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ESPN's Cowherd recalls career turn


Colin Cowherd hated his first job in Las Vegas so much that he tossed his wardrobe in a dumpster.

It was August 1988 on a 114-degree day, the ESPN radio host said. He was in town for his induction Saturday into the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame at Red Rock Resort.

Cowherd’s career-altering meltdown occurred at the intersection of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.

He was a year and a half into selling ads for the Las Vegas Stars, the San Diego Padres’ Class AAA affiliate.

“I went out on a sales call, and it stunk. I got turned down,” Cowherd said Friday, during a sit-down with ESPN 1100’s “Gridlock” team at Born and Raised sports bar and restaurant.

It didn’t help matters that the air conditioner didn’t work in his blue AMC Pacer, a sauna on wheels. And Cowherd was going off the rails.

“I rolled up the windows, turned up the heat full blast and decided at that minute I was giving up sales and I’m going to flush all the negative toxins out.”

He drove to his apartment, “took all my clothes and suits and threw them in a dumpster. I decided on that day if I’m going to make no money, I’m going to work at what I love.”

During his interviews Friday, Cowherd praised numerous Las Vegans who helped him land his first broadcast job.

They included longtime baseball executive Don Logan, radio honcho Tony Bonicci and former Stars owner Larry Koentopp.

Logan hired Cowherd at the 1985 winter baseball meetings in San Diego. Three years earlier Cowherd had graduated from a tiny rural Washington school in a class of 24.

“There were probably 10 jobs and 400 guys like me,” said Cowherd, referring to his job hunt in San Diego. Logan later told him he was the “only guy who wasn’t petrified. So I had a little attitude.”

The Stars hired Cowherd to do sales for $7,800 a year ($11,800 a year later). The deal included an inning on the air. “So for a couple of years, that was my broadcasting.”

Bonicci gave Cowherd, then 23, the green light to do morning commentaries. He turned an internship at KVBC-TV, Channel 3 (now KSNV) into a job as an award-winning sports director.

Cowherd had arrived here after heeding the advice of a college professor who told him to leave — in a good way.

“I was 16 credits shy (at Eastern Washington State) when he came up and said, ‘Leave. I’ve never told a kid that but I think you’re wasting your time in college.’

“He said, ‘Get on the air. Las Vegas and Phoenix are exploding.’ ”

Cowherd, who turns 50 Jan. 6, said careers are built on “years of masonry, laying bricks, working hard. I still get up every morning and watch ‘SportsCenter’ and show up three hours before my show and do the menial prep because I love the business. And it all started here.”

Riding the success of his rise at ESPN, Cowherd has a new Sunday football show coming up and a book titled, “You Herd Me! I’ll Say It, If Nobody Else Will” hits the bookshelves in November.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

The vacancy created by the Meatball Spot’s move from Town Square to Planet Hollywood, in a deal that includes Britney Spears as an investor, will be filled by the first off-Strip Sugar Factory brasserie, it was announced last week.

SIGHTiNGS

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, in the audience at “Michael Jackson One” on Saturday. … Irish actor Colin Farrell, working out at Vegas Hot Yoga and Pilates Studio on Rainbow Boulevard on Saturday. … Fox News Chief White House correspondent Ed Henry and colleague Juan Williams, dining at Rao’s (Caesars Palace) on Friday with Henry’s wife, Shirley, and Williams’ two sons. Later they dropped into La Comida on Fremont Street. Henry was among the inductees in the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Justin Bieber did something nice yesterday and he wants to make sure you know about it. He was driving through L.A. and happened upon a woman who asked him for money. So he stopped and handed her money and posted a picture of himself on Instagram. Always give back: a good message. Maybe we can give him back to Canada.” — Jimmy Kimmel

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.