Hawk Q&A: Steve Raible
Special to The Seattle Times
Seahawks broadcaster Steve Raible has been with the team since the first year, 1976. Raible was a receiver for six seasons, then moved into the radio booth, where he has been for the past 20 years.
Seattle Times: How would you summarize your career as a Seahawks player?
Steve Raible: In a word, how does mediocre sound? He gives me a hard time about it, but one day Mike Holmgren paid me a compliment. He said, "No matter what anybody says, you played in the National Football League for six years, so it's not like you were just there for a cup of coffee." I had to do something right, I guess. I suppose I'd summarize it by saying I was a team player. I did everything they asked me to do.
ST: Do you remember your first contract?
SR: Like it was yesterday. A three-year deal: $27, $35 and $43. That's thousands. And I got a $15,000 signing bonus, except it was spread over all three years. I think the most I ever made was my last year (1981), a little less than $100,000, and that was because I got some special teams' bonuses.
ST: As a wide receiver, did you mind playing special teams?
SR: Jack Patera (Seattle's first head coach) always said, "The more things you can do, the longer you're liable to be around here." So I would volunteer for just about everything. I never hesitated to play special teams. I made my share of tackles and was a pretty fair blocker. My weakness was I was not a very accomplished route-runner. With the wishbone (at Tech) you didn't run pass routes per se. (Fellow rookies) Sam McCullum and Steve Largent were great pass-route runners. I had to learn all that. And my hands weren't as good as Largent's, without question. So I did as much as I could do.
ST: Any memorable thrills?
SR: I didn't score a whole lot of touchdowns, but I caught an 80-yarder against the Vikings in my rookie year, at the old Vet in Minneapolis on a cold day in November.
ST: What led you to broadcasting?
SR: I had done some work in radio and television in the offseason for a couple of years. In June of 1982, just as I was ready to go to training camp, Pete Gross called our house. I was gone, and Sharon (Raible's wife) answered the phone. Pete said, "Sharon, sit down. I want to talk to you for a while."
The gist of that conversation was: Steve is never going to be Pro Bowler; he's always going to have Largent in front of him. But KIRO needs a new color radio guy for the Seahawks, and we want a guy to back up Wayne Cody on TV sports. Wayne almost strangled me when I told him I had to think about it. He said, "Are you insane? No one will ever have the opportunity to come out of football and learn on the job. If you pass it up, you're nuts." Wayne spoke from experience. He worked in places like Twin Bluffs, Neb., to work his way up to a job like Seattle. He said, "You can't play football forever, and you may only have one year left in you. You better think about it."
I came home, and Sharon and I talked about it a lot. I guess the last piece of the puzzle was I went to the Seahawks' office and talked to my position coach at that time, Rusty Tillman. He said "Rabes, I think you could still play. However, after all the years I gave the Redskins, one day they cut me. To this day, I always wished I had made the decision to retire for myself." That made a lot of sense to me. So I retired at the end of June and at the end of July I was working at KIRO.
ST: How did you adjust?
SR: That first season, 1982, was the strike year, so it was a little dicey. The guys were out for four or five weeks, and in my capacity as a TV sports guy I also had to cover that story. That made for some odd feelings among some of the players, because a few weeks before I was standing there with them and now I'm covering the story. The players didn't get a lot of sympathy from the public. But it worked out, and I did the rest of the season.
I started doing the noon newscast at KIRO in '84 or '85, and ultimately Wayne moved to radio only, so I became the sports director in the late '80s. Around 1992 or '93 they decided to change the format here and wanted me to just do news. I've been the main news anchor since then.
ST: After doing color for 20 years, is it still fun?
SR: Dennis Erickson asked me one time: "Why the hell do you keep doing this? You're the main anchor at the television station; you make decent money. You don't need to do this." I said, "Dennis, I do it for the same reason you do it: For the juice." There's something about a football game on Sunday and there's nothing else like it. I enjoy still being part of it, though it's kind of vicarious today. It's tough for me. I try not to be a homer on game day. I try to tell it like it is. But I love it when the team wins. I like the excitement of a big victory and what it means to the coaches and players. So I still get an adrenaline rush, too, and that carries over to the broadcast. It should.
ST: How would you describe your radio style?
SR: I don't want to say laid-back, but I'm not a crazy man. I don't scream and yell and carry on. I'd like it to be knowledgeable, at times witty, informed and descriptive. I want to paint this picture for the fans so that they can understand it.
ST: Has it been tough working with four different play-by-play announcers in 20 years?
SR: It hasn't. I've worked with four good ones. They've accommodated me and I've gotten along with all of them. I learned the business from Pete, so I will always be beholden to him for all he taught me about calling the games, and how much fun he made it for me as a young guy in learning the business.
Steve Thomas was a trooper. Steve had a very difficult job following Pete after he died. People all but made Pete a saint in this town. The only reason Steve did games for only a couple of years was because the management (at KIRO) changed. This business is so subjective. My general manager could change tomorrow and I could be on the street.
Lee Hamilton was brought in like a freelancer, and his was a much different style, with a much harder edge from doing talk radio in San Diego for many years. Lee was very good, and had lots of inside information. Then the Seahawks wanted their own guy who could be in-house. So they brought in Brian. We've become great friends and enjoy each other's company very much.
ST: Brian's very energetic. Some people might say he's loud.
SR: (Laughs.) Brian seems loud to himself at times. We've talked about it. He knows it and he's dialed it back about a notch from a year ago. He gets excited when the big play happens. We've discussed that there's a difference between being loud and being emphatic. You can give that sense of excitement and really punch that play without blowing somebody's headset off. I think he does a great job. He sure makes it exciting for me. He gets me up. There are times when I have to put the eardrops in after a game, but that's all right. I like the excitement.
ST: Got any favorite memories from the booth?
SR: The most exciting season, and it's a shame it has to be so long ago, was the '83 season and the playoff win over the Raiders. I was still close to a lot of those guys, my ex-teammates, and I was so happy for them. Mike winning the division in his first year in '99 was good; it got those feelings going again that this team could get back to the playoffs. I enjoyed the last night in the Kingdome, when so many coaches and players came back.
The most poignant moment, obviously, was Pete's last day. On that night (Nov. 30, 1992, a Monday night win over Denver in the Kingdome) when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor and three days later he died, I get very emotional thinking about that. Wayne and I got to unveil his name in the Ring. Wayne cried like a baby up there. I did all I could do to hold it back, and I didn't do a very good job. It was tough because we knew we were seeing the end. If you knew Pete, he hardly let on that he ever had a bad day in his life. I'm sure that he did, because two or three times he battled cancer before it finally got him. Just hearing him laugh let you know everything was OK. It's so overused, but people say it's tough to describe class, yet you know it when you see it. That was Pete.
ST: Among the job's downsides, malfunctioning elevators must be on your list. You got stuck in one after the game in Denver, in the team's brand-new stadium?
SR: For 45 minutes. There were seven of us in there, and we managed to find humor in it. Ironically, I got stuck in elevator in Denver more than 20 years ago when I was still playing. We were at the hotel and a bunch of us players piled into an elevator to go down for the team dinner. The way we used to do it, you had to put your coat and tie on whenever you left your room, so there's like 20 of us jammed inside this elevator and it stops.
There was barely room to move inside, and with everyone in coats that baby got hot in a hurry. We were in there for an hour. I remember Bob Newton at 270 pounds starting to get a little panicked. My nose was almost pressed against the door. When we finally got to dinner we were late and Jack (Patera) was going to fine us. We told him we were stuck in an elevator. "Yeah, right, that'll be $500." It took a while, but we finally convinced him. When I'm in Denver, I'm taking the stairs from now on.
ST: Which makes you prouder: your athletic career or broadcasting career?
SR: It's funny, as I get older I'm rather proud of the fact that I played football, because it seems like such a long time ago. The NCAA Silver Anniversary Award this year sent it home to me. Three of the six people this year had ties to Seattle: Wally Walker, Steve Largent and myself, plus Lee Roy Selmon, Archie Griffin and Alfa Alexander, a four-sport woman from Ohio State. The criteria is: You come out of school 25 years ago; what have you done in the 25 years since?
I've got no kind of college career that stands up to a two-time Heisman Award winner (Griffin), an Outland Trophy winner (Selmon), a Hall of Famer (Largent) or Wally, who led the nation in scoring in his senior year at Virginia. But I thought about the transition from a sports career into a serious news career and a deep involvement with a community and it made me reflect: You know, it wasn't that bad of a career, actually. I've done some things some other people didn't get a chance to do.