Much has been written about the passing of Rich Brenner and deservedly so. In his time on this planet, he defended freedom, inspired excellence and cut great swaths through mundanity. Most folks knew him as the consummate sportscaster, a commanding presence in the center of their TV screens. But he was so much more. An innate communicator, Rich Brenner's fierce intellect and oratory horsepower brought refreshing depth to a sometimes shallow field. There was simply no subject he couldn't speak to; just ask anyone who tried to pass him in the hall. Most of us however, were happy to stop and talk, or more often than not, listen. When I arrived at El Ocho nearly fifteen years ago, it struck me that Rich was the very heart and soul of the place. TV stations, by their very nature, attract a lot of wayward souls. Over the years, many of those souls looked to Rich for guidance and they got it in spades. He was a father figure to many of my friends and a tireless supporter of everyone he met. That's just how Rich Brenner rolled. Good luck keeping up.
He was known for stinging commentaries, powerful screeds in which he held the sports world to his own high standards. But he didn't engender loyalty among his young admirers with lofty speeches. He did it with comedy. Rich Brenner possessed the gravitas of the Marine Captain he once was, but he often displayed the giddiness of a nerdy school girl. Known station-wide for his encyclopedic recall of Seinfeld lines, Winston Churchill quotes and Austin Powers dialogue, Rich reveled in pop culture and wasn't afraid to express it. His spot-on impression of Dr. Evil will simmer in my brain pan forever. I didn't spend a lot of time in the Sports department. But my lack of acumen there didn't stop him from becoming MY friend. Someone must have told him early on that I was a history buff, for he always came to me with World War II trivia. He seemed impressed that I knew about the fall of Corregidor and we'd riff endlessly on the Pacific Theater. THAT was Rich; he'd find a way to connect with people and make them feel smarter in the process.
After Rich retired, he started popping up on local radio. It was a medium he was made for and his appearances often surpassed the people he was subbing for. I called into those shows whenever I could. He'd put me on the air and we'd talk television. When I'd said my piece, Rich would never fail to heap accolades upon me. It was often over the top and I think we both knew it. But it's awfully pleasant to have a local living legend sing your praises on the radio. In fact, one of the highest compliments I've ever received came from Rich OFF the air. He'd read a recent blog post of mine and went out of his way to tell me how much he liked it. "You're sure not afraid to tell it like it is," he said. High praise indeed from such a gifted commentator. Today, co-workers, friends and family gathered to pay final tribute to this larger than life figure. Outside of my own father's recent funeral, it was the most moving memorial service I've ever attended and I felt honored to be in that room. In fact, I left there feeling downright proud to be a broadcaster, something I didn't think was still possible.
So thanks, Rich, for that one last lesson. As for that higher standard of yours, mission accepted.