T.O. Talks Sports with the Tri-Cities
Tony Ott reflects on more than 30 years as a sports radio personality in the Tri-Cities.
Written by Dave Wilson
Tri-Cities sports fans, if you haven’t heard the news, Terry Ott is back, and talking some serious sports. Ott, also known as T.O., spends two hours a day, Monday through Friday, talking sports with community members and local sports personalities on KONA 610 AM Information Radio. I recently caught up with the local sports radio personality, and in my opinion, T.O. deserves the spotlight! Ott was kind enough to share his thoughts and answer questions regarding his 30-plus years of experience working in the Tri-Cities sports market. A huge thank you is in order for the entire staff at Cherry Creek Radio, especially General Manager Tami Peterson and Sports Director Michael McDonnal.
GDM: How did you get into sports radio?
Ott: I fell in love with radio back in the late 1970s. I loved the theatre of radio. Then I met Kirk Williamson, who was a popular sports personality in the Tri-Cities at that time and things began to change. I submitted a demo tape which failed badly, and Kirk told me to go home and read the newspaper out loud to myself in a corner of my house so I could get used to hearing my own voice. I was told I needed to learn how to breathe the right way—I really had no training or background at all in broadcasting.
Ten years went by, and then in a twist of fate, I reunited with Williamson in 1988 as the Tri-Cities introduced hockey for the first time. Williamson asked me to carry a wireless microphone amongst the crowd to interview fans but when the microphone failed he asked me to join him in the broadcast booth. This is when I began my color commentary with the Tri-Cities Americans hockey team, which ultimately was a catalyst to my Talk Sports radio show that launched in February of 1989.
GDM: What are your most memorable interviews or stories?
Ott: I’ve been asked this question before and I tend to give a different answer every time because I think every interview and story is memorable in its own way. For example, I interviewed Darrell Evans, who was a superstar third baseman for the Detroit Tigers from 1984 to 1988. It happened to be the same day as the Hall of Fame voting. Evans was on the ballot for the last time, and he did not get voted in. I received the news across the wire and assumed Evans already knew, so I read the results which he was hearing for the first time! It was an awkward three or four seconds of empty air time. It was a traumatic moment for me as a broadcaster because I could hear the devastation in his voice.
I’ve had world-class wheelchair athletes—including wheelchair racers who have no feeling from the waist down—strapped literally with their lives in a wheelchair. It really puts things into perspective.
I would make trips to the local ballparks and present trophies to the athletes of the week. I ran into one of those 12-year-old athletes of the week at a local high school football game this year. He is now grown up with a family of his own and he said he still has that trophy. Each interview and story has been a great moment for me. I’m a sports fan.
GDM: In your perspective how has the world of sports changed from the time you started in the industry?
Ott: I would have to say that money has definitely skyrocketed…I won’t say it is totally out of control, but as sports fans we are the base of every single athlete and ownership group and team out there. If we have the power to keep them going we also have the power to stop it. If sports fans don’t get it, they better start getting it. If you don’t like the prices you don’t have to go. If the fans stop going things will eventually change—it’s a business in that respect.
The athletes themselves have changed; they are bigger, faster and stronger. Twenty years ago I walked onto the practice field of the Seattle Seahawks and I could almost be compared in physique to an NFL player. Not now, today’s athletes are beyond big—they are monsters.
Another major change over the years has been the media exposure. The media has blown up in sports. It is a multi-billion-dollar business.
GDM: Game Day Magazine focuses on the local sports scene. Based on your knowledge of other sports communities and programs around the United States, how would you rank the Tri-Cities?
Ott: I’ve watched other programs around the country and I can tell you we are absolutely blessed. This is one of the most athletic and talented areas in the country, per capita. High schools are gifted in the fact that not only do they teach well and keep things traditional and have a sense about what they do on a daily basis, but they keep things fair, the athletes are great, and the community is very supportive—I’m very lucky to work in this community.
GDM: What advice do you have for aspiring sports broadcasters or personalities?
Ott: As I’ve said to my own children, it doesn’t matter what they do. I don’t care what they do, but they have to have one ingredient, and it has to be with them—that they love what they do. If you don’t have that—to go after something, and you’re just doing it—you’ll end up hating it. I encourage anybody; if you’re looking to do sports or not, if you don’t have a passion for it, try something else. Go find your passion, go do your thing that you like the most.
GDM: Well said, Mr. Tony Ott!
You can catch up with Tony daily, Monday through Friday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on KONA 610 AM Information Radio for more sports talk.