'No-shtick' Raible turns off the mike
By Iain MacIntyre,
May 2, 2009 Raible
On the first day of the rest of his life, Garry Raible slept in. He has some catching up to do because for most of the last 38 years, the sportscaster has woken about 3 a.m. -- the rest of us know this as the middle of the night -- five days a week to start his radio job.
The 62-year-old's final early morning was Thursday when he signed off from CKWX News1130 and retired. Raible and his wife Donna will move to Kelowna from Richmond later this month to be near their two sons and four grandchildren. The fifth arrives in August.
Raible likely represents an end to the era when someone could carve an entire career from the slippery trenches of radio, surviving the medium's subsistence wages and ruthless format changes to raise a family and build a life.
But the most remarkable thing professionally about Raible was his unremarkableness. Where most lifers in the business survive to some extent on self-promotion and personality, on developing an act that sets them apart, Raible was a broadcaster without shtick.
He vigorously pursued worthwhile stories and reported them as thoroughly and accurately as he could. His sportscasts were about the games, not him.
"I could give an opinion if I had to," Raible said Friday morning, sipping coffee at 9:30 a.m. as a man of leisure. "But I wasn't writing a column. I was the reporter. The fan can't get into the dressing room or sit on the bench or talk to the general manager. But they're interested about what goes on. I was always willing to go as far as I needed to go to make sure those stories were told. I just tried to be professional."
"Al Davidson he was not," former newspaper columnist Jim Taylor said, comparing Raible to the bombastic broadcaster-entertainer who became the template for many. "Garry never had any shtick at all. What he did was work. No assignment was too small and he went out with the same enthusiasm and determination to get it right every time."
After briefly dipping his microphone into the newspaper business with the short-lived Vancouver Times in 1964 -- he was hired while still in Grade 12 at Burnaby Central -- Raible went to broadcasting school at BCIT.
One of the best stories he wrote for the Times was the one re-written by Taylor, a co-worker.
"And you know how he could turn a phrase," Raible said. "I couldn't believe how great this thing looked. With my byline on it. I was a great writer all of a sudden."
Taylor urged him to go into radio.
Raible's first job on the airwaves was with Langley's CJJC, now defunct, in 1971. He went on to work with CKNW, twice, CJOR and CKWX, also twice. He replaced John McKeachie at 'NW in 1975, only to be replaced by Tom Larscheid.
Denny Boyd, moonlighting from his writing job at The Vancouver Sun, hired Raible to work for CJOR in 1977 and he stayed with the station for 12 years until it, like so many others, changed formats.
When Raible found himself entirely out of radio in 1994 at age 48, he took a night security job at Vancouver City Hall, where Donna worked during the day. Raible said his duties included rousting the homeless from bushes, getting threatened for writing parking tickets and investigating thefts.
"One of the things that impressed me most about Garry is he never complained or whined when that happened," his friend and broadcasting colleague Greg Douglas said. "He hated that job, working security from midnight to 8 a.m. But that's what he did to support to his family."
J.P. McConnell was able to wrangle Raible part-time work back at CKNW until 'WX switched to an all-news format and hired him in 1996 as its sports director. He worked there until Thursday.
Raible covered five Olympics for Vancouver radio, but may be best remembered for working Vancouver Whitecaps broadcasts as a colour analyst during the wild and wonderful North American Soccer League seasons of 1979 and 1980.
"The stories I remember the most [from the NASL] were about the broadcasts," he said. "I remember in 1979 we had to do a playoff game in Dallas. They had their games in a little college stadium, and there was no real broadcast area. They set it up in the middle of the grandstand."
Raible convinced Dallas Tornado billionaire owner Lamar Hunt, then one of the richest men in the world, to do a live interview at halftime.
"We're sitting on these heavy metal folding chairs," Raible says. "Just before we go on the air, I pull my chair forward ... and put the end of the leg right down in the middle of his expensive loafer. He goes, 'Ahhhh!' And I'm like, 'Gee, sorry there Mr. Hunt.' And I'm trying to pull the chair off him and [broadcaster partner] Ian Michaud is already introducing the segment. It was those types of things I remember. We went to places I never dreamed of going."
In the NASL and in radio.
"I liked sports but I couldn't play it," Raible said. "Why not get paid to talk about it? I honestly can't say I ever had a [radio] job that felt like a job. Somebody was paying me to talk about sports, which is what I set out to do in the first place."