ESCANABA - I've been fortunate throughout my life to have had contact and support from some great mentors. From parental guidance to formal education, for the most part, my compass has pointed towards the positive. I've made some mistakes along the way but none have been insurmountable.
Becoming a host/producer of a small syndicated outdoors radio program and an outdoors columnist for the local news paper was never part of my bucket list. My first exposure to radio broadcasting started back in 1988 with commentary through the annual firearm deer seasons. In 1998 KMB Broadcasting asked me to co-host a weekly program on stations WDBC-AM and WYKX-FM in Escanaba. I decided to give it a try and literally sat in a chair while partner Mike Dubord did the production work. Through time I was able to learn the technology and the show has grown to four networks that include six stations in the UP as well as Charter Communications cable.
Trails and Tales Outdoors Radio has received numerous awards that include the Michigan Broadcasters Association for excellence.
Jim Pinar has been legendary in sportscasting. His commentary goes back to when I was in grade school and he covered my high school football games. Pinar's style made listeners feel they were viewing the game right along side of him in the press box.
Jim left local broadcasting for a period. Part of the time he was in television and the rest as Sports Information Director for Northern Michigan University. Upon retirement from NMU, he spent a brief period as communications director for the Michigan Department of Transportation, but his heart was on the field or court of ball sports so he returned to original career about ten years ago.
Mr. Pinar reminds me of my father, not in age but in character. He stands for perfection and believes whatever one has as a job, should be done right the first time. There is a time to enjoy the lighter side of issues and strength to wade through difficulties that surround the industry.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.
Jim has always been there, kind of a Curt Gowdy in my eyes, and an automatic of who was covering the big game. Like Gowdy he "had the power to legitimize an event simply by attending it." It was his return to KMB that I realized I'd be privileged to be able to work with the guy I followed all these years. Moreover and even better, I can say he has become a great friend.
Jim has coached me in the game of broadcasting, a true mentor.
In March of 2005, during a period where things were uncertain with the show, Pinar sent me a letter, straight and to the point - matching his normal style, telling me not to be discouraged and how, in time, if I stayed the course and standards of quality journalism, things would resolve.
That memo is posted on the wall of my office right above my desk to serve as a daily reminder not to sweat the small stuff that interrupts my direction.
Denny Grall, like Jim Pinar in radio, has been at the post of covering sports for the newspaper ever since I can remember. He has devoted himself as a professional to following events at all levels and seasons, reporting in an unbiased way with special emphasis on youth activity.
Grall has the credibility to regularly walk the sidelines at Lambeau Field, covering the Green Bay Packers. While a dream come true for anyone else, Denny Grall hasn't considered his credentials as bragging rights but more of an opportunity to provide better reporting.
Others have come and gone but it has been Denny Grall who I've read intently for over forty years.
About ten years ago, I received a call from Sports Editor Denny Grall at the Daily Press. He knew about my radio program and wanted to know if I'd like to try writing a weekly column for the paper, covering outdoors news and events. I had the same wave of uncertainty that I had when asked to do the radio show.
I told Denny that I had been chided by friends that I had a face made for radio and a voice made for newspaper and if it weren't for word perfect and spell check, I couldn't write my name on a computer. He committed to coach me and assist where needed until I got into a groove. Grall's only order was accuracy and objective reporting. Editorializing was permissible but in limited quantity.
Since my first effort at providing the Friday Outdoors Journal, I have had countless discussions with Denny, thinking all along he shared the excitement I always feel when reporting anything to do with conservation, especially hunting.
I found out that Denny was less than enthusiastic about hunting, not because it wasn't popular in his eyes, but the thought of sporting use of firearms did not have an appeal due to his previous experience as a soldier in Vietnam. I have grown not only to respect him professionally, but honor him as a veteran of our military. He too is one I can happily say is a friend.
This month marks an end to an era. A long span of time where the benchmark of sports casting and sports journalism was set by two individuals, Jim Pinar and Denny Grall. Both men will retire from that role in their lives to enjoy more time with their families. They are truly "Hall of Famers" and I want to express my gratitude for what they've done for me and everyone who loves that quality of life we have in sports.