Radio broadcaster honored

By Josh Brown

Gary Neese, Jackson local, shows the perch from where he calls both men's and women's Union basketball games. He shares how he must think visually in order to "paint a picture" for his audience throughout the game. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

If one word had to be used to describe Gerry Neese, it would be “passionate.” Neese, 67, has been in the radio broadcasting business for numerous years and will go into his 20th year as both Bulldogs basketball teams’ radio broadcaster this upcoming season.

“I got into (radio broadcasting) in 1978 doing high school football for a station called WTJS,” Neese said. “Working for WTJS back in those days, we did a lot of play-by-play on sports from baseball, softball, basketball and even boxing.”

Neese continued to work with WTJS for several years before asking Lambuth University if he could do the radio broadcasts for their football team. After about three years at Lambuth, Neese began to get bogged down with trying to do radio broadcasts for multiple sports and began looking for opportunities to cover just one. That opportunity came when David Blackstock, former Union athletic director, asked Neese to do radio for Bulldogs  basketball.

“I jumped at the offer,” Neese said. “I said I would do it for free if it was Union basketball.”

Neese has seen coaches and players come and go through the basketball programs at Union, making many friends along the way.

“Steve Beverly and I got to be friends,” Neese said. “He is one of the few people that I know who does stories on the air correctly. Steven Aldridge has been a real help to me. If there are ever conflicts with the men’s and women’s schedules, he will cover one and I will cover the other. I enjoy working with all of the coaches and have developed friendships with both Mark Campbell and David Niven.”

Neese broadcasts every away game as well home contests, making road trips with the team.

“The travel is the hardest part about it because I’m getting older,” Neese said. “You can’t always travel with the team because sometimes they leave four or five days earlier. I did one game in Chicago and rented a car to drive to Nashville, flew from there to Chicago, walked and took a subway to find the team’s bus and rode to and back with them from the game.”

Fortunately, being a radio broadcaster has many positives as well, and after having done it for as long as Neese has, amazing plays can be witnessed.

“The excitement of a close game is always great,” Neese said. “I’ve seen some fantastic plays, like last-second shots from places that should never have happened.”

Neese has not made a career out of radio broadcasting. In fact, his full-time job is as a realtor at Golden Key Realtors. To do broadcasting as long as he has displays a legitimate passion for sports.

“I told David when I took the job, ‘I’ll do this, and I’ll do it for free,’” Neese said. “But he wouldn’t let me do that. He said ‘What do you say we pay you at least 30 bucks a game?’ And to this day they still pay me that. It costs me, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”

Sports are a definitive part of Neese’s life, but he has also played an active role in the community of Jackson in a variety of other ways. He served on the county commission from 1990–1998 and was recently re-elected for a four-year term. Neese also had an interesting experience running for mayor.

“I ran for mayor about four years ago,” Neese said. “It was a difficult experience because just before I announced it I had a heart attack, and I just had to come right up out of that. But it kept me from sitting back and saying, ‘Oh, pitiful me.’ We came in second out of six, but it was fun.”

Most recently, Neese was voted into Union’s Hall of Fame, and is to be inducted in November.

“First of all, I was surprised,” Neese said. “I feel humbled to be in the same category that the Fesmires and so many others are in. It will be fun to see that plaque up there and stay up there beyond my days, but I don’t think I’m deserving of anything. I didn’t shoot any of those baskets or win any championships. I was just there. I appreciate the nomination and the votes to get in.”

After doing something for so long, some may think the passion would begin to fade, but stepping away from radio is a thought that does not linger too long in Neese’s mind.

“There’s a stretch when I’ll think, ‘This will be my last, this will be my last,’” Neese said. “But summer comes and goes; then I get to thinking, ‘No, this can’t be my last.’ I just love sports. If I can live another 20 years to do it, I will.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.