CINCINNATI – John Popovich has been bringing you sports at WCPO for 40 years. It is not the results and statistics, the profits and losses that we will remember, but his “voice”.
When you hear one of Popo’s stories on your television, look up and watch. You can not change it. There’s something about his style, a twist that is so appealing. That and the fact that this honest man’s integrity has always shone through.
I have had the pleasure of working with John for more than a quarter of a century – and the daunting honor of writing the story of his career completion this week. There is simply no better man or writer than our Hall of Famer, John Popovich.
Whether interviewing Muhammad Ali to get his haircut at an Avondale hair salon, ride a bob on a treacherous course on Lake Placid, New York, or cover high school football on Friday night, John Popovich did our sport – big and small – something special for 40 years.
“I didn’t think I would,” said Popo of four decades of working at WCPO. “I was like everyone else – I thought I was going to Davenport, Iowa, to Cincinnati, to New York. You know. But.” They kept giving me things to do – new things, interesting things. “
He had been here for barely a year when Al Schottelkotte, the legendary WCPO news director, approached him to do one of those “new, interesting things”.
Al Schottelkotte says: ‘Why don’t we start a program on Sunday evening? … I’ll give you $ 50 a week, “Popo recalled.
“It became ‘all kinds of sport’.”
For over 33 years, Popo talked about sports, interviewed sports celebrities, and took calls on Sports Of All Sorts. Through the magic of television, he even spoke to fishing friends while sitting in a real bass boat – dressed in full fishing gear. It looked like they were on a lake, but they really were in the WCPO studio.
John Popvich (left) with his fishing friends in the “Fishin ‘Edition” of “Sports Of All Sorts”.
“Sports of All Sorts” is still going strong, now in its 40th year as the longest running sports talk show on Cincinnati TV.
When WCPO decided to air Xavier Basketball, Popo got the call again. He covered two Olympics but never expected to race a real bobsleigh.
“I’m not the most adventurous guy, but we went up to see how a bob works,” said Popo.
“He says, ‘Do you want to go?’ and I can’t say no so my photographer plugged in some lipstick cameras and stuff and I don’t think my neck has been right since then, but it was the thrill of my life. “
There were big interviews.
“I couldn’t have worked a month here and I get a call from the newsroom and I happen to answer the phone and they said, ‘Mohammad Ali is getting a haircut at Stags Barbershop in Avondale.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, right. ‘
“I said, ‘If he gets a haircut, give him a call.’ “”
Sure enough, Ali was there and Popo ran over to interview him.
READ about Popo’s memorable brush with The Greatest.
But John Popovich didn’t care if you were a legend. He loved telling stories about anyone from kids who played street hockey to a local rugby team to an 86-year-old high jumper.
“I was probably just as pleased when I talked about the everyday Joe who could spin a ball on his finger or do something interesting,” said Popo.
Because that’s John Popovich.
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University sports have always had a special place in Popo’s heart, and this is where his storytelling talents have always prevailed. He considers his highest honor as the only sports caster inducted into Buddy LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame.
“The one that really stunned me was the morning Mike LaRosa called me and said, ‘You’re going to the LaRosa Sports Hall of Fame’ because that’s what I admired when I got here,” said Popo.
In honor of Popovich, the Hall of Fame Committee said he may have done more promoting Greater Cincinnati high school sport than any other athlete or coach in the past 40 years.
Popo loved high school sports as much as he loved covering a Super Bowl, and he loved making positive impacts on high school athletes.
“Nothing is nicer than people who say nice things about your work. I still have letters from people who say thank you for showing my son on “Sports Of All Sorts” or something. That’s payment – that someone felt good and thought you told their story well, ”said Popo.
“We have a great opportunity to do things that have some weight and last a long time.”
And to think that Popo didn’t work in sports early in his career.
“A lot of people wanted to be Stan Musial or Johnny Bench. I wanted to be Charles Kuralt, to be honest,” he said.
“I started making news. I made news on [Ohio University]in Davenport, Iowa. But I found that I didn’t have the temperament for news. I didn’t like the bad news. I didn’t like knocking on people’s doors.
“I felt like exercise was a better fit for me, but news helped me get there. A news reporter gives you a great background for everything else.”
So why resign now?
“I’m healthy. I feel good,” said Popo. “I’m 69 years old and it seems like a perfect time.”
“I have two older brothers and they retired at age 69. They seem to love life. They travel and do things with their families, so I hope the genes for the third man in the family persisted to have.
“I owe that to my wife too. If you’re married in this business, they’ll pay the cost over the years. ‘Oh! Do you work on Christmas? Working on Thanksgiving? Do you work on the weekend? ‘
“It’s time for me to pay it back a little.”
RELATED: “Sports Of All Kinds” Welcomes John Popovich.