- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Behind the microphones are thousands of miles worth of stories.

Traveling across North Iowa calling prep sporting events isn’t a glamorous gig.

At times, your best friend is Interstate 35. Well, that or Highway 18.

The nights are long. As the years tick by, the mornings come earlier. For Tim Fleming and Bob Fisher, this is life - and it’s a life they say they wouldn’t trade for anything.

“I think I came to Mason City thinking I’d be here for one year,” Fleming said. “But I enjoy the town, the radio station. It’s been such a nice place for my family to grow up in that we are still here, 37 years later, on the radio.”

The two veteran voices bring different styles to their broadcasts.

Fisher, a self-proclaimed news guy, doesn’t veer off the path often. He’s about facts, stats and final scores.

Fleming is more apt to step outside the game he is calling and recant a story from yesteryear, talk about an athlete’s dad who was an all-stater in the 80s or plead to the fans to try the popcorn or plug the bratwursts or hot dogs.

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1mlmDGW ) they are two distinct styles molded from decades of games at the prep and collegiate level. One thing they have in common: Passion.

“I always joke that he and I are the kings of afternoon naps,” Fisher said. “We are both taking them on days we are doing play-by-play. But obviously, we have that passion. Play-by-play, I’m not saying it’s not a job, but it’s a totally different aspect of broadcasting than sitting in a studio.”

Fleming grew up in a broadcasting family. The question was always when as opposed to if regarding his plans to get behind the mic.

His father, Pat, was a play-by-play man in Dubuque when Tim was growing up.

In the mid-1970s, Pat was calling a Dubuque Senior football game and Tim was doing the color commentary.

“At halftime, he turned it over to me to do the stats,” Fleming recalled. “And then he said: ‘And now, with the second half, here is Tim Fleming.’ He stood up and walked out of the booth. So I took it and said: ‘Here’s the second-half kickoff. It’s a high, end-over-end kick.’ “

The rest, as they say, is history.

Fleming planted roots in Mason City and KGLO radio in 1977.

Soon after, he called one of the most memorable sporting events in city history when Mason City captured the 1978 state football championship.

For Fleming, there are games he remembers, but it’s the individual performances that are impossible to forget.

There was Ventura’s record-breaking scorer, Lynn Lorenzen, who tallied 6,736 points in the mid-‘80s.

There was Dean Oliver and the back-to-back state basketball title teams at Mason City in 1996-97.

“And then I think of Jeff Horner, I think of Jadda Buckley,” he said. “The list goes on and on. And there were all the great players at NIACC back in the day with Ron Angell to the present day.”

He called 18 seasons of Iowa Hawkeye football and is still entrenched in the landscape of prep sports in and around Cerro Gordo County.

“The average listener doesn’t need to know every tiny intricacy,” Fleming said. “They want the score, the time left, who has the ball, what kind of defense. They want the basic things. Really, I think you paint a picture that they can sit at home or be in the car and have a full understanding of what’s going on.”

Fisher’s first crack at a play-by-play game was unforgettable.

Then at the University of Iowa, legendary women’s basketball coach Vivian Stringer had 499 wins.

A 500th win - a milestone celebrated across college athletics - happened the first night Fisher was behind the mic as a lead announcer.

That kicked off what has been a memory-filled career.

Fisher, the voice of the Clear Lake Lions, can still recall the details of the 2000 state football championship where Clear Lake defeated the empire that was Harlan in three overtimes.

There was a hockey series in the late ‘90s between the North Iowa Huskies and Green Bay.

The series reached a breaking point for everyone from the players to the coaches and even to the broadcasters.

“I think we all wanted to go after each other,” Fisher joked.

And then there was that Saturday afternoon last August.

Separated by less than 10 miles, Newman Catholic and Clear Lake won state baseball titles just hours apart. Fisher called both games.

“That was outstanding,” Fisher said

There’s no secret to successful broadcasting, both say.

With nearly 60 years combined setting up and taking down folding tables and climbing shaky ladders to an elevated crow’s nest high atop a gym, the stories could last for days.

For Fleming and Fisher, it’s about finding that comfort zone and running with it.

“I think everybody needs to have their own style,” Fleming said. “You need to develop who you are. It’s kind of like a newspaper guy; if you wrote the exact same as the next guy, where’s the color? I like to bring excitement to a broadcast. I like to put the listener in the game. I really think everybody has to be themselves. That’s the way you develop.”

Added Fisher, “You have got to have some knowledge of the game you are doing. You have to work on describing what’s going on, but you can’t babble about a game.”

___

Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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