Our Views: As sports broadcaster, Fagerli toiled with utmost professionalism
When Al Fagerli walks out of Janesville Parker's gymnasium Thursday night, it will be the last time in his long, stellar career as sports broadcaster for WCLO Radio.
It's fitting that the Parker boys basketball team will play crosstown rival Craig that night. For more than 35 years, Fagerli has brought the action of sports teams from both schools into our homes.
The only thing more appropriate would be if the teams somehow met at an out-of-town site amid nasty weather. Fagerli has often hit the road, covering whichever school was traveling while the team across town played in front of the home fans. He made it to every game, regardless of ice or snow.
The past 15 years, Gary Rau joined him as color commentator. The former referee and educator developed great admiration for Fagerli, particularly his positive support knowing these athletes were still kids.
Sure, Fagerli works for one of The Gazette's sister companies, and if he isn't in the gym or interviewing some coach on a football field, he usually can be found upstairs from our newsroom. But if ever a colleague deserved accolades, it is Fagerli.
This rock of consistency is the model of professionalism. His work ethic is a rarity today. Sometimes, he ends a long day at 10:30 p.m. after returning home from a road game. He rises again at 2 a.m., maybe 3 a.m., to prepare that morning's sports report, compile the scores and tape a commentary. He later joins Tim Beggs on a morning show and delights listeners with his encyclopedic recall of history and pop culture. After then recording commercials and scheduling pro or college broadcasts, he visits coaches at schools. During football and basketball seasons, some workdays never end.
“If it's got to be done, it's got to be done,” Fagerli said in his matter-of-fact style in a Gazette story Dec. 10.
The one thing Fagerli is most proud of is starting broadcast coverage of girls basketball. In doing so, he brought tournament action to listeners that included Parker's three state championships.
“He's the voice of WCLO,” said Mel Cushing, who retired last month as WCLO/WJVL sales manager.
“Al is a consummate broadcaster,” WCLO/WJVL General Manager Mike O'Brien said. “He brought his A-game every day to every broadcast.”
While Fagerli might be irreplaceable, O'Brien considers it fortunate that WCLO has hired Josh Golberg to step into Fagerli's massive shoes. Fagerli mentored Golberg, dubbed “The Intern,” about 15 years ago.
“Josh is a polished announcer today and almost predestined to follow in Al's footsteps,” O'Brien said. “Our audience and staff are very fortunate to have Josh coming home to WCLO and WJVL.”
In a letter about Fagerli printed by The Gazette on Jan. 16, former Parker teacher and assistant coach Richard Masterson worded it masterfully: “Al will be missed beyond measure. His in-depth knowledge of sports; his respect and admiration for generations of players; his love of high school athletics; and his familiarity with players, coaches and families were all unsurpassed.”
It's a foregone conclusion Fagerli someday will be inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame, joining many of the players and coaches he covered.
A salute to you, Al. Here's hoping you and your wife, Mary, enjoy your well-deserved retirement.