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Scott Gray morning sports commentary on WTIC-Hartford Sept 30, 2004

Commentary for Thursday


My handsome visage has adorned the wall of a couple of landmark dining establishments in the Willimantic section of Windham, an honor usually reserved for special clientele. That my photo should show up on such walls has nothing to do with me. In each case it's a shot of Laurel and me having dinner with Wayne Norman.

His is a face that adorns many a wall in Eastern Connecticut, mine only made it by association. Saying Wayne Norman's name in the hills and valleys surrounding Windham is like saying "Open Sesame" to Ali Baba. It's the magic phrase. Only the uninitiated east of Bolton Notch don't consider themselves to be on a first name basis with the lanky, friendly, tossle haired host of the currently longest running radio show in Connecticut, and there aren't many in the region he encounters that he doesn't consider his friend.

Watching the way people greet Wayne, at sporting events, walking the streets of his town, or entering a local business, you'd believe he has family everywhere, and, in a way, he does. He treats everyone who's ever listened to "Breakfast with Wayno" on WILI-1400 Radio, or anyone who ever caught his always oncise commentary on UConn football and basketball games, like family because, well, just because that's the way he is. When he wraps one of those long arms around your shoulder and claps you in the grasp of one of those huge hamhocks of hands he pulls you into his inner circle for good.  Outgoing doesn't go far enough to describe Wayne's demeanor with everyone, from old friends to new acquaintances.

My own friendship with Wayne may be the oldest lasting friendship I have in this business, stretching back well over thirty years, and I couldn't be prouder of any minute of the relationship. As the saying goes, "You're known by the company you keep". My reputation couldn't be in better standing in Eastern Connecticut.

In 1979 Wayne filled in for me on a UConn-Navy football game on the Connecticut Radio Network and his UConn broadcasting career took root. In 1981 he was named to replace me on UConn football and basketball broadcasts full time when I accepted my current position. Unfortunately, a throat ailment kept him from immediately moving into the post and the great gentleman Dee Rowe kept the seat warm until Wayne was ready. When he was, a record run was underway.

Tonight Wayne Norman will sit alongside Joe D'Ambrosio in the broadcast booth at Rentschler Field in East Hartford to call UConn football's first ever Big East home game, against Pittsburgh. How fitting that it should mark Wayne's one thousandth UConn broadcast.

Most people never achieve legendary status, some of us only become legends in our own minds. Wayne goes beyond legend, he's an institution. He was Willimantic's first annual Valentine's Day "Cupid", a demonstration of just how much he is loved by the people in his town.  And he's the symbol of, and driving force behind, the Fourth of July "Boom Box Parade", for which he is annually the marshal, an event that has become one of the most nationally prominent celebrations of America's birthday.

He's been there for virtually every major UConn sports milestone, Tate's shot, the first, and second, men's national championships, all but one women's national title and the elevation of the football team to once thought unattainable heights. He's called Eastern Connecticut baseball to four national crowns.

Wayne Norman has done everyone of us in this business proud while leaving a legacy for those to come to live up to. To Wayne it's just all been in a day's work. Congratulations Wayne. Nobody, and I mean nobody, does it better. This one's from the heart buddy, from your old pal Scott Gray.

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