AN ODE TO BOB: Wishing a happy retirement to Bombers’ legendary play-by-play man Irving

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When I was a kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old, I would set my clock radio to go off every morning at 7:25.

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I did this because that meant I would always wake up to the CJOB Sports Report, so the first thing I would hear each day was the latest news on the local teams and scores from all my favourite leagues.

On many of those mornings, the person reading the sportscast was Bob Irving, a man with a soothing, likeable voice who could make a warning label on a toaster sound compelling.

If I timed my old Sanyo correctly, I’d wake up to these words: “Good morning everybody, I’m Bob Irving and this is CJOB sports.” They were said with a kind of inflection that made you happy to be a sports fan.

I found myself realizing that I didn’t so much want to grow up to be like the athletes I admired as much as I wanted to grow up to be like Bob Irving.

Of course, those morning sportscasts were just a bonus when it came to hearing Bob’s dulcet tones.

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The real joy came from listening to Blue Bombers broadcasts, something I started doing in the mid-1970s, not long after Bob became the voice of the team (in 1974).

There was something so comforting in knowing Bob would always be there, bringing games that weren’t always televised to life, taking you inside the team and the CFL, describing the action beautifully in his patented conversational manner.

Over the next 47 years, it just became one of those givens of life: The sun rises in the morning, it sets at night, it gets cold in the winter and Bob Irving calls Winnipeg Blue Bombers games on the radio.

I didn’t have to be a kid anymore to love listening to Bob’s game calls. He’s still doing it to this day, 47 years after he called his first game.

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Nobody does it better, nobody cares more about the Bombers and the CFL, nobody has been more dedicated to the art of play by play. He is to CFL football what Vin Scully is to baseball. A legend, plain and simple.

At age 71, Bob is still at practice every day, still as informed as anyone about the inner workings of the team, still as respected by players, coaches, management and colleagues as anyone in the business.

Sure he sometimes grumbles about covering seemingly endless training camps over the years and he absolutely hates flying for road trips — thus the nickname “Knuckles” — but he still shows up and does the grunt work every single day. He still handwrites his scripts for broadcasts, cuts and provides all the audio clips for the pre-game show, arranges all the guests.

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It’s always a labour of love, with Bob. He loves doing the work as much as the people of Winnipeg love hearing him do it.

On Sunday that long, storied, wonderful career, one that made his name synonymous with Blue Bombers football, will come to an end.

Bob’s last game will be the West Division Final between the Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, on a cold, windy and possibly snowy afternoon at IG Field.

Before the game, he’ll be inducted into the Winnipeg Football Club’s Ring of Honour, alongside all-time greats like Ken Ploen, Bud Grant, Chris Walby, Dieter Brock, Milt Stegall and Doug Brown.

His name, as familiar to Bombers fans as any player who has come and gone through the years, simply belongs there. His name already adorns the press box at IG Field and now it will be forever displayed for all in the seats to see, as well.

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After the Ring of Honour ceremony, Bob will return to the broadcast booth, where he plans to have the windows wide open, regardless of the weather conditions, and will call one last game.

It will be my great honour to join Bob (and Doug) on the pre-game show, as I have done for almost every game the last five years.

I just hope I can get through it.

Because, man, am I going to miss him around the Bombers beat.

I’ve only known Bob well for the last five years, but I feel like I’ve known him all my life.

I know things won’t be the same without his presence at practice and the Blue Bombers broadcast just won’t sound right without his voice.

But alas, all great things must come to an end.

Bob’s career has been glorious and he has earned the right to call it a day on his own terms. He’ll have more time — especially in the summer — to spend with his wife Daye and his family, his grandkids, his cottage, his golf game.

No one would ever begrudge him that, no matter how much we are going to miss him.

I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you for everything, Bob.

Thanks for those wake-up calls as a kid, thanks for bringing so many good memories to the people of this city, thanks for so many years of tremendous work.

May your last day on the job be one of the best.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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