Bishop retiring after 35 years in broadcastPublished 3:19pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
The “Voice of the Russellville Golden Tigers” is turning over his headsets and microphone to a new generation.
Dr. Tim Bishop announced last week that, after 35 years, he is leaving the broadcast booth for retirement.
“It’s been an honor to be a part of this program,” Bishop said.
“Too have the opportunity to do this as long as I have, to be a part of this tradition, it’s been a deeply meaningful experience.”
Bishop started his career as a teenager and student at the University of North Alabama. The games he broadcast were taped during the game and replayed on Saturday morning. He was inspired to start broadcasting by former Auburn and Alabama announcers Buddy Rutledge and John Forney.
“I grew in a generation where you laid on the floor at night and listened to games on the radio,” Bishop recalled.
“We didn’t get every game on television like we do today. I would listen to Rutledge [Auburn] and Forney [Alabama], and I would try to mimic them and observe how they broadcast a game.”
Bishop believes radio gives listeners a better perspective of the game and the moments than television can.
“Good announcers use their creativity to paint a better picture of what is going on than television broadcasts can,” Bishop explained. “Radio listeners have to use their senses to understand what is going on. With television you just watch. A radio listener has to use their imagination.”
Bishop, a former Russellville football and baseball player, made no secret during his broadcasts were his allegiances lie. He was Golden Tiger all the way.
“I was probably a little bit of a homer,” Bishop said with a smile.
“It didn’t bother me. I’m a Russellville Golden Tiger and it was mostly our people who listened to the broadcast. I wanted people listening to the broadcast to feel like they were at the game. I wanted them to feel the emotions of our fans at the game.”
Even though Bishop sometimes gets, as he called it, “a little excited,” he never let the excitement and raw emotion spill over to blatant criticism.
“I never criticized our coaches and their decisions or individual players,” Bishop explained. “That was not my job and not what I wanted to do. I might make some observations but it never spilled over to criticism. Coaches coach, players play and broadcasters should broadcast.”
Bishop has broadcast over 450 football and basketball games for Russellville and has only missed ten football games in his storied career. He has also broadcast five Russellville state championship football games and one state championship basketball game.
Bishop’s wife, Susan, has grown accustomed to not having her husband at home on Friday nights during the football season but said she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I knew he loved it so much,” said Susan Bishop. “As long as he was doing it and he was happy I wanted him to do it.”
After thirty-five years of broadcasting one of the most storied football programs in North Alabama, Bishop didn’t have to think long to pluck some games from his bank of memories that stood out to him.
“Probably the best game I ever broadcast was the 1992 state semi-final game against Etowah County,” Bishop recalled.
“Russellville had a very good team but no superstar individuals. Etowah had players like [former Alabama quarterback] Freddie Kitchens. Etowah was undefeated and we went in there and beat them. Wow! What a team effort that was.
“The most exciting games are usually the improbable endings,” Bishop continued. “Two games that stand out in my mind are when Chad Sears hit Marcus Hill on a ‘Hail Mary’ pass on the final play of the Colbert County game in 1994. I thought the pass was intercepted and even broadcast that it was intercepted. Marcus came up with the ball and we got the win.
“The other would have to be the 1987 game at Colbert County. Russellville was ranked first in 5A and Colbert County was ranked first in 4A. The game went to double overtime. In the second overtime, Chucky Mullins caught what would be the winning touchdown. Of course, under the rules, Colbert County got a chance to score and Chucky knocked their potential touchdown pass away to win the game. Russellville went on to go 14-0 but lost in the championship game.”
The hardest part of his broadcasting career came when he broadcast games his son, Elliot, participated in as the Golden Tiger place kicker.
“It was hard to broadcast and enjoy the game because I was always nervous for Elliot,” Bishop explained. “As a kicker you go largely unnoticed until you get the call. Then you are out there on an island with a chance to be the hero or the goat.”
Don Cox, the Golden Tigers’ coach from 1980 to 1995, said that Tim Bishop helped as much as anyone to build the Russellville Golden Tiger tradition.
“When you say ‘Golden Tiger,’ that was Dr. Bishop,” Cox said. “No matter what the score or how the game was going, he was positive and supportive of the team. He was never critical of the players or any of the coaches.
“He helped build the Russellville tradition. He is going to be missed. He was always so genuine and enthusiastic. He was a true fan calling the game.”
Charles Hogan, a former Golden Tiger quarterback and color analyst on the broadcast, said working along side Dr. Bishop has been one of the great joys in his life.
“When I played I used to get taped copies of the broadcast to listen to,” Hogan said. “To have had the opportunity to work with him for the past ten years has been wonderful. He is very professional and he makes it fun. We’ve had to take some long road trips together the past ten years and it’s never been boring. We had a great time together on air and off.
“Dr. Bishop always wanted us to be positive and honest. He reminded me that we were not broadcasting college or pro games. These were high school kids. If a player made a mistake we would never mention them by name. We tried to give our audience the truth about what was going on but in a positive way.”
Shane James, a former Russellville letterman and current member of the broadcast team, had some fond memories of Bishop’s broadcasts.
“It was a Sunday tradition for me to get in the car and listen to the replay of the games,” James said. “I would record the games on cassette tape and just ride around and listen to Dr. Bishop call the game.”
James also said that it has been an honor to work with Bishop for the past two years and fill in for him when he had to miss some games.
“Dr. Bishop is classy guy. He is a class act in everything he does. He is always positive and he never criticizes. He loves Russellville, this community and Golden Tiger sports. He has created a lot of great memories for a lot of people, and he is going to be missed on Friday nights.”
As hard as it is to let go of the reigns, Bishop said it’s time to turn the program over to the younger generation.
“It’s time to let the younger people do it,” Bishop remarked. “I just hope they have as much fun as I did.”
He offered some advice to those who may want to sit in the broadcast chair some day.
“Be prepared. Know your names and numbers. Know the coaches and their records. Chase down the interesting stories. Always accentuate the positive. Most importantly, paint a picture for your listeners. They are seeing the games through your eyes.”
Even though Bishop will not be in the broadcast booth, he will always be there in spirit.
“It will always be great to be a Russellville Golden Tiger.”