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Boers: It's Time To Say Goodbye

By Terry Boers--

(CBS) I've already written this column once. It had been tidied up and put to bed in early June for what I thought would be a joyous day in mid-to-late September when it would run on our website. God, was I ever wrong.

But then life has that way of putting a foot on your throat, of absolutely ruining plans, not caring if they were 50 minutes or 50 years in the making.

It just doesn't seem fair when that lifetime is your own.

I had sat down that day and used the late, great Hall of Fame basketball coach Dean Smith as my lead, noting he said one of the biggest regrets of his life was retiring from the game too early, that giving up his job at North Carolina in 1997 was an awful mistake.

He even told Roy Williams, the man who would ultimately put a stranglehold on the job in 2003, that the wisdom brought by age can't be duplicated, that he should hang in there with the Tar Heels as long as he felt physically able because he had so much to offer.

Smith was 66 years old and a living, breathing legend when he quit coaching in Chapel Hill.

But as much as I admired Smith for his work on the court, I admired him even more for the pitched battles he fought off of it, including bringing the first African-American player to campus when he recruited Charlie Scott. He would later speak his mind on a variety of societal issues that were of far more importance than any of his North Carolina victories, even the one on Michael Jordan's jumper from the wing.

Smith found his voice and a new passion was born, even if he lived every day with the retirement thing set on low burn in his soul.

Knowing all that, I still hope he was wrong about the retirement thing.

As I write this, I'm 66 years old and I'm going to retire, leaving behind one of the greatest jobs you can have, talking sports or movies or TV or life for five hours a day on a station I couldn't be prouder of. The day of my final show will be Jan. 5, 2017, which will make my tenure at the Score exactly 25 years and three days.

That sounded like the perfect symmetry. Twenty years working in newspapers, 25 years in radio. To others, that may just sound crazy, and I get that, too.

Boers announces retirement on air

You should know I've been thinking about this for a while now, dating all the way back to the night in 2014 when David Letterman made his retirement announcement well in advance, giving notice to find a replacement.

Sometimes you have to be told it's time to go, others times, such as in my case, you just know the time is right.

This has been the worst year of my life health-wise. I've been forced to miss way more time than I ever dreamed I would. There's no part of me that thought I would ever be gone for more than four months following a major surgery that continues to plague me. And as you read this, know that I have already had a second surgery done on Nov. 1. It wasn't as complicated as the first, but a surgery nonetheless.

I've even allowed myself a pity party or two along the way, something I've never done. And I must admit I didn't find the warm tears streaming down my face to be the least bit annoying, or, God forbid, unmanly. They were just part of a frustrating process that I've been unable to defeat -- at least not yet.

And then there's this: Too often these days I find myself forgetting a name or a certain game or a sports fact. That didn't happen much when this station began on Jan. 2, 1992. I wasn't a particularly good host at that time, but at the age of 41, I had a much better recollection than I now do.

Of course, back then, we weren't fighting any trivial pursuits. We were fighting for our survival on 820 AM. (We would also be on 1160 before settling into our super comfortable 670.)

It was reported by some, with great glee I might note, that The Score's early rating was a 0.00. In other words, no one was listening. It appeared to some that the launch of the first all-sports station in Chicago history was heading for disaster and that no one cared.

Not long after the Sun-Times reported that it had all been a terrible mistake, that there were indeed some people paying attention. Not many mind you, but a few. Interestingly enough, the print for the retraction was practically in agate and positioned in such a way that it was really easy to miss.

That ax was already grinding, and we'd barely said hello. Worse yet, I still worked at the Sun-Times.

I remember shortly after that, then-owner Danny Lee called me into his office. It was Lee and Seth Mason who had the brainchild for The Score after their years of success with the marvelous WXRT.

"Don't worry about it,'' Lee said to me, leaning forward in his chair for emphasis. "We're not going anywhere. We are not going to stop.''

Now I'd been lied to before, but my gut told me that Lee meant it. Besides, no one in their right mind would've predicted instant success for a station operating on a sunup-to-sundown license. Translation, in the winter months we signed off at 4:30 in the afternoon, completely missing the time when people were getting in their cars for the commute home.

We all but had both hands tied behind our back for the winter months, especially in the afternoons in which Brian Hanley and I worked on a rotating basis with Dan McNeil, who I'd known from the days when he was producing for championship windbag Chet Coppock and his nightly sports sermon from Mt. O-Limp-Us.

It's worth noting that Hanley and I worked as the so-called young sportswriters on Saturdays. It helped that we'd been friends for a good long time before we ever did that show.

Same for McNeil. Although I'd done plenty of radio before The Score, it was Danny who taught me how to be a true pro, who made it clear that even on days when I was down and the energy was low, there was a show that had to be done.

All that matters, he said, is what comes through the radio.

He was right, of course, it was a lesson learned and I took it to heart. At least as best I could. I was prone to some moodiness back then, but I eventually learned that to be a most vital pearl of radio wisdom.

But there would come a day when I couldn't work, when I absolutely couldn't muster up what it takes to perform.

It was Sept. 11, 2001, and I was sitting in my car behind the old bunker we worked in on Belmont Ave. when I first got the word that a plane had just smashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Dan Bernstein and I worked the 8 a.m. to noon shift those days, and I didn't know what to make of anything. I got the idea when a second plane hit the other WTC tower, producing some of the most horrific video in this nation's history.

I started the show. I didn't come close to finishing it.

I don't know if I was thunderstruck, full of overwhelming sadness or just damn mad. I don't recall any one emotion being dominant, but they all combined to finish me. I couldn't do it. I just wanted to leave.

So I did.

Thank God, Dan was such a trouper under the circumstances.

I remember getting into my car, but I don't remember anything about the drive home. I can't even tell you what route I took back to Mokena. I was like a zombie, long before being one apparently gains huge TV ratings.

I was back at work the next day, but I wasn't fine. I don't think any Americans were fine.

Bernstein could probably tell you how those shows were, but all I can vividly recall is that it was Letterman who finally gave the cue that it was OK to laugh again, to have a good time, to be ourselves. And I'll never forget the guy who called up to sing George M. Cohan's "You're a Grand Old Flag.''

I thank the caller for the beautiful moment. And I thank everyone else who's listened to me for the last 24 years. And please remember this, The Score's record hasn't been too bad. Since the inception, we've had six championships from the Bulls, three from the Blackhawks and one from the 2005 White Sox, whose bullpen actually was allowed to get someone out that year.

And you might have heard about what the Cubs did on Nov. 2, ending 108 years of frustration, heartbreak and plenty of pure, unadulterated baseball nonsense when they won the World Series in the best Game 7 in the history of the game. You've probably also heard we've even done a lot better in the numbers, firmly entrenched now as part of the fabric of Chicago and the radio home of the Cubs.

I still can't say those last few words and believe it.

The freaking Cubs play right here, and I couldn't be prouder of just how far we've come as a station, thanks in no small part to the leadership of guys like Ron Gleason and Mitch Rosen, who just happens to be the best boss you can have.

We've got some to go yet, but I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that my last stop is finally within sight.

During this trying year, it's never been made more crystal clear to me how many people care. My email has been swamped more than a couple of times during the summer and fall, jammed with well-wishers who'd heard what was going on. That made me cry, too. And so do all the people from this station and others from CBS who've shown their love. They have no idea how much it means to me, even if I have no idea how to handle it or what to say when you enter a room of cheering co-workers as I did back on Oct. 24, the first day of my aborted comeback.

So there's really only one other thing for you to know. This has been the time of my life. Thanks for the ride.

A longtime sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Terry Boers now co-hosts The Boers and Bernstein Show, which can be heard Monday-Friday from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. on 670 The Score.

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