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LIGHTING UP THE TV AIRWAVES

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LIGHTING UP THE TV AIRWAVES

By John Williams

I was a late bloomer as a journalist. A very late bloomer.

After an accomplished athletic career as a player and coach in both high school and university, I went back to school in 1988 to study print and broadcast journalism. I was 32 years old.

After graduation in 1990, I landed my first newspaper job with the Niagara Falls Review - in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I championed at the Review for three years as a sportswriter, lifestyles writer, news reporter and relief editor.

Despite my success at the Review however, I pined to do broadcast journalism. After all, I'd had wonderful success as an amateur actor in the community theatre prior to returning to school.

I began doing play-by-play commentary for Niagara Falls Thunder home (hockey) games in the fall of 1993 on the local cable channel. I graduated to between-period interviews as well as opening segments. After my theatrical training it all came quite naturally to me.

In the winter of 1994 I also became a reporter for Community Magazine. It afforded me the opportunity to interview celebrities such as baseball great Pat Borders and legendary country singer/song writer Kris Kristofferson. I couldn't have asked for more.

However, everything I had done up until now on the community channel was tape-delay. I yearned for a live, phone-in show.

That dream came true on Wednesday October 2nd 1996 when the "Bottom Line On Sports" debuted. As host, I interviewed local boxing sensation Mike Strange as well as fielded a number of calls from various viewers. The hour segment couldn't have gone any better.

I worked in orchestrated tandem with my executive producer Derek Miller. We were the perfect combination.

Later guests included rugby coach Dr. David Scott and Olympic softball sensation Pauline Maurice. They were both a joy to talk to.

I reached the mountain top in late October when I interviewed Tiger Cat greats Mike Kerrigan and Angelo Mosca. I had video footage of various Grey Cups the two had played in. I also played a 10-minute interview I had done in college with NFL legend Joe Theismann. The phone calls were excellent.

Later in the fall, Chicago Cubs' outfielder Scott Bullet graced the Bottom Line On Sports. What he didn't know about baseball, wasn't worth knowing.

In November, I conducted a debate panel on violence in sports. The three-person panel included my greatest friend of all time Marian Giallombardo. She was excellent as we were both in the inauguration of our friendship.

Late in the fall, I hosted CFL legends Chuck Ealey and Tony Gabriel. I showed highlights from the 1972 Grey Cup in which they both played an intregal part. They were a delight to talk to and kept the calls coming.

I finished the first term of the show just before Christmas, with CFL Hall Of Famer Less Browne. He pulled no punches regarding his support of the Canadian league.

I had a month off over Christmas as were scheduled to resume in early January, 1997. The time off enabled me to bask in the success of my endeavour. I had become much more relaxed in front of the camera while asking questions and taking calls.

The New Year began with a myriad of guests. I had become a master at prospecting quality and interesting people.

One guest in particular was WGRZ television sportscaster Josh Mora. He provided great insight into the Bills and Sabres.

Another quality guest was Dr. Bridget Russell. She lit up the airwaves in February shedding light on Women In Sports. The hour segment did justice to females in all sports.

In the spring I interviewed Niagara Falls Review sports editor Bernie Puchalski. A great friend of mine from my days at the Review we spoke about local hockey, in particular the demise of the Niagara Falls Thunder. The conversation was exciting and energetic to say the least.

I finished the year in June with a tribute to all my guests, with clips from each segment. I was in awe of what I had accomplished. I had wanted to do this for many years and in 1996-97 I finally did it.

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