former TV-13 anchor has done it all in sports journalism
There are multiple methods to covering sports: being a TV anchor or a play-by-play announcer, a cameraman or interviewer. One man in particular has done it all, right here in his native Wisconsin; you may recall some of his sports journalism from his days in the Chippewa Valley. Continuing an occasional series here in Athletic Aesthetic, we catch up with another former western Wisconsin sports media personality: Bob Brainerd.
Growing up in the Milwaukee area, Brainerd says he “was one of ‘those’ kids” listening to legendary announcers like Bob Uecker, Eddie Doucette, Earl Gillespie, and Hank Stoddard. “I wanted to do what they were doing.” Following graduation from UW-Oshkosh, he joined his parents in Eau Claire, where they had just moved, and in 1984 got a sports job at WAXX/WAYY radio in the latter days of the stations being in the same building as WEAU-TV. In short order, Sports Director Jim Crandell headed to Sacramento, Rick Foy moved up to take his place and Brainerd was on weekend TV-13 newscasts.
“(Stories about local athletes) really were the features I thought were memorable, because they appealed to the entire audience. You didn’t have to be from Independence, Colfax, or Fall Creek to appreciate some of the features we presented over the years.” – sports journalist Bob Brainerd, reflecting on his career at WEAU-TVWorking in smaller-market local television brought plenty of stories – and plenty of mentors to establish his career: “One of my bosses was John Hoffland, our news director at TV-13. John was easy to bounce ideas off of but also knew when to be tough and challenging. He pushed me to do local stories. Jim Crandell taught me never to cut corners. Rick Foy pushed me to make every story special. Mike Rindo taught me how to stay organized and calm when ‘stuff’ was hitting the fan.”
In Brainerd’s nine years at WEAU, the gamut of area sports coverage ran from the ever-present prep activity to the arrival of a Super Bowl and two World Series over in the Twin Cities. The most enjoyable to cover? Local athletes. “Those really were the features I thought were memorable, because they appealed to the entire audience. You didn’t have to be from Independence, Colfax, or Fall Creek to appreciate some of the features we presented over the years.”
Such proximity also led to highlights like interviewing childhood idol Robin Yount during a Brewers visit to the Metrodome, and a solo chat with legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks at a Menomonie sporting goods store a matter of years after the Olympic “Miracle On Ice.” Alas, time passes, and so do co-workers to other jobs. By 1993, after five years as sports director – a time during which Bob help create the now-ubiquitous SportScene 13 – it was Brainerd’s turn to depart and head home, joining a former TV-13 co-worker at a Milwaukee recruiting firm. Yet soon enough, he was back in the media, with stops at the four major Milwaukee television stations, as well as production and talent work on that area’s Preps Plus TV program. If you’re thinking “Wait, didn’t I see Bob on a Brewers game a few years ago?” you would be correct, as he did sideline reporting and pregame hosting for the Bucks and Brewers from 1999-2005.
One of Brainerd’s jobs in Eau Claire was doing Blugold basketball play-by-play during a memorable era when the team made NAIA tourney appearances in the late ’80s and early ’90s. That experience helps him to this day in his current role on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel announcing games for minor league Wisconsin Timber Rattlers baseball, UW-Milwaukee basketball, and much high school action. In fact, his time at WEAU furthered many aspects of his career: “(W)e had to do it all. ... I learned how to become a better reporter. I learned how to have better camera presence when I was anchoring. I learned how to call live sporting events. ... My assignments at TV-13 prepared me to take on all of my future positions.”
Brainerd still has connections with the folks from his era in Eau Claire, sharing Badger football season tickets with Rick Foy and going online to keep in touch (you can follow Bob at twitter.com/BobBrainerd). While more than two decades have passed since he was the main TV sports presence in western Wisconsin, the thread still holds to the Chippewa Valley. Brainerd says it best: “Eau Claire will always be my second home!”