During timeouts at my high school's basketball games, as Pep Band President, I used to instigate cheers for Rusty Shaffer. Four syllable names are good for that, then a little drum flourish, repeat. We got the crowd whipped up into a tumultuous frenzy. Rusty wasn't a player on our team. He did once participate in varsity sports at Boulder High, but he had long since graduated. He had moved on and even gained a college degree in Communications. He was applying himself to this calling as he sat at a small table in the corner of the gym, broadcasting the game for our local radio station, KBOL. It was our way of appreciating the attention he was giving our team, our school, our community. It was a little tongue in cheek, but he never seemed to mind.
Rusty was also the voice of Ken Penfold's Grid-A-Phone. After each University of Colorado football game, he took calls from around the area, asking for scores and updates on games going on around the country. This was before cable television, and score updates at the bottom of every screen. It was before Al Gore's Internet, which meant that Rusty and his crack staff had to scurry about behind the scenes, reading wire service reports and making long distance calls to other stations that could give them those scores. It was my senior year in high school that I also began calling Rusty for the Slippery Rock score.
Slippery Rock is a little school in Pennsylvania. They have a football team, and they sometimes do quite well. But they aren't exactly Michigan or UCLA. My older brother and I knew this, and regularly tested Rusty's good faith and patience by dropping that request into the mix that included all of those questions about how Nebraska fared or if Florida held off Alabama. He would always promise to "track that down" for us as we hung up, giggling. Years after Rusty and his family sold KBOL and the face of broadcasting had changed forever, we still got a laugh from hearing "scores from around the nation." My older brother bought me a Slippery Rock sweatshirt. Rusty went on to work in finance, but I'm sure he missed his time on the air.
Rusty signed off for the last time last week, losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. Slippery Rock fell to Bloomsburg in their season finale, 49 to 41.