“Where do we go from here caller?”
In 45 years of broadcasting and analyzing Saskatchewan Roughriders games on all three Regina AM radio stations, that’s the line I’ll remember the most from John Lynch.
The Regina radio icon announced his retirement on Monday on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage and the memories came flooding back during the show.
The above line stands out the most because some of my earliest memories of Lynch came in the 1980’s when he was hosting The Last Word on 620 CKCK after Rider games. The Roughriders were dreadful then, and John would throw that line out to pretty much each person who called in … “Where do we go from here caller?”
Back then, as a high schooler and fan of the Riders, I switched my dial back and forth between CKRM and CKCK for postgame coverage. The dial rested on which station was entertaining me more. It usually was whichever radio station employed John Lynch.
Of course there are many, many more “Lynchisms” from his celebrated career. Here are some more:
- “Who’s kidding who?”
- “Let’s not kid ourselves!”
- “What about that humidity in southern Ontario?”
- “It was a moral victory!”
- G.W.H.: Great When Healthy
- E.S.B.G.: Early Season Big Game
- B.L.P. Bold Lynch Prediction
The 76-year old Lynch was born and raised in Rouleau, SK and he says he first started following the Riders in 1948. Incidentally that’s the first year the Riders switched their uniform colours from red and black to green and white. He attended Luther College in Regina before graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a Commerce degree. His broadcasting career began in 1969 and really climaxed in the 1970’s when he was paired with the legendary Ron Barnett, “The Bald Baron”, for Roughrider radio broadcasts on 620 CKCK.
“I find this hard to believe because John was the epitome of enthusiasm,” Barnett called in to say on the SportsCage on Monday. “He was so passionate for what he did and for the football team and for Saskatchewan generally. I just can’t imagine John being retired. He’s not a ‘retired’ kind of guy. He’s fidgety, and needs to be doing something all the time. I’m sure he’ll do something to keep him busy.”
Barnett’s doing the same, living in Coquitlam, BC but closely following the CFL’s Lions and Roughriders. I asked him what it was like working with Lynch for so many years.
“I would say John was my encyclopedia,” Barnett reflected. “He has encyclopedic knowledge of all the players in the league and particularly the Roughriders. If a question would ever arise about a player’s background, John had it in his head. He never had to look it up. His knowledge was fantastic and I really liked his passion for the Riders.
“He was a fanatic. He was a fan. On the air he was able to express that and I’m sure it came across to the fans.”
Barnett and Lynch called Rider games in the twilight of the “Ronnie and George” era, when Ron Lancaster and George Reed became Roughrider, and Canadian sports, icons.
“It felt good real fast because when they retired, John and I called the Rider games on CKCK for consecutive 2-14 seasons. That wasn’t fun at all,” Barney admitted. “We realized what we’d lost. We accepted things for what they were but realized after how bad it was. But those two players meant more to the Saskatchewan Roughriders than any two in their history, notwithstanding the current Grey Cup champion Roughriders.”
It was also right around that time when famed sportswriter Bob Hughes tagged Lynch with the nickname “John Frenzy”. It was because of the frenetic way in which Lynch approaches life. 30-some years later, the nickname still stands.
Tributes poured in during our radio broadcast on Monday, both from fans, former Riders and the team itself.
“Congratulations John!” Rider President Jim Hopson said on the phone. “I’m not sure that has sunk in yet. I can’t imagine Rider football and John Lynch not connected in some way. What’s amazing about John is he looked the same back in the 70’s. It’s been a great career. What a thing to say, 45 years!”
Hopson is no stranger to Roughrider radio broadcasts, first as a fan, then as player, as a fan again, and now as team executive. Remarkably, Lynch has been there through it all.
“I’ve always appreciated that you were never a bandwagon-jumper,” Hopson said. “You were always supportive. You’d be critical if need-be, but you never turned on the team.”
And he’ll never be adequately replaced either. Imagine – a good portion of the Rider Nation, maybe even the majority, don’t know what the Roughriders would be like without John Lynch on the radio talking about them.
They’re about to find out.
(For daily Rider news, follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)