, and its awesome to watch.
I didn’t write this to bash on Bob Lobel, because he will always be a favorite of mine, and I know that there are probably a lot of ex-rockstar sportscasters, in major markets all over the country, who have become a little disenfranchised with their diminished roles on the news, due to all the other ways we are able to get our information. I get that, and I am not judging any of them. I really wrote this to shine a light on a man who clearly chose to create a new path for his limited air time. A path that could occasionally help a likely more testosterone filled group of viewers, take a couple minutes of their day to think about some big picture issues, while still wrapping it around a sports topic. He has done that magnificently, and for that I say thank you, Dale Hansen. You are a joy to watch, and you are STILL a rockstar.