The blogger contest is still going and will be done by Christmas (I promise). But as it moves forward, here is another of our profiles of Kentucky media personalities…this time Dave Baker:
According to some, that Blue Tooth is an extra large. Kids say the darnedest things.
WLEX sports reporter/“Free Enes” revolutionary Mary Jo Perino told me her three year old son, Sam, once asked him “How did your ears get so big?” WTVQ sports anchor/proud new papa Kent Spencer told me he overheard whispers about a certain reporter so awe-inspiring at the Music City Bowl that “the sun never sets when you’re that cool”. WKYT reporter/real estate agent extraordinaire Ryan Lemond told me some stories he heard about his balls-out competitiveness in pick-up games at Transylvania back in the day. A WKYT employee told me she can hear his coolness exude through brick walls when he answers his phone “go ahead, caller!” like he’s always on the air. He even once inadvertently stole an advertising account from me years ago. How did this happen? Honestly, because he’s him. And I’m not him. That’s swagger. Of course, I’m referring to the face of Denger’s Hearth and Home, Dave Baker.
To say Dave has been on the UK beat a long time is an understatement. Born in Franklin, Ohio, he started with WKYT in 1982 after graduating Georgetown College. His reporting ascension has transformed him into the J.J. Dillon of the SEC Media Four Horsemen, having ruled the sidelines for CBS Sports (The Nature Boy), Jefferson-Pilot (The Enforcer Arn Anderson), Lincoln-Financial (Tully Blanchard), and The Big Blue Sports Network (Lex Luger). An on-air personality and an account executive for WKYT, Dave is a jack-of-all media trades and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of all things UK sports. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of a UK game in some way. He reminds me of my favorite old porno: reliable, steady, comfortable, and even though you’ve seen it hundreds of times before, it still gets the job done. Dave embodies those journalistic traits, and as a UK fan, he just feels right. He’s seen six basketball coaches (Hall, Sutton, Ricky 15, Tubby, BCG, Cal) and six football coaches (Claiborne, Curry, Mumme, Morris, Brooks, Joker), so suffice to say, Dave’s been around longer than that itch you got after The Champaign Room at Platinum. Not like I would know or anything.
A married father of four (including his son, Manning, whose name I pray is a family one) and a Lexington community activist, there’s not a corner of Central Kentucky society he doesn’t touch. When I talked to other reporters about him, most said they didn’t personally know him that well, but none had a bad thing to say about him either. With our new best friend Thameltoe and Pat “I would’ve waited in Porcini’s for you too, Ricky!” Forde spewing venom at their fellow media brethren, it was refreshing to hear nothing negative. He was affable and approachable. So without further ado, my fifteen minutes with Dave Baker.
How did you get the nickname “Buzz”? Bad haircut? An unfortunate incident?
“Unfortunately, there’s no great story about it. I’ve been at WKYT for a long time. Back in the days of electronic typewriters, Rob Bromley grumbled “you need a nickname” before we went on-air. So he gave me the nickname Buzz. It just kind of stuck.”
You’ve been around the UK program for, well, forever. Who is the most bizarre/entertaining UK player you’ve been around?
“One of my favorites was Rob Lock. He was definitely unique. With all the flak he took, he always had a great sense of humor. I do remember in the UK basketball media guide, Rob listed Big Bone Lick State Park as his favorite destination. Classic.”
What about the football program?
“There were so many things about Tim Couch and the Hal Mumme era. You never knew what was going to happen. My favorite story is the “Hot Dog” story from the 1998 UK vs. LSU game. Gerry Dinardo (then the LSU coach) was under fire and his stomach had to be churning. Couch and company roll into town, and what does Mumme do? He asks one of the football managers to go and buy him a chili dog. Mumme eats a chili dog in front of Dinardo to help his churning stomach. And UK won.”
Erin Andrews–as hot in real life as she was on “Dancing With The Stars?”
Do you think she’s held to a different standard because she’s so attractive?
“I’ve actually talked to her about that. I’ve told her that women look at me the exact same way all the time.”
Some buddies and I once placed bets on how many drinks Billy Clyde had each day. The over/under was 8. What do you got Dave?
(Pause…then a sigh) “I just don’t know.”
I’m a tailgater. Which SEC school has the best?
“They’re all different. UK’s has improved. We’ve got it great because the parking is so close to the stadium. Most of the other SEC schools are really spread out. The Grove at Ole Miss is just incredible. The ambience, the scenery…they do it up every Saturday. It’s like a Southern prom. Last year’s LSU vs. Florida game in Baton Rouge was unbelievable. They were literally rocking all day and all night long…the food, the entertainment, the booze…it was different than anything I’ve ever seen.” (Deke’s side note… he hasn’t been to mine yet.)
Media has undergone drastic changes the past ten years with the Internet explosion. What’s your take on the roles of bloggers versus traditional media?
“I think blogs are a great thing. I think the more voices out there, the better. Newspapers just don’t have the immediacy that the Internet has. Back in the day, if there was an accident on the interstate, you’d have to wait until the next day for the story. Now it’s covered in twenty minutes. The biggest downside is the value judgments people place on what they read. It can make readers lazy. Just because Billy Bob’s blog reports it, that doesn’t make it true.”
If Randall Cobb continues his current pace–and he stays all four years–he’ll leave as UK’s all-time leader in touchdowns. Will he rank as one of the all-time greats?
“No question but it’s tough to project. First, he has to remain healthy. That’s key. Plus, you just never know. Don’t forget everyone talking about when Tiger would overtake Jack Nicklaus for the most major wins. We’ve seen how that has panned out.”
Which is harder–selling television commercials or trying to remember which company you’re working for each season?
“Football is easy. Luckily I’ve never popped off the wrong company I’m working for during a telecast. That’s probably why I continue working.”
Any UK games (football or basketball) stick out as the most memorable to you?
“Sam Bowie’s Senior Day. Tim Couch torching Louisville at the grand opening of the Pizza Box. Pitino’s ’89 team knocking off LSU with Shaq, Chris Jackson, and Stanley Roberts in Rupp (Deke’s personal favorite as well). The overtime game against Arkansas in Brooks’ first year. Kentucky upsetting Alabama in 1997. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a piece of that goal post in front of me right now.”
Last question–is Matt Jones’s hair really that bad?
“Actually, it’s worse. His pictures aren’t photo-shopped either. He’s got a Beatles-like cut, maybe an early Mick Jagger thing going on up there. As a Louisville resident, you’d think he’d be able to find a salon that could help him. He doesn’t need to go all Tucker Carlson up there, but he needs to do something. If he went with a Jersey Shore look, he’d be Drew Franklin. Jersey Shore has definitely inspired Franklin’s hairstyle.”
Matt’s Take: Good job with this Deke. You had some funny lines but also got Dave to open up a bit as well in the interview. I am not normally a fan of strict Q and A, but you made it work and got a good subject to even be more interesting. A quality performance and it continues to build on what you have done in the previous rounds.