It’s a proud moment for a man who has made a moonlight career of vividly describing others’ proud moments in real time: last Saturday, Aug. 5, Jim Church and KORT radio were honored for having delivered the Idaho State Broadcasters Association best play-by-play sports broadcast of 2016-2017.
The award was based on Church’s call of a basketball state championship game last spring. The Prairie boys had lived a dream the previous week, when they felled prohibitive favorite Lapwai with a last-second shot in the district title game. When the same teams flirted with buzzer-beater scenarios during the rematch – the state title game at the Idaho Center – Church was there to bring the action back to an audience listening live from 200 miles away.
Based on the five continuous minutes of his call of the end of the 1AD1 finale, Church’s peers in radio and television gave him the nod – marking a high point in his 20-year sports radio career.
“Years ago, I used to do an ag radio show on KORT,” Church said. “One day as I finished up the show, Melinda Hall told me the play-by-play guy was moving away. That was back when Dave Williams moved to Lewiston. I asked Melinda what they were going to do. She said they needed someone. I said I would give it a try. It was a real steep learning curve, but Dave helped me and Mike Ripley helped me.”
Church has since worked alongside several color commentators whose voices are all familiar to local sports fans: Brian Danner, Teel Bruner and Greg Stone.
“I love sports,” Church said. “I grew up playing sports and this is a way for me to stay involved. It’s fun to watch young people turn into great athletes. You know, the group of seniors this fall hadn’t been born when I got into calling games.”
It hasn’t always gone perfectly. For a broadcaster, an on-air brain freeze or a technical difficulty can be a part of a memory many years later – but now Church has the work down pat.
With football season practically here, Church will soon be returning to the routine that has served him well. After he interviews the coach midweek, Hall helps him prepare the audio for the pregame show, and he gathers roster and lineup information ahead of time, so that on game day, he can set up his spotting boards an hour or two before kickoff.
And once they’re on-air, “it’s live bullets,” he said.
It’s a routine that media workers around the country know inside and out. And that’s a big part of what makes this award special for Church.
“I’m humbled to get this recognition from my peers,” he said. “I never thought I would get an award like this, and it makes me feel good.”
Church credited Hall, the KORT station manager, for making the award possible.
“I want to thank Melinda,” he said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without her help. She does all the work behind the scenes and without her we wouldn’t be on the air.”
Church and Stone will once again be calling Grangeville High football games this fall, with the season opener scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 25 against Moscow. The pregame show starts a half-hour before game time each week, and can be heard over-the-air on AM 1230 or FM 92.7 or online through kortradio.com.
Church’s day job is as University of Idaho’s agriculture extension agent for Idaho County.