Larry Larson: One of a Kind
By Brandon Castel
I admittedly do not know Larry Larson all that well, certainly not as well as I would like.
We have known each other from a distance for years, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries ever since my second game covering Ohio State football as a student writer for The Lantern.
I didn’t know much about sports journalism back then. I didn’t know much about anything, maybe I still don’t.
What I did know is that it seemed like a great big world with loud reporters and harsh deadlines. There was a coldness about the people who covered Ohio State for a living, as though years of bitterness had made them calloused to the profession they once loved.
That indifference frightened me. I was not getting into journalism to become cynical and begrudging; the world does a good enough job of that as it is. This was something I enjoyed, a passion; something I loved, but there didn’t seem to be much joy floating around the press box.
That’s when I met Larry Larson.
Night had crept over Columbus while I was finishing one of my first football stories in the press box at Ohio Stadium. It would be a dark, lonely walk back to my off-campus residence while many of my friends were out celebrating an Ohio State victory.
Out of the darkness came a man walking softly towards me. At first glance, he didn’t look like a sports journalist; maybe because he wasn’t. With his glasses and his patented bowtie, he looked more like a professor, and in many ways that is truly what Larry Larson is — a teacher.
Over the last 20 years, Larry has become known as ‘Mr. High School Sports,’ but before that he was high school sports, at least in Grandview Heights. That’s where he served as a high school football coach, teacher and athletic director before stepping into your living room as a radio personality for 610 WTVN.
If you never had the pleasure of hearing Larry report on Ohio State sports, the Blue Jackets, the Memorial Tournament, horse racing or Friday night football, then you missed one of the true gems of Columbus.
Larry was not gifted with a golden voice like the homeless man who became famous for his deep, booming radio tone. What he did posses is a sincere honesty and youthful exuberance that jumped through the speakers, unlike the haughty personalities that regularly fill up the airwaves.
I say ‘did’ only because Larry is retiring after two decades of covering sports, and a lifetime of touching lives in Columbus. The 68-year old lost his wife to cancer back in 2008 and recently decided it was time to be closer to his stepdaughter, who lives in southern California.
Larry’s last day on the air was Sunday morning, when he received phone calls from everyone ranging from Jim Tressel to Luke Fickell to the commissioner of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
One after one, they all called to compliment Larry. As usual, he ended up complimenting them instead.
“My favorite quote is, ‘It’s very nice to be important but it’s much more important to be very nice,’” he said.
That’s Larry; a rarity in life and certainly in this profession. He is one of those people you want to know before you ever meet him. He has the rare ability to touch your life without knowing you, just as he did for me as a young journalist.
We had never met but he put his hand on my shoulder and smiled at me with the same warmth he had shown to hundreds of young athletes around the state of Ohio. He told me how much fun he had coming to these games and that I could call him if I ever needed anything, especially directions to Nationwide Arena.
Ask enough people and you will hear 100 different stories just like that because that’s Larry—one of a kind and a hall of famer in every sense of the term.
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