If you’d asked Steve Raible a few months ago, when he’d first announced his impending retirement as KIRO 7’s lead anchor, to pick the most memorable story of his career, he would have named these few.
There was the warehouse fire that killed four firefighters, the 9/11 terror attacks and his interview with President Barack Obama. But the event that really stood out in his mind was the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII win and victory parade because of what it told him about his adopted hometown.
“I’d never seen so many people in the city in my life,” Raible said. “They were two blocks deep, as far as you could see. And I remember mentioning how diverse the crowd was and seeing ages and faces and colors and ethnicities and everybody together in one place and for one great common cause, the celebration of a city and a team. And I just remember how fitting that was and how remarkable our community was when I looked at it in those terms.”
Raible’s list of memorable stories has gotten a little longer in the past couple of months. Between the coronavirus pandemic and the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, things have changed so rapidly since Raible announced he was retiring that he stayed on a month longer than planned to help out as news events ramped up daily.
Raible will still be around as the radio voice of the Seahawks and will make the occasional appearance on KIRO, but he’s moving on from his day job to focus on his life with his wife, Sharon.
Friday, June 26, will definitely be his last night. And, man, it’s been a memorable finish.
“Fast forward to this moment and I’m seeing that same diversity of faces in the evenings on the streets, peacefully marching for a cause greater than any football game,” Raible said. “This time that we’re in now at the end of my career may be the most consequential certainly that I have seen since my broadcast career began, not only dealing with a life-and-death situation that spans the globe in the pandemic, but literally a life-and-death situation here in this country.”
It’s no hyperbole to say Raible has had a hand in almost every major story in Seattle in nearly three decades as KIRO’s lead anchor and four decades with the station. An original Seahawk taken by Seattle’s expansion franchise in the second round of the 1976 draft, the Kentucky native didn’t choose to come to Seattle. But he did choose to make it his home after his career ended, and has had a far greater impact on his adopted city because of it.
“He’s the face of KIRO and people have made a connection with Steve,” said John LaPorte, KIRO’s news director. “They welcome him into their homes. For a lot of people, when you say KIRO 7, the very first person you think of is Steve Raible.”
From athlete to broadcaster
Born and raised in Louisville, Raible was a pretty fair high school athlete and was offered a scholarship to play football at Georgia Tech in the early ’70s. Tall and rangy, at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds or so, he alternated between tight end and wide receiver. He even played in the “Rudy” game against Notre Dame, one of the first great anecdotes of his life.
This is where the idea of Steve Raible, broadcaster, was born.
“I was also a track athlete and was one of the fastest guys down there and won a lot of track meets and scored a fair number of touchdowns and all those things,” Raible said. “So I would get interviewed a pretty fair amount after games and during the week when reporters were out covering the team. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed sitting down and talking to press guys.”
Toward the end of Raible’s senior year, the legendary broadcaster David Brinkley visited campus to talk about his career.
“Now remember, this was 1976, so it was a time that we were still coming out of Vietnam and dealing with a lot of other issues,” Raible said. “I was fascinated by what he had to say. I just hung on every word. I mean he’d covered all the major stories of the day. And so to hear him talk about those things really fascinated me.”
He got another little nudge in that direction when he arrived in Seattle for training camp a few months later.
“I loved being a member of that inaugural Seahawks franchise, but Steve Largent as a receiver was something I had never seen before, the way he could run pass routes and his hands,” Raible said.
Largent went on to a Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile, it became apparent to his quarterbacks that Raible was preparing for his career after football. Sam Adkins, a Seahawks quarterback from 1977-82, really got to know Raible when the two became road roomies.
“How that happened was that Raible and Largent roomed together, but Largent snored so bad that Raible says (to the team), ‘You gotta get me outta here. I can’t take this anymore.’ He said, ‘I can’t even hear a 747 taking off in here,’ so they made the switch,” Adkins said. “They put (Jim) Zorn and Largent together and I got stuck with Raible, and that would be the end of my career.”
Adkins has more Steve Raible jokes than anyone alive: “I watched his show last week and doubled his audience.”
“And he’s Mr. Emcee,” Raible joked a little while later. “I mean he’ll emcee any banquet. Somebody will say, well, we have a Cub Scout troop that we’d like you to handle and he’s like, ‘I’ll be there.’ ‘We only have two members.’ ‘That’s fine. That’s great.’ His phone number is 1-800-EMCEE.”
Raible wrote a rookie diary for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and got to know Pete Gross, the first voice of the Seahawks, and Wayne Cody, who was a sports anchor at KIRO and the team’s sideline reporter. They’d throw him the odd opportunity, like guest appearances on TV and radio shows. He rarely passed up a chance to try out his broadcaster’s voice, keeping journalists’ hours all the while.
“The thing that I most remember was how he used to dress up in just an awful, awful looking tuxedo and be on these late-night telethons getting experience by having to ad-lib and having to raise money for KCTS,” Zorn said. “But his time slot would be like 1 in the morning until 4 in the morning. And everybody’s just at the edge of their seats watching this. He was an example of a guy who wasn’t just dabbling and wasn’t testing the waters. He was committed.”
Raible faced a hard choice in the summer of 1982. He’d spent the months since the previous season working out and was intent on making the team at least another year or two.
Then Gross called the house. Raible was in Spokane at a golf tournament, but his new bride Sharon picked up the phone. He had a few openings he wanted Raible to consider, including the host of a daily TV magazine, a backup sports job and the Seahawks radio color analyst.
“He said, ‘The only thing is he’s going to have to quit playing football and he’s going to have to make the decision soon,’ ” Raible said. “And so Sharon said, ‘When do you need to know?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’d like to know next week.’ And she said, ‘He’ll be there on Monday.’
“She had seen me go through a collapsed lung the season before and everything from torn ankle ligaments to concussions, all those things. So she knew it was getting to be time and this was an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Sharon Raible was right. After a few years on the sports desk, where he was allowed to learn on the job, Raible moved into the noon anchor slot, then his current role. He found that being an anchor is not unlike being a quarterback, taking command of the broadcast and elevating his teammates.
“He’s the tent pole for our station,” said Monique Ming Laven, Raible’s co-anchor. “When everything hits the fan, it’s the job of the anchor to make sense of it all. We’re certainly experiencing that right now. That’s the challenge: Looking into chaos and trying to string together a sequence of events or sequence of developments that make sense of what’s in front of you at that moment. I think what is a really unique mix for him is that he obviously has so much experience with play-by-play with the Seahawks and, seriously, you cannot underestimate how much that helps him out.”
A great teammate
Raible’s colleague Deborah Horne has been with KIRO since 1991, by which time Raible had been at the station full time for nearly a decade. Not long after she joined the staff, managers asked her to try out on the anchor desk, a job she’d never really envisioned doing. She found Raible an able teacher.
“Being on the anchor desk is its own special case in a sense because it’s the two of you and your rapport actually does matter, you know?” Horne said. “And with him, you couldn’t find a more generous co-anchor. I wasn’t an anchor and it really wasn’t my goal. But, oh, Steve, he acted like I’d been doing it forever. He’s a very generous, welcoming person, and someone you would feel comfortable with pretty early on. He wasn’t going to try to upstage you or downplay you. He treated you as an equal, whether you deserve that or not.”
Raible could probably just keep right on going. He’s been broadcasting from home since March, to ensure he doesn’t bring coronavirus home to Sharon, who has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. He stayed on as the pandemic stretched into June and the protests began.
“Steve is a committed journalist and he’s committed to the station and committed to the community,” LaPorte said. “And we definitely appreciate that he stayed with us during this time. It’s very helpful to have his wisdom and just breadth of journalistic experience still as part of the team and helping support everybody.”
In a way, it’s been a training camp for retirement. Though he’s still very much part of the mix, he’s also removed from long days in the newsroom.
“At least they know that part is covered and they don’t have to worry about filling that slot,” Raible said. “And it’s easy for me. I can get up in the middle of the newscast during a commercial break and I like to tell them I’m refilling my gin gimlet. But they don’t buy that. What it’s really done is it’s given me a little bit of an advanced look at retirement. You know, you’re going to be home a little more, you’re going to have other options and other things to do.”
All things must end, however, and Raible’s OK with that. He promised Sharon they’d travel the world and increase their philanthropic work. Plus, football season’s right around the corner.
“I’ve told people that I’ve had two employers in almost 45 years now — the Seahawks and KIRO 7,” Raible said. “And then I met Sharon out here and we’ve been married 39 years. So I tell everybody, and I really, seriously mean it, every morning I get up and, and just say, ‘I’m blessed.’ Even during difficult times like this, I’m blessed, and how can we, Sharon and I, make somebody else’s life a little better? And, you know, that’s where we are.”