Yesterday in Winnipeg, Don Wittman got a retirement party fit for a guy who has done it all. Witt was feted by many of Canadian broadcasting’s luminaries who gathered to pay tribute to a remarkable career. He was inducted into the new CBC Sports Hall of Fame. As I understand it, that ceremony was supposed to happen in Toronto later this month, but Wittman has terminal cancer.
Scott Moore, boss man over at CBC Sports, offered up a great quote, which was on the CBC web site:
“He was one of the first people on CBC network sports," he said. "He's done it all and done it over a long term, and that's absolutely incredible."
There's another fine story of the day from the Winnipeg Free Press. I admit it -- I started to choke up when I read this one.
Witt, of course, has called everything – from hockey to to CFL to golf to track – remember Donovan Bailey’s gold medal? – and more. But for most curling fans, he’ll be remembered as the longtime voice of CBC’s curling coverage.
To me, what made Witt such a good broadcaster was his ability to set up his colour commentators. He never intruded, never even tried to share the spotlight when it came to analyzing, even though in many situations he was more than capable of doing it. As someone who has done his fare share of broadcasting, that’s a lot tougher than it seems, believe me.
On a personal side, Witt was as friendly as they get. I don’t think I know anyone who has a bad word to say about the guy. Even though he was the big fish when it came to broadcasting, he treated you like a friend, no matter if you were the prime minister or the reporter from the local weekly. I remember being beside him on the treadmill in a hotel in Ottawa during Brier week one year and we spent the entire time talking about golf. He wanted to know everything about Augusta National. Then he shared his memories of working on the Canadian Open broadcasts. It was the quickest workout I've ever had as the time just flew by.
It was a fitting day for Witt, who is just one hell of a guy.
The CBC is airing an episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie tonight and it has a curling theme to it. You'll notice an appearance by none other than Glenn Howard who -- amazingly! -- doesn't get picked for a team. It's quite the hilarious spot.
There's a good story behind his appearance. Originally, the producers wanted to get either Kevin Martin or Randy Ferbey, but the first Assistant Director on the show was Dave Manion, who some old-time Ontario curlers may remember played front end for John Kawaja when his team lost the Canadian Junior Final (circa. 1980). Manion convinced the producers that they should have the reigning world champ and so Howard was given the call and he accepted.