CINCINNATI — Ken Broo might have turned out to be a rock-and-roll drummer or a hockey goaltender. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1950 and 60s, he tried his hand at both.
WATCH Ken Broo on his first WCPO sportscast on Dec. 16, 2013 in the video player above.
But he knew while he was still in grade school that he wanted to be a sportscaster. Little did he know that he would get to interview the greatest athlete of the 20th century or a president of the United States and regale people with funny stories about those encounters for years afterward.
Or that he’d make a new home in the Midwest, work for three TV stations and three radio stations in the Queen City and still be going strong 45 years after he first arrived at WCPO as an intern in 1973.
Tri-State sports fans are glad he did, and so is Broo.
Congrats to Ken Broo on a great career in Cincinnati broadcasting! We will miss you! pic.twitter.com/tMRR2xRndh
— Kristyn Hartman (@kristyn_wcpo) December 30, 2018
“I love this town. I could not have picked a better place than Cincinnati, Ohio,” he says. "It's my adopted home."
So now that Broo has retired from local TV after his final sportscast on 9 On Your Side Sunday night, following sports on nightly TV won’t be the same.
Broo, 66, worked on Cincinnati TV for 27 of the last 31 years. In that time, he has been one of the Tri-State’s favorite sources for sports talk, commentary and insights. From Channel 5 to 12 back to 5 to 9, from his popular “Boos and Bravos” to the “Broo View” columns he wrote on WCPO.com, Broo had a tell-it-like-it-is style that he combined with fun and entertainment.
WATCH Broo play with the La Salle pep band.
People at WCPO still talk about the time Broo sat in with the La Salle High School pep band and played snare drum before a high school football game two years ago. Broo had played drums in a band when he was 12 and 13.
And the time when Broo found out that a kid wanted to go trick-or-treating dressed as Ken Broo. Broo surprised the boy at his home and brought him to the studio as his guest.
"It was one of those moments I’ll never forget," Broo said. "He was just terrific. I was absolutely shocked and touched."
WATCH Broo and Halloween "Ken Broo."
Besides his regular schedule of sportscasts at 6 and 11 p.m., Broo hosted "Sports Of All Sorts," WCPO's Sunday night sports talk show, for five years and was a regular on "Friday Football Frenzy" during high school season. He also appeared on "The Flying Pigskin" podcast, which lately has been devoted to lamenting the latest Bengals' loss.
Fans will still get their Broo fix on WLW Radio, where he will continue to do sports talk on Saturdays and Sundays, combined with talk and interviews about another love of his, rock and roll. He'll also fill in during the week.
"Ken is one of a kind - a master storyteller, a passionate sports fan and broadcaster," said Chip Mahaney, WCPO news director. "Ken’s style is smart and smooth and always interesting. I will miss him greatly in our newsroom."
WATCH Broo's take on the Bengals giving Marvin Lewis a two-year contract after the 2017 season.
Broo first came to Cincinnati for a summer job while a student at Ohio University in Athens. He worked in the WCPO promotions department with an Ohio U. classmate, Tom McKee, who retired from WCPO this month after 40 years as a reporter and editor.
At Ohio U., Broo said he hatched a plan to get his first job doing play-by-play. Broo had been a hockey goaltender in high school and discovered that the brother of legendary New York sportscaster Marv Albert was the backup goaltender at OU.
“When he wasn’t playing, he’d be in the radio booth doing play-by-play, and he was a junior. I had a whole plan how I would take over when he graduated. I fessed up to him and he said it was the greatest gig because he was never in the game,” Broo recalled.
It was listening to Albert and other New York broadcasting legends like Mel Allen, Red Barber, Marty Glickman and Pat Summerall that inspired him to want to be a sportscaster, Broo said.
“I wanted to do it from the time I was 12,” he said. “It was like learning from the gods.”
After graduating, he landed a couple of radio jobs before coming back to Cincinnati to do morning sports on WSAI, then took
TV jobs in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Tampa, Florida, before returning to work at Channel 5 in 1987.
“I used every piece of equity to try to get back here,” Broo said.
He said he went to Tampa with the idea that it would help him get a job in Cincinnati.
“The Reds still had spring training there,” Broo said. “I thought it would keep me connected.”
Broo was named Florida Sportscaster of the Year three times in seven years and broadcasted Bucs games. But he still wanted to go back to the Queen City.
“People asked me, ‘Why are you going to Cincinnati?’ And I’d say, ‘You don’t know Cincinnati.' Even when I left Cincinnati for Washington, D.C., I wasn’t there six months before I was planning how to get back here.”
Before going to D.C., Broo worked at Channel 12 and did Bengals radio broadcasts with Dave Lapham.
After four years in Washington, Broo was back at Channel 5. He came to Channel 9 in December 2013 and worked at 9 On Your Side for five years alongside John Popovich and Keenan Singleton.
Ask Broo his most memorable moments in sportscasting and he’ll tell you about interviews with Muhammad Ali, former President Gerald Ford and Mickey Mantle.
Broo said he interviewed Ali when the boxing great came to Cincinnati in 1988 for a card show in connection with the baseball All-Star Game.
“I asked him about fighting Sonny Liston and Leon Spinks and getting his start sparring with Ingemar Johansson and when I was done, I said, ‘He’s the greatest of all time and his name is Muhammad Ali.’
“And Ali looked over and said, ‘You’re not as dumb as you look.’”
Broo interviewed Ford at a celebrity golf tournament in Vail, Colorado, after he left office.
“They told me I could have five minutes on two conditions: One, I couldn’t ask him about the Warren Commission, and two, I was not allowed to ask him about pardoning Richard Nixon,” Broo said.
“So when the Secret Service guy called me over, I walked over with my camera and the first thing I said was, ‘Pardon me, Mr. President.’
“I felt like crawling under a rock. I was just mortified. But he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You’re not the first,’ and he was just as gracious as could be.”
Broo remembers two meetings with Mantle, one of his childhood sports heroes. At the first meeting in Oklahoma, Broo remembers Mantle was drunk and had "chicken dripping out of his mouth.”
“He died from drinking, you know. I was seriously disappointed.”
A few years later, he talked to Mantle in Tampa. Broo said Mantle appeared sober.
“I reminded him about our first meeting and I told him how disappointed I was, and he said, ‘Why were you so disappointed in me?’
“And I said, ‘You had so much to offer people and entire generations won’t know Mickey Mantle because you can’t stay sober.’
“He stuck out his hand and said, ‘Thank you.’
“I don’t know if I got through to him. For a minute, maybe, I might have.”
Broo knows what he’s going to miss about being a TV sportcaster after all these years.
“I’m going to miss the stories. And the people. I don’t root for players, I root for stories,” he said, even though lately the stories about the Bengals and the Reds have been dominated by defeat and despair.
“This must be the most Shakespearean sports town in America,” Broo said.
“You have Jones and Burfict blowing the playoff game against the Steelers, Kenyon Martin breaking his leg before the NCAA Tournament, and Scott Rolen – a Gold Glover – booting a ground ball in the 10th inning in Game 3 of the 2012 Division Series.”
Broo doesn’t see much hope for a Reds or Bengals championship as long as their owners don’t change the way they do business.
“They’re stuck in the old paradigm. To be successful today, you simply can’t build through the draft anymore. You have to sign impactful free agents like the Jaguars did, like the Eagles did.
“The Bengals’ last impactful free agent was Pacman Jones in 2010. The Reds haven’t had one in a long, long time and they have paid the price for it. They need a guy like Dallas Keuchel. They need a No. 1 starter who can match up against Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard or the Nationals’ killer rotation.”
What fans have to hope for, Broo said, is a change over time.
“It’s going to change, and when things get better again, it’s going to be a great story and I’m not going to be here. I’ll miss that,” Broo said.
Broo won six Emmys in his career. He won Greater Cincinnati Sports Media Personality of the Year in 2015 while working at Channel 9.
I have worked with some of the nicest most professional and dedicated journalist since I arrived at channel 9 we say were nine on your side but everybody at channel 9 has everybody’s back it’s a great place to work https://t.co/TuW8PcuVEX
— Ken Broo (@kenbroo) December 31, 2018