Fairfax sportscaster turns his surfing into therapy
I’m a dinosaur.
At 79, I accept my skin drying out and print journalism, my lifelong profession, being on the extinction trail of pterodactyls.
But I’m not ready to fade away.
And although print may be following eight-tracks, horses-and-buggies and dodos, I still prefer writing columns and texts without abbreviations, and enjoy hearing local radio personalities rather than syndicated broadcasts.
OMG, how quaint.
Bruce Macgowan, Fairfax resident 15 years my junior, doesn’t fit the dinosaur designation.
But his journalistic playground — radio sportscasting — is also vanishing.
That’s listeners’ loss: He’s a good reporter.
And a charming storyteller.
Lately he’s been successfully freelancing, seeking a new regular gig and house-husbanding while his wife, Colette, teaches in Larkspur’s Special Ed Department.
Bruce was born in San Francisco, a large baby: 10 pounds, 12 ounces, with long arms and legs. He morphed into a large man: 6 foot 6, and 220 pounds.
His sports appetite is large, too — a hunger he’s fed forever.
We’re in San Anselmo’s Comforts when he recalls growing up in Tiburon and knowing at 13 “I wanted to be a sportswriter or sportscaster.”
He actualized the dream.
“I’ve covered about 5,000 major sports events in my life,” Bruce tells me, “and I never get bored.”
He elaborates: “I like getting paid to watch what I enjoy. Part of the deal is being a fan. I think if you’re not, you’d be miserable being in a ballpark 81 times a year.”
Sports, he contends, “are a metaphor for life, synthesizing the highs and lows, with moments of great drama and comedy.”
He’s completing his 41st year in broadcasting, but it hasn’t been all fun and games.
He admits he’s “had anxiety issues since I was a kid, but I found that exercise mitigated them.”
That’s why he surfs.
“It’s great exercise and a wonderful release. You’re out in nature and it quiets the mind, soothes the spirit and calms the body. It’s my therapy.”
On average, he surfs two or three times a week, mostly in Marin, but also in Sonoma, San Francisco, Pacifica and Santa Cruz.
He’s so immersed his Facebook profile photo features a breaking wave.
Part of Bruce’s disquiet stems from haunting memories of his older brother, Paul, overdosing at age 36. He’s also struggling with Colette’s breast cancer.
“She’s living her life, day to day, to the fullest, doing everything possible to stay healthy, and doing everything she can to take care of the people she loves.”
But the illness worries him.
“I have good days and bad days but it’s a good lesson in how human beings can deal with adversity. I figure if she can handle it, I can too.”
I notice Bruce’s casual attire somehow makes him look like he is handling it: Jeans, sandals, baseball cap, sunglasses dangling from the open neckline of a flannel shirt.
For years, he’d worn a beard. Not today.
Not all changes are good, though — like what’s happening in his field.
Stations are using fewer local broadcasters. “I’ve been fired five times,” Bruce notes without animosity.
But he’s shocked by today’s young broadcasters.
“It’s alarming. The kids’ diction is bad, their vocabulary and pronunciation is amateurish.”
Sports fans admire Bruce’s professionalism.
Which comes from 17 years experience at KNBR, stints at KGO and Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, and time with KSEM-TV in Eureka, UPI radio in New York, KVI in Seattle, KPTV in Portland.
Plus freelancing for Mutual Radio in D.C., WFAN in New York, AP radio, NBC radio, and CBC radio in Canada.
And writing columns for the Marin IJ, the Examiner and the Mercury News.
His most memorable coverage?
“When the 1989 Giants baseball team won their first pennant in 27 years — and then have the earthquake disrupt the World Series game at Candlestick.”
His job was never routine: “I did morning updates, afternoon updates, weekend sports talk shows, weeknight sports talk shows, reporting from the ballparks, traveling on the road with the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Raiders.”
He loved interacting with Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Ken Stabler, John Madden.
His life isn’t routine now either.
He crams it with books on American history, politics, films, hiking with Colette and their 11-year-old daughter, Molly.
“I’m just taking it all one day at a time.”
A good mantra for me.