After six seasons in the NFL, Steve Raible walked away to begin a career in broadcasting. He has since become a trusted voice for Seattle listeners — for both news and sports.
The phone call that would change his life rang at his house, but Steve Raible was away at a charity golf tournament in Spokane. It was June 1982.
Retelling the story 27 years later, he vividly remembers the conversation he had with his wife, Sharon, who had relayed the news to him.
She’d spoken with Pete Gross, the Seahawks’ play-by-play man, who offered Raible, a six-year veteran receiver with the team, the opportunity to join KIRO in several roles, including the team’s radio color analyst.
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It was the chance of a lifetime, but there was one huge caveat … Raible would have to quit football.
“I was preparing to go to my seventh training camp with the Seahawks and I was probably in the best shape of my life,” he said.
Raible was coming off a trying season in which he had been hospitalized with a collapsed lung and played in just eight games. Now a new career beckoned.
“I had also been doing a lot of TV and radio in probably the last three, four years of my career,” he said. “I knew by then that’s what I wanted to do when I finished with football.”
The list of professional athletes who struggle with leaving their sport is too long to tally. So many hang on past their prime.
Not Raible. After Gross’ call, he talked with Sharon over the weekend, then abruptly retired from the NFL.
“I knew that football for me was a means to an end,” said Raible, a second-round pick in the 1976 draft who finished his career with 68 catches, 1,017 yards and three touchdowns. “For me it wasn’t the end. I was an OK football player. I lasted six years. I could have probably played another couple, but I also knew what my limitations were.
“I know myself pretty well, and I don’t know if I could have dedicated myself to be the kind of receiver that Steve Largent was.”
What he had was an intense desire to delve into broadcast news, an affable personality, an elegant voice and a commanding presence that endeared the Louisville, Ky., native to Seattle television and radio audiences.
Raible quickly proved he could handle much more than calling football games.
He co-hosted “PM Magazine” in 1982 with Susan Hutchison, and the next year they moved on-air to the afternoon news desk. In 1993, KIRO promoted Raible to lead evening news anchor. He has won five local Emmy Awards, including two for Best Anchor.
While Raible flourished in broadcast news, he remained with the Seahawks as a color analyst. After his mentor Gross died of cancer in 1992, the team went through three play-by-play men (Steve Thomas, Lee Hamilton and Brian Davis) before giving the job to Raible in 2004 and teaming him with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon.
“When I’m driving on a Sunday morning from my home to the stadium after having done a full week of newscasts — three shows a day, five days a week — then on Sunday, you get to be this other person,” Raible said. “You kind of put on the pro sports hat.
“I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t have to be two different people. What’s been sort of successful for me is viewers and listeners in the community have accepted me in both those roles. Obviously, the nature of the business is a little different. Things are a little more serious on the news side most days, and on the football side, it’s exciting and it’s a game and it’s more of a show.”
Juggling both roles is no easy feat. Imagine Marv Albert reporting on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or Anderson Cooper working the Qwest Field sidelines for NFL games.
Raible routinely crosses the line between sports and hard news while making it all seem perfectly natural.
“Some people could say you might have a conflict of interest sometimes where there’s a story you have to do about the Seahawks, which we have,” he said. “There’s been players getting in trouble with the law, and the team was getting ready to move, and people ask, ‘Whose side are you on?’
“Well, the deal is, you don’t choose sides. The deal is, you report it and people trust you enough at this point after 27 years doing the broadcast and 35 years in the market. They trust that you’re going to be straight with them, and I think that’s all you can do is be an honest broker of the information, whether it’s the news or the Seahawks.”
He learned that lesson from Hutchison, one of the many people who influenced him.
“I hope I have been a sponge for all the people that had an impact on me or who I admired,” he said. “And now I can kind of relay some of what I learned from them because that’s all I am. I’m a product of all of these people I’ve admired over the years.”
Raible’s father, Carl, a trumpet player and music educator, fostered his love for music. His mother, Lee, a homemaker and hospital volunteer, taught him to be charitable.
Raible caught the broadcasting bug his junior year at Georgia Tech after a meeting with legendary newscaster David Brinkley. Merlin Olsen, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle, color commentator and actor, advised him early in his career about preparation.
His former sports broadcast partner, Wayne Cody, who died of a heart attack in 2002, told him to make the sports broadcasts entertaining, and he’s reminded by former teammates that his job in the booth is to inform the audience.
Still it’s Sharon, his wife of 28 years, who inspires him every day. She was diagnosed with lupus more than a decade ago and he “admires her for her determination to not let it get her down.”
And then there’s Gross, the biggest influence in his broadcasting career.
“I can remember like it was yesterday that day when he called and talked to Sharon,” Raible said. “He was so insistent. He said, ‘Listen, we both know Steve is never going to be in the Hall of Fame, but if he does this he can be really, really good.’ Pete believed in me before I really believed in myself.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com