Posted by madcityradio.com on August 21, 2008 at 07:56:40:
Behind the Mike: Even in the booth, McCarren still a Packer
Like everyone else trying to cover the Brett Favre story, Green Bay sportscaster Larry McCarren often felt like he was caught between a rock and a hard place.
You can take that literally, too, since McCarren is still known as the "Rock" from his playing days as an unshakable center for the Packers.
In other words, he was rock steady -- as reflected by his 162 consecutive starts.
Since 1988, McCarren has been the sports director at WFRV-TV/Ch. 5 in Green Bay, the CBS affiliate. But you may have a different frame of reference beyond his work on TV, or the playing field.
You may know Larry McCarren solely from his analysis on the Packers Radio Network, where he will be entering his 10th season as Wayne Larrivee's partner and 14th season overall after starting as the third man in the booth with Jim Irwin and Max McGee.
In any case, there's no mistaking McCarren's passion for football, his loyalty to the home team, or his candidness.
There's no mistaking that he played 12 NFL seasons in the trenches, either, just by the look of his mangled pinky finger -- the product of the hand-to-hand combat.
"I like football guys -- the kind who play and coach -- and I like the game itself," McCarren said. "Football attracts a certain breed and I like the kind of guy who doesn't call in sick. Or who has to be on his deathbed before he does. I think it's the greatest team sport that there is.''
McCarren has been the host of a number of Packer-based television shows, and there's no gray area on his allegiance. Especially when he's in the radio booth.
"I've had people say, 'You're kind of a homer,'" related the 56-year-old McCarren, who played collegiately at Illinois. "My reaction is always, 'Duh' -- 99 percent of our listeners are Packer fans.
"I have no qualms about being upset when things go bad, or being happy when things go good. That's part of the magic and fun of being home team radio.
"This is not to say that you can't say what went wrong or you can't be critical. But a huge majority of your audience wants it from the home point of view."
There is a comfortable give-and-take and chemistry between McCarren and Larrivee, the Packers' play-by-play voice.
"Wayne is totally different than I am as far as how he sees the game, and how he calls it," McCarren said. "I don't know that I could ever be that excited about anything. But he's accurate, thorough and he brings a lot of juice to the party."
What does McCarren see as his most pressing challenge as a radio analyst?
"Seeing the game, seeing what is truly important in a particular play," he said, "and being able to describe that in understandable terms to the listener. Some days, you'll see the game in color and high definition. Other days, you'll see it in black and white, and it's really grainy."
But there is a bottom line. "I'm always trying to be consistent with bringing something more (to the broadcast) than the painfully obvious," he said.
Chuckling, McCarren pointed out, "If I come out of a game and I've said only a half-dozen truly stupid things, then I probably had a good day."
One of McCarren's greatest strengths is the ability to keep things in perspective, without taking himself too seriously. But the Favre saga was taxing on many fronts, even for an old pro like McCarren, a member of the Packers' Hall of Fame.
"I don't think we'll ever see something as big or as important to the fans," he said. "This was a story that wouldn't go away, and didn't lose its life. If anything, there was a little more gas thrown on the fire every day, so it just kept getting bigger.
"Competitively, it seemed like there were eight million people chasing the story. I personally don't view myself as a very good reporter -- I'm more concerned with what happens once they step on the field. Working with that handicap, it was challenging because you hope you're not the last guy in line to find out (something)."
McCarren considers Favre to be a friend. But not a close friend. Over the years, McCarren has limited his requests, knowing the demands on Favre's time. "And when I needed him to do a local show, he would always do it," McCarren added.
What bugs McCarren is how things ended between Favre and the Packers. "There are two sides to the story and both sides could make a strong defense," he said. "But it's a shame that his career came to an end in Green Bay the way it did. It should have never gotten to this point."
Count McCarren among those who believe Aaron Rodgers can do the job.
"He will be a good NFL quarterback," he said. "I've had the luxury of watching him for three years almost every practice. I saw the progression and the Packers' comfort level -- that Rodgers is ready. I understand that totally, because he is ready in terms of physical ability and mental makeup."
Recognizing the enormity of Rodgers' job -- following Favre -- McCarren said, "I don't think the job is too big for him."
Nor does he think that Favre will tarnish his legacy with the New York Jets.
"Time heals all wounds and it will heal this one," McCarren said. "There will come a day when Brett will be standing in Lambeau Field and the place will go crazy when they're talking about his induction into the Hall of Fame and retiring his jersey, and I'll enjoy every second of it."
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