There will be a lecture about cloning at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Saturday, April 30, at 7 p.m. The largest classroom on the campus often provides a forum for the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors. But in this case, the speaker, Jim Rome, is known for his “Clones”—a term for the legions of fans he has nurtured by talking about sports.
“I’m going to do a lecture in the hall I used to sit in as a student,” Rome marveled. “It’s pretty surreal.” He graduated from UCSB in December 1986 with a degree in communications. Perhaps more important was his work at the campus radio station, KCSB-FM, where he learned his future trade and received no pay, no credit, but a wealth of experience.
The Jim Rome Show is a nationally syndicated sports talk show that airs on more than 200 stations. Rome follows his daily (Mon.-Fri.) three-hour radio stint with Rome Is Burning, 30 minutes of commentary and interviews televised by ESPN.
“It’s like a treadmill you can never get off of,” said Rome, 46. “The second a show’s done, it’s like, ‘What do we do tomorrow?’ I look back at the last 20 years, and it’s amazing to me I’ve been able to last this long. But there’s always something to talk about. There’s always somebody who says something or does something.”
Kevin Na needs 16 strokes to hole out a par 4 on the PGA Tour? Let’s talk golf. The Lakers are struggling against the Hornets? Bring on Charles Barkley for his insight. Then there are the Dodgers, a team Rome has followed since he was a 1st-grader “fighting my father for the sports page.” To Frank McCourt, the club’s disgraced owner, he said the following: “Beat it. Hit the bricks before you do any more damage to a great franchise and a great city.”
Rome’s first commercial radio job was at KTMS-AM in Santa Barbara as a traffic reporter.
He hatched a sports show, and early on it went beyond the local realm. “If I was going to make it, I had to be different,” he said. “Why not take some big swings?” He landed an interview with Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. He got Dick Vitale to chat about college basketball. That led him to a gig on XTRA Sports 690-AM, exposing him to all of Southern California and, ultimately, to his nationwide presence on the airwaves.
He established credibility with ESPN by getting Albert Belle, an infamously irascible baseball player, to consent to an interview after he was caught using a corked bat. “He was a pretty fierce, intimidating guy,” Rome said. “He didn’t say much, but I got him to sit down with me.”
On another occasion, NFL quarterback Jim Everett did not sit down. Angered when Rome repeatedly called him “Chris” Everett (referring to the women’s tennis player) on ESPN2 in 1994, Everett pushed over a table and pounced on the host. “My worst moment,” Rome said. “While I can’t change it, I do own it and wish I had handled it differently.”
It’s a different story when Rome interviews Brian Shaw, the assistant coach of the Lakers. They are two old UCSB chums. He thinks Shaw, a former Gaucho basketball star, is likely to succeed Phil Jackson as L.A.’s head coach.
Rome does not soft-pedal his likes and dislikes. One of the latter is the sport of soccer. “Soccer Heaven,” the stadium where UCSB’s teams play, is an oxymoron to him. Nevertheless, he said, as an alumnus he can be proud of its 2006 NCAA men’s soccer championship, even though “I wish it was in basketball or baseball.”
Another sport Rome once held in disdain was horse racing, which he described as “shameless exploitation of circus midgets.” But once he got to know a jockey and attended some races, he fell in love with the sport and now owns some thoroughbreds.
Rome’s appearance this weekend is part of the All Gaucho Reunion, sponsored by the UCSB Alumni Association. He will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his prominence in the media. Tickets to his lecture are going for $19. For info, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: After upsetting No. 2-ranked BYU behind Jeff Menzel’s 27 kills, the Gaucho men’s volleyball team heads to USC’s Galen Center with hopes of reaching the NCAA final four. Tonight (Thu., Apr. 28) the Gauchos face Long Beach State. … The Gaucho rugby club, also seeking a final-four berth, will host the West regional at Harder Stadium. Saturday’s semifinals pit UCSB versus Oregon State at 6 p.m., followed by Stanford versus Northern Colorado. The final is Sunday, May 1, 6 p.m. The 8-0 Gaucho ruggers trounced USC, 77-10, en route to the Southern California championship. Rod Sears, a former Stanford quarterback who founded the Gaucho rugby program, will go into the UCSB Recreation Hall of Fame this weekend, along with Bob Kelley, pioneer director of recreation. … Friday through Sunday, six women’s water polo teams will compete in the Big West Tournament at UCSB’s Campus Pool. UC Irvine is seeded first; the host Gauchos, third.