It is March so that means I have a sore throat. This time it came from Mother Nature, but that wasn’t always the cause. For 30 years I broadcast every game of the District, Regional and State Tournaments. By the time the games were over my throat had taken a pounding and thus I had a sore throat.
It was broadcasting the state tournament that was the hardest on it. I did every game. Other stations would alternate announcers but I went the long haul. On press row I was told I had the record for broadcasting the most consecutive games. I did 420 in a row over a span of 28 years and missed only half of one game.
I got halfway through the game and I was so sick I couldn’t hold my head up. The announcer at the station next to me finished for me. Corbin’s coach at that time was Bill Smith. He literally carried me out of Freedom Hall and drove me to my motel room. After a few hours of rest I was back at it that night.
The high school state tournament holds so many fond memories. The first game I did was at Memorial Coliseum for WVLK in Lexington. It was when the Ashland Tomcats were the talk of the state. I did a few more tournaments for WVLK before graduating from UK and taking at job at WCTT in Corbin. That is where my string of consecutive games was accomplished.
I still have audiotapes of many of the state tournament games. There were many great players and many great games. When I started, the Louisville teams dominated. The likes of Louisville Central, Male and St. Xavier were unbeatable. For many years Clay County was the representative of the 13th Region and year after year I was interviewing Bobby Keith. The Manchester station was part of our regional network.
In 1990 I was featured on a WLEX-TV sports segment telling about the many radio stations that covered the state tournament. They focused the camera on me during a broadcast and interviewed me afterward. It ended with the camera panning the many radio station banners on press row and the announcer saying, “Don Estep has broadcast another state tournament. Now he will pack his gear, head back to Corbin, but he will be back next year.”
I should have known that what he was saying was the kiss of death. It was the last state tournament game I ever broadcast. My friend Dallas Jones recorded that segment and I still have it today. Every now and then I’ll watch it with fond recollections.
After that tournament I became too busy at this newspaper to do the games. The News Journal was on its way to becoming the largest weekly in the state and it took my full attention. I did manage to go to some of the state tournament games with my friend Bill Crook. Until last year we had attended 23 years in a row. My grandfather duties got in the way last year and will this year and I won’t be going. Hopefully, I can resume attending next year. There are hundreds of stories connected with our adventures that are worth telling. They are on my agenda.