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Media: October 2021 • Ofman’s Chicago Sports Story

| September 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

George Ofman

 

 

George Ofman has been part of the Chicago media community for more than 40 years now. Here’s an indication of how long he’s been doing this. His first job in the business was in a medium that doesn’t exist anymore. He worked for an outfit called Sportsphone. Imagine it. It was a phone hotline that sports fans called to get the latest sports headlines. That was a long time ago.

“I joined Sportsphone on Christmas Eve, 1977,” George says.

And even if you don’t remember the service, you may know the names of some of the people that worked there.

“Fred Huebner (now at ESPN Radio in Chicago) showed me the ropes. Others there included Les Grobstein (the Score), Ron Gleason (WBBM News Radio), and Pat Benkowski (formerly of Q-101).”

All of those sportscasters have become well known in Chicago, as has Ofman. He was part of the original staff at the Score, which, when it began in 1992, seemed like a completely risky venture.

“It was the first sports radio station,” George recalls. “There had been a few sports radio shows — Rich King, Chuck Swirsky, and Chet Coppock—but no station in Chicago had been all-sports. And we were all crammed into this tiny building on Belmont, along with WXRT. One radio station barely fit in there, let alone one with enough testosterone for the whole city. There must have been two thousand people working in what is essentially a large closet. The XRT people were very cool. Frank E. Lee, Terry Hemmert. Salespeople. They were very easy to make friends with. We all had a lot in common.”

And like Sportsphone, that original Score staff has gone on to big things.

“I was one of the last two hires just before we went on air on January 2, 1992,” George says. “The other one was this little-known guy named Greeny (ESPN’s Mike Greenberg). Even the producers and interns from that group are well known now, (ESPN reporter) Jesse Rogers, (Hockey play-by-play man) Judd Sirott, (ESPN morning co-host) J-Hood. We had a great staff.”

Ofman worked there for 17 years and has since worked at two other prominent Chicago radio stations, WGN and WBBM.

“I covered the Stanley Cup finals for WGN. I was on the Hawks bench, moments after they won it, watching a Stanley Cup go by my face. It was a surreal experience. A little later, I got the call from WBBM and moved over there.”

Now, after thirteen years as a free-lancer, seventeen years at the Score, ten months at WGN, and ten years at WBBM News Radio, the man who got his start on a sports hotline had joined a world that didn’t even exist when he started. George is now a podcaster.

“This podcast was always in the back of my mind. No more than ten days after I was let go by WBBM, I knew this was what I wanted to do, but I knew nothing about podcasting. I went on a crash course. I looked at videos. I talked to everyone I knew who knew. A guy from the Buccaneers walked me through the platforms, and through Dan Levy, mixing and a little editing, and through him a young lady from Indiana to do the graphics.”

Ofman’s podcast is called Tell Me a Story I Don’t Know. He talks to some of the all-time greats in sports broadcasting. As you may have guessed, the man who knows everyone in the business has had some great guests already.

“(ESPN-TV and Washington Post’s) Michael Wilbon was the first one we aired. We waited a few weeks later than we were originally scheduled to begin because of the Bear’s potential playoff run and then the events in Washington (January 6 Insurrection and the inauguration), but it eventually came out, and we’ve been rolling ever since. One of my favorites was Marv Albert. I started doing stats for him in 1977, but he called me to say, ‘Sorry, George, but I just don’t do podcasts.’ I was crestfallen. A week later, he told me that TNT had forced him to do a podcast with Mike Greenberg and Bob Costas, and he said, ‘so since I’ve done theirs, I’ll do yours.’ He was beyond sensational. I did the interview in October (of last year), but it didn’t air until June, and I did that on purpose because I knew he was going to retire.”

Since then, he’s spoken to quite a few others, including Keith Olbermann, Dan Plesac, Ron Coomer, Jeff Joniak, Chip Caray, and more.

“I’ve done over 40 now,” he says. “Only one person is someone I had never met, and that was (Chicago Bulls play-by-play announcer) Adam Amin.  And even he was someone I had had dinner with at a Mexican restaurant downtown before we taped the show because I wanted to meet him and get to know him better—a sharp guy. We had a lot in common. We were both the babies of our families, and we’re both the only ones in our family born in the US (George’s siblings were born in Russia and Germany). I said to him, ‘the only difference is that your paycheck has more zeroes at the end of it.’”

If you are interested in sports and great stories from the people who have had a front-row seat, the Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know podcast can be found on virtually every podcast platform.

-Rick Kaempfer

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