By Christy Shreffler
“I consider myself a super fan in a way,” says Ron Jacober, lively young sportscaster for KSD-TV. “In my reporting I try to convey an attitude that reflects what the fans are thinking.”
Oftentimes, however, fans are critical and opinionated as well as excited.
“Because I’m a fan myself,” Jacober says, “I can’t make excuses or pass it off if a team is a consistent loser. I can’t say ‘They tried hard’ when the Cardinals are one and eight, and neither can the fans.”
Instead of saying “they lost” or “they tried hard” when the Cardinals had indeed lost another game, Jacober began his commentary one night with a list of words synonymous with “lost” to get his point across. He says “I just couldn’t bring myself to say ‘lost’ one more time.” Later one of Jacober’s own admirers sent him a list of 88 ways to say “lost.”
Last fall when the football Cardinals weren’t doing well, Jacober was equally as critical. “One of the attractions of this kind of news is that the sportscaster can be more opinionated. And really the people demanded that I say what I think.”
At the same time, Jacober never directs bitter barbs at specific individuals. To do so would be uncharacteristic of his elfin manner. Even when he does level a more general kind of sarcasm at a team or even at an event, he is too gentle for it to hurt much.
“There is so much negative news every day that sports news offers a release. I try to be light when it’s appropriate. We are in an era when,” Jacober believes, “too many takes sports too seriously.”
Jacober developed his humorous approach to sports during a three-year stint as sports editor of his college paper. “Even then I was trying to be funny and critical at the same time. I’ll admit I was controversial even then.”
However, Jacober continues, “I’m not a marshmallow, and I have always written what I think.
Jacober’s philosophy of being a good newscaster accounts for his popularity. “Any sportscaster worth his salt has got to be a good newsman first – he’s really nothing more than a newsman who’s a specialist in sports.”
His own background fits these requirements. A journalism graduate of Southern Illinois University, Jacober also attended graduate school there and worked as a staff announcer at WJPF, Herrin, Illinois. While at SIU, he aired the Salukis’ football and basketball games for a small network of stations in the area.
After Army duty, he came to St. Louis to join the public affairs department of the Automobile Club of Missouri. During most of his seven years with the auto club, he also served as weekend disc jockey for a Belleville radio station.
“Working weekends at the station and daily as assistant to the president of the auto club finally became too much for me. It was then that I opted for a broadcasting career and joined KMOX Radio, working first on ‘At Your Service’ and then within sports.”
Sports, however, has always been Jacober’s first love. He played all sports in high school although a bad knee prevented continuation of his athletic activities. “Many, many of us are frustrated athletes who would who would trade places with a professional athlete absolutely any day of the week,” Jacober says, echoing the sentiments of many fans.
Appearing before television cameras for the evening news is but one of a variety of duties associated with being a sportscaster. Jacober’s other responsibilities range from writing all his own material to visiting pro training camps, to traveling with the Billikens and broadcasting their games. And each year, he and Jay Randolph pool their talents in a year-end KSD-TV review of St. Louis sports highlights. For these special programs, Ron acts as writer, film editor and producer, a task which he finds thoroughly satisfying.
Establishing this kind of reputation as an able commentator is not easy. A typical working day for Jacober can often stretch into a dozen hours culminating in a dinner of barely palatable banquet food at a speaking engagement. Other times there is research to be done. “For each Missouri football broadcast I do, there are eight or nine hours of background work. Football play-by-play is difficult to do well and it requires lots of preparation.”
Obviously, sportscasters forego considerable family life. Jacober and his wife have two sons. David, age 9, and Jeffrey, age 8. “There are sometimes entire two-day periods when I don’t see the kids at all even when I’m in the city.” At other times, Jacober is out of town for coverage of Billikens’ basketball games or the seasonal pro training camps.
During vacations, which Jacober frequently has to take a day or two at a time, the family does plan activities together. “We live in a big old house surrounded by five acres of ground way out in the county off Big Bend. The house is so secluded that just being home is fantastically relaxing. This spring when I had a few days off, we did yard work and even planted our first vegetable garden. When the children are out of school during the summer, we take short camping vacations throughout the state. We use a tent, not a camper, and just hike, cook and enjoy ourselves.”
The children, though, are not at all awed about seeing their father on television. “The two boys are unaffected by my appearances on television. They do watch me, but they are nonchalant about it. I’d rather it be that way.”
Otherwise, Jacober says, “We have shockingly little social life. I think we’ve been to two parties in the past year.”
Although he knows many players, managers and team owners, Jacober prefers not to socialize with them. “It is difficult to remain professional and have close friends who are involved in sports. Moreover, the players are sometimes ill at ease knowing that I could repeat anything they say.”
Of his broadcasting career, Jacober says in true superfan form, “I am happy doing it. I do it because I love it.”
(Originally published in St. Louis Fan Magazine, 6/73).