After 14 years of gracing the air waves with the joy of Iowa sports, “On Press Row” will air for the final time on Friday, but host Gary Rima remained positive per usual, knowing that he will still be announcing UNI sports with his unwavering passion.
“I’ve had the time of my life for the past 14 years talking sports with you on this station,” Rima, a Strawberry Point native, said on Monday’s edition of OPR. “I’ve had a blast, and in the words of Dan McCarney when he got let go as Iowa State’s football coach, ‘I’ve had a hell of a run and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.’”
Rima, proclaimed as “the Sports Guy,” will continue to be a cornerstone in Cedar Valley and Iowa sports announcing for the Panthers with his trademark calls of “Oh baby, I love this team” and “Down goes Kansas, down goes Kansas.” Rima stood out from other broadcasters in that he let the emotions of the game flow through like none other. That strong passion will continue to be heard when listening to UNI’s games in the comfort of your living room, car or wherever you may be.
Additionally, the weekly coaches call-in show on Thursdays will continue in season.
“I’ve always enjoyed the coaches call-in shows ever since I started doing sports talk radio,” Rima said. “It’s always fun to be out at the Other Place, where we host the show. To get that time away from the arena or the stadium and get the coaches in that environment — I’ve always really enjoyed that.”
Calls started pouring in Monday when the announcement was made with avid listeners showing their gratitude. Among those listeners was Wapsie Valley head basketball coach and recent State Champion Marty McKowen, who Rima has a relationship with going back to the early days of his career in Oelwein.
“You know how much I love high school sports,” Rima said to McKowen on OPR. “I remember covering some of your games way back in the day when I got my start in sports broadcasting.”
McKowen was very grateful to Rima for his years and years of covering sports, most importantly to McKowen, high school sports.
“What an amazing run that you’ve had,” McKowen said on OPR. “I want to tell you how important you are to high school sports, not only in northeast Iowa, but across the state of Iowa. From the high school side of it, we’re just so proud of what you’ve done for us.”
Before McKowen, the first person to call in was UNI basketball head coach Ben Jacobson, who’s a longtime guest on the program.
“What you did today reminds us of what we already knew about you that you’re a Panther through and through and we appreciate you man,” Jacobson remarked. “Thanks again for being unselfish and being positive especially right now with everything that’s going on Gary. I can hear it in your voice how upbeat and positive you are. Just really appreciate it man.”
The next caller was a fellow regular guest in Panthers’ head football coach Mark Farley.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m an avid listener of yours, and you have been so special to our football team, our athletic department, heck our community,” Farley said. “It’s a sad day. My wife told me to tell you that the only way she gets information on UNI is through you.” Rima cracked up laughing, while continuing to listen to what Coach Farley had to say.
“You’re just as important to our football team as any coach or myself because you bring our game to life. I appreciate what you’ve done through all the years. We’ve got some strong teams. You’re going to be the voice of all of this and hopefully we’ll both end up on top with you leading the way.”
Rima felt the love and was very appreciative of everyone who called in Monday, starting with Coach Jacobson and Farley.
“That really meant a lot to me, first for them to take the time to listen to the show, and then to actually call in and share their appreciation and thoughts,” Rima said.
“Those are two tremendous coaches, tremendous people and they’ve both been really good to me as the play-by-play guy for their team. That was really special to hear from them right away.”
One of Rima’s first gigs in the sports broadcasting business was in Oelwein at KOEL. Back then “the Sports Guy” was a jack of all trades as he owned a sporting goods store and Shooky’s Sports Bar & Grill in Oelwein, while still working for KOEL. Then in the mid 90’s, Rima took over as the play-by-play voice of UNI basketball and football.
OPR came around later, starting on July 31, 2006. Rima still remembers the day he started a small radio show that turned into the biggest in the Cedar Valley.
“I think the thing that gives me a lot of pride is what we built really from the ground floor up from day one,” Rima noted. “When I did my very first show to think of jumping on a station that was going to be the only sports talk on that station. Then to build up the listening audience we did, and having it go to a two-hour show.”
Rima also mentioned the opportunity to give up-and-coming sports broadcasters a chance to learn the business alongside him as an in-studio producer and co-host. Everyone on the show had a sports nickname. John Leo was “the Sports Lion,” Logan Blackman was “the Sports Beast” and Joel Wauters was “the Sports Cat.” All of them learned from “the Sports Guy,” who is grateful for the 14 years that the show was on the air.
Rima will now have more time to enjoy life, relax and spend time with family, including 10 grandkids.
“When you’re committed to it, like I missed a lot of my grandkids’ events that I would’ve liked to have gone to,” Rima said. “It’s certainly going to free me up where I can spend more time with the grandkids. I’m looking forward to going to their events and seeing them participate in their sports and the things that they’re involved in.”
At the end of the day, Rima put it best that he had the time of his life while doing what he loves. He built something that he could call his own in OPR with great pride in covering Iowa sports.
“From day one, I wanted the emphasis to be on Iowa sports,” Rima said. “There was always more than enough to talk about. I’m just proud of what it grew into to a two-hour show, five days a week.”