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As a nation, we love our sports. We love the team, the players and the game. And often—sometimes without even realizing it—we love the voices that bring them to life for us. Maybe it’s a certain sportscaster’s delivery we respond to, the style they’ve honed over years of calling and coloring the shots. Or maybe it’s just our innate trust and pleasure in the way their take on the game reflects our own.
Radio programming vet Len Weiner once analogized, “Dan Patrick is to SportsCenter what Peter Jennings is to ABC News. What you see, and what you hear, is the real Dan. He’s a sincere and down-to-earth Midwestern guy who loves talking about sports.”
That’s likely because Patrick also loved playing them, which he did well enough to garner awards and the attention of scouts in high school and college, where he chose cable TV over heat for his living quarters so he could afford to watch a fledgling network called ESPN. Even back then, Patrick was pretty certain he was destined to talk about sports for a living, and he would up doing just that for 18 years on ESPN, where he helped make SportsCenter the network’s flagship show with his spot-on blend of humor and insight. The oft-quoted Dan Patrick lexicon is rife with straightforward lines that aren’t inherently funny, but somehow get that way through his wryly un-theatrical tone. Awards he could’ve potentially received on the baseball field or basketball court were more than replaced by others: a Sports Emmy for Studio Host, a Sportswriters Association National Sportscaster of the Year Award (only the second ever given to a cable commentator), and a Marconi Award and NSSA Sports Broadcaster of the Year (twice).
Sharp, restless and more than a little competitive, Patrick eventually left ESPN, a move then-Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly called, “one of the top five biggest career mistakes in entertainment history.” Well, any armchair QB can make a bad call, Rick. Reacting to a fear of stagnation that in hindsight seems absurdly unfounded, Patrick quickly picked up a writing gig for Sports Illustrated, a show on Fox Sports Radio, a partnership with Fan Duel, hosting duties for Crackle’s Sports Jeopardy and a string of mostly mustachioed cameos in nine Adam Sandler films. Most impressively, he’s built an attic-based, self-produced radio program into what became the first show to premiere on Directv’s Audience Network. On The Dan Patrick Show, he plays host to some of the heaviest hitters in—and outside of—the sports world. It’s testament not only to his skill and standing, but to integrity over showmanship. Maybe it’s something his dad told him early on: “Do things right, remember people, and don’t be more than what you are.” What he is, is a guy who loves what he does. For thousands of listeners and viewers, that’s more than enough.
It probably all boils down to this: Our favorite hosts are the guys we want to hang out with, chewing the fat and the stats, and Dan Patrick is one of those guys. And the way things are going, he’ll be letting us in on the conversation (and the jokes) for a good long time. Score one for the fans.