“Ooh, that was nasty!”
Next up in our Moments In Time - Northwest sports series is a profile of the current Rip City radio broadcaster.
Once upon a time, radio ruled the media. Play-by-play coverage brought games to life, and the broadcasters themselves painted a picture for people to imagine night in and night out.
In today’s day and age of social media, radio appears to be a lost art. But then again, that’s what makes Portland Trail Blazers fans so lucky to have someone on their side like Brian Wheeler.
Wheeler, also known as Wheels, jumped on board with the Blazers in 1998 when he was given the near-impossible task of replacing legendary broadcaster Bill Schonley.
“The Schonz” had been the team’s play-by-play announcer since the 1970-71 season—the first year the team was in existence—and he’s a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for broadcasting.
But despite the shoes that Wheeler was attempting to fill, the new guy on the block was ready to bring his own style to the game of broadcasting.
Wheels has a way of calling a contest that combines knowledge of the game with fandom of the team. He knows what he wants to see, and he lets you hear it; but if things aren’t going favorably, he’s not afraid to express his distress.
There’s no better example of this than his call of the miraculous Game 4 comeback in the 2010 playoffs. Portland was facing the Dallas Mavericks, and nicely put, nothing was going right. The Blazers couldn’t score, Dallas had caught fire and Wheels wasn’t going to sugarcoat one bit of the dreadful showing.
Then the tides began to turn, and if you weren’t listening to the call on the radio, you missed out on one of the most emotional broadcasts in Trail Blazers history.
Like every good broadcaster, Wheeler has coined a number of key phrases. “Boom-shaka-laka” has to be one of his most popular, as he uses it when the Blazers throw down an emphatic slam.
But catch phrase or not, it’s the pure emotion that you get from Wheels that makes him one of the best in the business.
For all of the calls we’ve heard throughout the years, there’s one line that should stick with fans for the rest of time. Following every Blazers victory, whether it’s a blowout over the Washington Wizards or a last-second shot over the Los Angeles Lakers, Wheeler sends the broadcast away with the line that epitomizes what it means to be a fan.
“And once again we can say, it’s a great day to be a Blazer.”
Wheeler calls a game like few others to in an age of objective media. He calls it with truth and honesty, and yet he calls it like a fan.
Listening to Wheels call a game, you can tell he loves his job, which is why if you ever get the chance to turn off the T.V. and turn on the radio, it will truly be a great day to be a Blazer.