Posted by paulrivas on:
Jim Rome spoke at Campbell Hall Saturday night in an Arts & Lectures event that was also part of the UCSB All Gaucho Reunion. If you were there, congratulations on witnessing a great moment in Gaucho history. If you missed it or you're just not clear on who Jim Rome is or what his deal is, well, that's what Rivas Cultural Services is for.
Rome was a typical privileged white kid who graduated from UCSB in 1986, back when Halloween still meant riot police and anybody with a pulse was admitted. He lived in the notorious Francisco Torres dorm as a freshman, and his first act as a Gaucho was to sign up to work massive amounts of hours free for 91.9 KCSB Sports. He began his monologue by saying, "I have not been here since Soc 152A," the Human Sexuality class that fills UCSB's largest classroom every quarter.
He got three D's and an F his first quarter, which he explained as a product of his living arrangements in FT, where it was not unheard of to find tapped kegs in elevators.
"We had kegs, we had quarters, we had chron, we had sex, we had fights. And we had it every weekend. Nevermind 'How'd I stay in school?' How'd I stay alive that first year?! I was the Jamarcus Russell of FT."
After being passed up after graduation for a KTYD job he thought he'd earned that went to a "functional illiterate", he moved home to L.A., where he failed at three more jobs, including the family business. In desperation, he called The Palm himself, John Palminteri, for whom he had once interned writing news copy free at 4:20am and who was also in attendance Saturday. The Palm got him a 30-day gig reading traffic reports for $5/hour.
There was no traffic in Santa Barbara back then, but the station manager wanted traffic reports, so Rome took to making up crashes and reporting that they were "in the clearing stages". He was invited to stay on past 30 days, and was eventually enlisted to host a pre-hipster, pre-Groupon coupon program called Radio Mall, where callers could buy scrip for local goods and services at discounted prices.
Then the San Diego radio station 690 AM went to an all-sports format, only the second really national radio station to do so. A real sports nut, Rome was smart enough to know that he'd never be a professional athlete and that working in sports at all was statistically very unlikely. He did the math and determined that would have to bring something different to sports radio in order to make it.
"Content is king," he advised students in the audience. "How are you different? Why you?"
Even in his early days on 690, Rome instructed his callers to, "Have a take and don't suck." His distinctive style of passionately and fearlessly backing the sports figures he felt deserved to be supported and calling out those he felt deserved to be railed on won him national attention, and his show soon became nationally syndicated. He now does a four-hour radio show and a one-hour ESPN television show daily, where he trumpets the UCSB Gaucho cause at every reasonable opportunity.
On the way to national prominence, Rome was famous tackled by NFL quarter Jim Everett during an interview. Rome assured the crowd that the event was not staged, and revealed that he and Everett have still never talked about it. He did, however, apologize for having provoked the incident, even though everyone involved had acknowledged that the provocation was a condition of Everett's participation on the show.
"I'm sorry I did it. Not, 'I'm sorry if I offended anybody' - I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry I said it. I'm sorry it happened."
More recently, Rome was in a high-profile beef with "that bitch Katie Couric".
He's not all mean, though. He's also a Gaucho legend who remembers how he got to the top and realizes that there are UCSB students today who want to be like him. He quoted the great Walter Capps telling him, "You shape public opinion," but he also repeatedly cited a professor nobody in the room had heard of, who said, "A new bike won't change your life. Relationships matter."
In response to a question submitted by a UCSB student athlete, he ranked giving the eulogy at Pat Tillman's funeral second behind being invited to speak to a room full of Gauchos in Campbell Hall.
I have no use for five hours of sports talk daily, but for an hour last Saturday night, Jim Rome turned in an epic Gaucho performance.