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It Was Great To Work With An Iowa Broadcasting Icon

May 24, 2013

I consider myself very fortunate to say I worked with Jim Zabel.  I was a young kid that recently graduated from Iowa State in December of 1993, and my first professional job was with the 50,000 watt powerhouse WHO in Des Moines in May of 1994.

I recall seeing Jim for the first time and thinking “wow this is pretty cool.”  Like most Iowans, I listened to Jim growing up in the 80’s do all the Iowa Hawkeye games.

I filled in for Jim on occasion doing the afternoon sportscasts on WHO through the 90’s, but my most direct memory was being his radio engineer for the Iowa Barnstormers games in 1995, 2000 and 2001.  I did all the home games in 1995 and traveled with him for all games in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

The first ever Barnstormers home game was against the Miami Hooters in 1995.  Richard Lee did the road games that year and we both came down to old Vet’s Auditorium days before to run through my responsiblities for the upcoming game.  I’ll admit I was a bit nervous.  I was going to be sitting beside an Iowa broadcasting legend after all and didn’t want to screw anything up.

Turns out I did.  I remember not being able to connect to the studio and we missed most of the pre-game.  I was running around frantically looking for a building official to help me with the line.  Z wasn’t too pleased with me.  He was definately agitated.  But we eventually made it on the air and Jim was very cool with me after the game.  Rookie mistake.  Lesson learned that evening.

2000 was probably the most fun year I had because it was the last year the Barnstormers were in the old “Arena 1” before they dropped to “Arena 2” the next year.  We traveled to Phoenix, Nashville, Buffalo, Grand Rapids, Houston, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee.  As a 29 year old that year, I thought that life was pretty good. 

Jim would also call on me from time to time to either sit in with him or fill in for him on his “2 Guys named Jim” show that airs Sunday nights on WHO Radio.  That’s the one thing I really respected about Z, he didn’t hesitate to ask me to help him out when he’d be gone for whatever reason.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was cool to fill in for Jim Zabel.

Thanks Jim.  I enjoyed working with you.  Appreciate the respect you showed to a kid like me just getting started.  It was fun.  RIP Mr Hawkeye.


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  1. Connman good stuff. His “coolness” rubbed off on you.

  2. Thanks Drew. Jim was a good guy. Lucky to have been around him so early in my career.

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