“Well, we lost a good one.”
That’s what Irv Brown would say across Denver’s airwaves whenever someone in the sports community had passed away. Whether the deceased was famous or just someone Irv had met along the way, the legendary broadcaster had a knack for offering a special and sincere tip of the cap, sending them off with class and grace. It was always just right.
Well, on Sunday, we all lost a good one.
After months of health complications that hindered his ability to regularly stop in at the Mile High Sports Radio studios for his show with Kent Erickson and his old pal Joe Williams – missing a show was as uncomfortable to Irv as any hospital bed ever could be, you know – Irv peacefully signed off for the last time.
So long, Irv. You will be missed.
This likely isn’t the first eulogy to Irv Brown you’ve read, nor will it be the last. In the days and weeks ahead, notes like this one will be found everywhere – Twitter, Facebook, press releases, columns from scribes both near and far. Just as it should be.
Measuring the greatness of a man is no easy task. Some great men touch few, but have a profound impact on those they do. Other great men have the ability to positively influence thousands, entire communities of people. Somehow, Irv Brown managed to do both. “Profound” isn’t a strong enough word. “Thousands” is too small a number. “Communities” is undeniably plural.
“He knew EVERYBODY,” said local sports broadcaster Vic Lombardi in a tweet. “He helped EVERYBODY.”
You want to become a sports official? Grab a whistle; Irv would get you started.
“Irv Brown is the king of officials in a state of outstanding officials,” said friend and former commissioner of the CHSAA Bob Ottewill (who also told me once, almost 20 years ago, “Call Irv. He’ll help you with your magazine”). “And no matter how high he climbed as a ref, he never forgot where it all began – in Colorado high schools.”
You want to get into writing or broadcasting? “Dial up so-and-so… and tell him Irv Brown sent you,” Irv would say. It’s not an overstatement to estimate that more than 90 percent of the sports journalists who have worked in Colorado over the past 40 or so years got some sort of an “in” because of Irv.
“Quite simply, he was the man every Denver sports fan looked up to,” Lombardi offered. “For me, he was the man I wanted to become. Irv was my idol.”
Want to become a coach? Got a kid who’s a decent athlete in search of a scholarship? Looking for some help with a camp, clinic or fundraiser? Irv always – always– wanted to help. And if he personally couldn’t, he knew a guy who could.
Need to talk up your business? “Gimme your card and write down where you went to high school and what sports you played,” Irv would instruct. Moments later, he’d be live on air talking about the name on the card as he were the Mickey Mantle or Michael Jordan of that school; he’d talk up the business better than the Better Business Bureau.
Irv’s word was gold…. Scott’s Liquid Gold (go ahead, you know the rest…).
When Mile High Sports was in its infancy, most conversations – with advertisers, with vendors, with teams or schools and the people who ran them – would begin with, “Irv said…” or “Irv suggested…” They’d end with, “…and Irv says ‘hi’ – wants you to give him a call.”
“I grew up watching Irv Brown and Al Albert do Nuggets games,” said James Merilatt, the founder of Mile High Sports. “Irv had great delivery – ‘Another big night, Al.!’For decades, I listened to Irv and Joe (Williams) on the radio – ‘I’m walking off this show.’He was an icon.
“But I admired him even more after I was lucky enough to meet him. He was gracious and kind, willing to help anyone. Just a remarkable man, someone we should all aspire to be like.”
Irv was one of those guys who always remembered your name. Furthermore, he’d reassign you a nickname he liked better. Josh “Herb” Pennock. Gil “The Ghost” Whiteley. Ronnie “Legs” Kohrt. Will “Red Dog” Petersen. Benjamin “Arkansas Jelly” Allbright.
And sometimes your nickname was simply “The Pride of <Fill-in-the-blank> High School” – and Irv alwaysremembered where you went to high school.
“Find me a person who has a bad thing to say about Irv Brown,” added Merilatt. “I’ll wait.”
You can’t. You won’t. There’s no such person.
The man might be gone. But his legend is as real as radio, and it will live on in perpetuity through the thousands he so positively touched.
He’s off on assignment; that great big press box in the sky needs a good colorman.
So long, Irv.
Come home baby… now.