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Knudson: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen


By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. Insider
May 29, 2012

As finales go, it won’t rival the final episode of M*A*S*H for number of viewers, but the final episode of Mountain Sports Report meant a whole lot to those of us who were fortunate enough to participate in it. Following New Mexico’s dominant win in the championship game of the Mountain West baseball tournament, Mtn. anchor Marius Payton, in one of those lump-in-the-throat kinds of moments, signed off for the final time to a round of applause from the crew (the real talent) behind the cameras. It was one of those moments in your life that you never forget.

Here’s all you need to know about the group of professionals that I won’t be getting to work with any longer: With the end of the network fast approaching, a series of retrospective shows, looking back at the best moments in the network’s history, went into production. Most were all but finished before the first pitch of this year’s baseball tournament.

Then something crazy happened in Las Vegas. San Diego State, trailing TCU 14-4 entering the ninth inning of the very first game of the tournament, erupted for 11 runs in the top of the inning to take a 15-14 lead. The Horned Frogs answered in the bottom of the ninth with two runs to win in walk-off fashion. It was a remarkable inning the even made SportsCenter that night, but in the grand scheme of things, was not a deciding factor in the outcome of the tourney.

The easy thing to do would have been to talk about the comeback in on our post-game show, which we did, and move on, leaving the pre-taped six season retrospective as it was. After all, what would it really matter to a network that was going dark and a group of people that were all looking for new jobs?

But that wasn’t the right thing to do, and Mtn. boss, Steve Hurlbut, and news director, Brian Tripp, knew it. Within the day, plans were made to get some coverage of this miraculous inning into the retrospective. That required the people that had already produced the final product to backtrack and do some of the work on the feature all over again. Why? So it was done right. That’s the way they did things on The Mtn.

The best way I can describe the place? Picture a locker room devoid of egos, where every team member is focused only on the best possible end result, not their own agenda or status. That was the atmosphere at this network since the day I walked in. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to an all-for-one, one-for-all locker room atmosphere since I left professional sports.

So I’m very sad today. The end of The Mtn. is a sad thing for every single person associated with this Conference. Come next fall – and even more so next winter during basketball season – a whole lot more people will feel the void left when The Mtn. goes dark on June 1. We’re just feeling it first.

I’ve worked at numerous media outlets in the 19 years since I retired from professional baseball. These six years at The Mtn. are easily the best period of my media career. I feel truly honored to have been a small part of the first network ever devoted to coverage of a collegiate athletic conference. Mostly, I feel honored to have worked with such a tremendous group of people. I want to thank them for teaching me more about this business than I ever thought I’d know, and for working patiently with me along the way. I don’t have the space here to thank them individually, although I will do my best to do so in person. These are talented professionals whose only objective was a high quality end product. It was inspiring.

Many others feel the same way. Former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist was a football analyst on The Mtn. Ted wrote us, “I can't begin to tell The Mtn. and everyone affiliated how much you guys/gals have meant to me.  The opportunity came along at a time when I needed it both personally and professionally.  The experience will never be forgotten and one that I hope leads to new opportunities in the world of bringing sports to people that really care about the games.“

Former CSU and NFL quarterback Kelly Stouffer echoed Ted’s comments: “I would first like to thank you all for working hard to cover student athletes in a conference well worth covering.  I pray all of you find the appropriate ways in which to apply your talents in this business in the future!”
If the powers that be running the new Pac 12 Network have any sense at all, they will swoop up every available person from this network and put them to work. Same goes for the new Comcast Sports Network that will be debuting in Houston this fall. These are the people you need to start your new network with, period.

Like that famous M*A*S*H episode, there is no sequel planned for The Mtn. No one knows exactly what television coverage of the MW will look like in the future. But there are rumors floating around that this cast of characters could reappear in some form under a different banner sometime down the road. Let’s hope so. Until then, as Marius said with that lump in his throat, “Good night, and take care, everybody.”

See all of Mark Knudson's blog entries HERE.
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