Weir's radio road leads home again
Eastern's veteran play-by-play guy stays the course, gets back to old job of calling basketball
By PAUL DELANEY
It's not easy to find Larry Weir at a loss for words.
And that's a good thing considering he makes a living with his voice and vocabulary.
The secret, however, is to ask what the 51-year-old Weir would be doing if he were not calling play-by-play broadcasts for Eastern Washington University football, basketball, and a pocket full of other area sports.
“I've kind of given it a thought but I have no idea what it would be,” Weir said this past Monday when asked what he might be doing had he not followed the rocky road of radio. “I started doing this when I was 18 years old and I've never done anything else.”
That's a good thing considering Weir's weathered the storm of recently prospecting out a living in broadcasting, going as far as the gold fields of Nevada to stay in it.
But EWU's recent renewal of a two-year broadcasting deal with the KXLY Radio Group returns Weir to his roots - both personally and professionally - as the broadcast voice of all EWU sports.
Way back when, before he took his first radio job in Colfax, Weir did have to ponder his future without a microphone in front of his face.
When Weir was in high school in Waitsburg he had a neighbor who was a big Washington State University booster and another friend of his parents was the town lawyer. So there was a brief tug-o-war between Wazzu and the Gonzaga School of Law.
“That was never really a consideration, so to answer the question, I have no idea,” Weir said of him doing something other than calling play-by-play.
So in a business that is fraught with turnover and tumult, Weir has been able to survive – barely – by being a jack-of-all broadcasting trades the past 32 years.
“I'm not just a disc jockey, not just a news guy, there's a lot of different things I can do,” Weir said, alluding, perhaps to his ability to be one of the last men standing in a business that is dominated by automation.
When Weir broke into the broadcasting biz in 1980 someone had to be in the studio. “Automated stations had not been heard of yet, you had to have somebody there to play the records, somebody had to be there to do the work.”
Now, Weir said, everything's on computer and there's one station in Spokane where key parts of their day – morning and afternoon drive – are all handled out of New York. “It's a changed business, probably if I had seen the crystal ball I might have taken another route,” Weir said.
But he stayed the course and his familiar tones will once again emanate on EWU broadcasts. Eastern, Weir said, “Has always been a constant for me; this is going on my 22nd year.” Things come and go “But Eastern always seems to be there and I always seem to be part of what they're doing.”
To stay in the radio business, and to be able to at least do play-by-play for Eastern football, Weir signed on last November to become a news director for a group of radio stations based in the new gold mining boomtown of Elko.
Accommodations were available but at a premium price, Weir said. An example: A 27-foot fifth wheel travel trailer rented for $700 per month. “And those were old, old travel trailers, like 1970s, 1980s type,” Weir said. He looked at a two-bedroom apartment the Nevada landlord was looking to get $1,000 a month. “You couldn't have gotten more than $400 for it here in Spokane.”
New apartments rented from $1,000 to $1,500 per month but miners were always at the top of the list. “The mining is the lifeblood of the economy,” Weir said.
But when the new EWU broadcasting deal was announced in July it paved the way for Weir to return courtside to call basketball for the Eagles after Dennis Patchin did the broadcasts during the initial two years of the deal.
Weir again teams with Paul Sorensen, a man who has not only been his longtime football broadcast booth sidekick, but also the person who got the Walla Walla, Wash.-born Weir into serious sports broadcasting.
“We're kind of joined at the hip,” Weir said with a laugh when asked about Sorensen, the call it like it is, no holds barred former WSU defensive back.
Weir recounted how his Eastern broadcasting career began and Sorensen was at the heart of it. Seeing an article mentioning a company called Impact Sports that had signed a deal to broadcast EWU sports, Weir shot off a resume.
While the EWU job had been filled there were TV games on what was then the independent KAYU. Weir and Sorensen teamed to cover GSL games from 1986-88 and then the Spokane Indians play-by-play job opened in 1989. Sorensen owned those rights and hired Weir.
That led to Weir beginning his Eastern duties in 1991.
“We've been friends for 25 years,” Weir said. “When we were doing Shock and Eastern we were spending eight months out of the year together and I think that was probably a little much for both of us,” he said with a laugh.
Seriously, “I really owe Paul a lot, probably without him I wouldn't be in the situation I am now. So I've been fortunate in that respect,” Weir said.
Now there's the Larry Weir that is never at a loss to find the right words to describe the situation.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.