Bob Rondeau on Friday will receive a fitting honor at the 78th Annual MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Banquet — the Keith Jackson Award, given to a media member for excellence in communicating the sports stories of the state of Washington.
Bob Rondeau has spent his career broadcasting sports in which timing is everything.
At a critical juncture in his life, he had a good share of it, himself.
Unsure which career path to follow in 1977, he landed at KOMO-AM as sports director, just when the sports boom in Seattle really took off — and right when the station picked up the broadcast rights to the Washington Huskies.
“Right place, right time,” Rondeau said.
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That was back in the days when the sports stations carrying the games assigned their own personnel to handle the play-by-play, and Rondeau was made part of a crew with Bruce King and Gary Johnson.
“I’d never done any kind of play-by-play, to be honest with you,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I could talk fast enough or long enough to actually do it.”
That Rondeau took full advantage of his good fortune, though, is evident in the iconic career that has followed — 30 years as the play-by-play voice of Washington football and 26 with men’s basketball.
And Friday, Rondeau will receive a fitting honor at the 78th Annual MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Banquet — the Keith Jackson Award, given to a media member for excellence in communicating the sports stories of the state of Washington.
Rondeau calls the award “really flattering,” and is equally heartened that his presenter will be Chuck Nelson, who was UW’s kicker at the beginning of Rondeau’s play-by-play career and later was his color analyst.
“I’m fired up about it,” he said. “It’s a really nice honor.”
It’s not the kind of thing he thought would happen when he did his first UW game in 1978. Then, he said the goal was just to make it through that one afternoon, an eventual 10-7 Huskies loss to UCLA. He recalls that going into the game, one of his main worries was correctly pronouncing the name of one of UCLA’s stars, defensive lineman Manu Tuiasosopo.
“For that name to then become so commonplace up here is pretty ironic,” he said. “I remember that one just like it was yesterday.”
A graduate of Colorado, he majored in journalism and said his initial goal was to be a newspaper writer. Unable to find a job out of college, he landed at a radio station in Cortez, Colo., then moved to Denver and then to Phoenix. In Phoenix, he was with an all-news station that didn’t last, leading him to call around to friends asking for a job. He heard about two in Seattle — a news reporter position at KIRO, a sports job at KOMO. He took the latter, and the rest is history. He was initially an analyst in the booth for UW football games for two years, then took over as play-by-play when King left briefly for New York in 1980.
Rondeau has held the job for all but three years in the ’80s when the rights to UW games were bought by KIRO, regaining his spot when the rights returned to KOMO.
“To be honest with you, I can’t imagine having stayed in one position and one market this long,” he said. “When you get into the broadcasting business, you understand you are going to have to move around a lot, and I did that in the early years. But the notion of staying 30-some years in essentially one position was pretty alien, and it’s amazing how it’s worked out. I’ve been really lucky.”
And he plans on staying a while longer. He’s 62 and says he doesn’t plan to be “one of those guys you have to pry out of the booth.”
But he’s not walking away just yet.
“I’ll know when it’s time and I will back away,” he said. “But I’m not sure when that time is coming.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.