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He then left to become the program director at a station in Columbus, broadcasting Ohio State games, and supervising Kirk Herbstreit. The ESPN station in Pittsburgh hired him in the same role in 2000, and in 2002, the ESPN station in New York City hired him. There, he found himself negotiating deals with John McEnroe and Tiki Barber as show hosts. Worn out by a daily two-hour commute into Manhattan, and wanting to spend more time with twin daughters, he left that job to go back to Detroit in 2003, where he set the foundation for a station makeover that led to that outfit eventually becoming the No. 1-rated sports station in the nation.
In 2005, he came back to Salt Lake to do afternoon drive with me at 1280 AM The Zone, replacing Craig Bolerjack, who shifted to call Jazz games on TV. Enduring uneven management, after five years, Graham left for Phoenix, where he lasted for only a short span. "I spent 10 months firing other people at the behest of my bosses there — until they fired me," he says.
Finally, he came back to Salt Lake for a year at KFAN, after the Jazz took over 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone, moving their broadcasts there. And now, the radio nomad moves on, again.
During his time in Utah, Graham molded and remolded sports talk here, the way it sounded, the way it was done, and he says he’ll do the same in Boston. He was an innovator and a lightning rod, once starting a movement called "KWOOF," an acronym for Keep Women Out Of Football. He bet his life that BYU wouldn’t beat Oklahoma, which it did, causing Bronco Mendenhall to ask for collection on the bet. Graham reneged. He spoke his mind — "It sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks" — and has the scars to prove it. And he yelled a lot — and got yelled at a lot.
"This is bittersweet," he says, with a tight grin, the pizza now gone. "I really love it here. I like the people, the market, the passion of the fans. I will always consider Utah my home and I’ll come back here — at least to visit."
Say goodbye to Kevin Graham, then — and a prayer for Boston sports.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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