So long (for now) Jerry
I just watched Dave Scott’s “World of Wonder” salute to outgoing radioman Jerry Cesak. And while I can never match my esteemed colleague’s elegance, I did want to add a thought or two.
I hit San Diego in the late 90’s and like any broadcaster in a new market I tried to get the lay of the broadcast land. By then, Jeff & Jer’s folklore was pretty well established. Stories of 7 figure salaries, traffic stopping hi jinx and general morning show mayhem were common fare.
But those were stories I never experienced firsthand. As a night side TV sportscaster, I’m usually achieving REM4 sleep when the morning radio shows hit high gear. So imagine my surprise when out of the blue one fall day, I received a call from producer Tommy Sablan asking if I would appear on their show. “Jeff & Jer want to talk about the Prep Pigskin Report.”
Over the years and across the country, I have been skewered by more than one radio personality. So I approached the request with some trepidation. But believing that any publicity is better than none, I cautiously accepted. That began a fall tradition that continues to this day. Much like deer season, the first Friday of every PPR, I get invited to wander into their great outdoors of morning show radio. And each time I leave laughing harder than the time before.
I think the first year I actually went into the studio. I remember tuning into their program as I drove to the station. At first I thought I was listening to a prison riot slipping out of control. It wasn’t until I watched Jeff & Jer’s crew work in person that I saw how nuanced this comedic team truly is. Subtle hand gestures, eye contact, knowing when to speak and more importantly when not too; all orchestrated by the man who is now stepping away from the business.
Being in that studio was like watching Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew. Everybody knows their role. Tommy is in a league of his own. On that first visit the conversation somehow swung wildly to my father’s high school football days at Kenosha Bradford in Wisconsin. (Melvin Gordon’s alma mater). We were 30 seconds into the conversation before Tommy had the 1951 Kenosha Red Devils roster up on the computer screens and was quoting my Pop’s playing statistics through the headphones. “7.6 yards per carry? That must be a misprint.” It wasn’t.
I wish I could tell you Jer is a diehard sports fan. He isn’t. I think he relates to the PPR on a different level, maybe seeing a little of his radio show in our TV program. Whatever the connection, I knew our annual conversations would not be heavy on the x’s and o’s of football. Rather my visits to their radio airwaves focused mostly on the fashion choices of my KUSI co-workers Brandi Williams and weathercaster Leslie Lopez. Go figure.
But I learned a lot from my visits to the Jeff & Jer show. Lessons I try to apply in my present role. I think it was Harry Truman who said “it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” On that scorecard Jerry reminds me of a former KUSI colleague Laura Buxton. Both are tremendous set-up artists, who make everybody around them better. It’s an art form, one that is rarely found and often under-appreciated.
Eventually I got sucked into the Jeff and Jer madness. An argument over who is the fastest member of their radio team resulted in a broadcast first for me. I was called in to do radio play-by-play of a 40 yard dash challenge. Their entire cast stepped outside and held a footrace in the studio parking lot. I can’t remember who won but I know it wasn’t Jerry.
Years ago, in a vain attempt to pay back Jeff and Jer for all the free publicity they have provided the PPR, I asked them to make a Pigskin Idol appearance on our show. I remember sweating bullets thinking of all the ways this invitation might cost me my job.
Tributes like this one quickly start sounding like obituaries. That is unfortunate. While Jerry’s mental health is still subject to much debate, as far as I know physically he’s doing just fine. I suspect once freed from his morning show duties, we’ll start seeing Jerry even more on TV as he continues to champion his pet cause, the Humane Society of the United States.
And I suspect his radio teammates will fare well too. Sure there will be an adjustment period, but that machine is too well oiled not to keep running. One possible upside? On next fall’s PPR appearance I might actually get to talk about high school football.
In the meantime let’s join together in celebrating Jerry’s long run. In this era of increased digital competition and declining advertising revenue sliced in ever smaller portions, a 3 decade plus broadcast career is no small feat. It deserves a raised glass and a hearty salute. “Job well done sir, job well done.”
Prep Pigskin Report