Big-Time Broadcaster, Hometown Guy
Nationally known sportscaster Tim Brando still calls Shreveport home.
Tim Brando is Known Nationally But Enjoys Being a "Local"
How many frequent flier miles do you have?
If it's more than Tim Brando has, you're probably spending too much time away from home.
"I'm over five million on Delta. I'm over two million on American, and over one million on United," Brando rattled off without hesitation.
Those gaudy number of miles are what you get when you've been a national television sports play-by-play broadcaster for soon-to-be 38 years.
And the Shreveport native is about to add to his miles. On Aug. 26, Brando will start his 10th year with FOX Sports by calling a college football game in San Diego. This will be Brando's 52nd year behind the microphone, regardless of a game's status. His first broadcast was a high school match-up on Sept. 10, 1971. (Brando still remembers the date.)
"I'm as giddy now as I ever have been," the 67-year-old Brando said from his Southern Trace Country Club home – which he affectionately calls Chateau Brando. When I'm starting to (prepare) for my first game, it's as exciting as it was when I was preparing for that Captain Shreve-Neville game in '71. I always dreamed of doing this."
Simply put, Brando is a homegrown talent (a graduate of the former Fair Park High School) who has enjoyed an illustrious career with some of the biggest television sports networks. He worked nine years at ESPN (Brando was the original host of the now-iconic “College Gameday” show) but is perhaps best known for his 18 years at CBS. Brando was the Saturday college football studio host and called football and basketball games.
"He has been a long-standing play-by-play guy in a business where they will get rid of you rather quickly if they don't like you, or somebody better comes along," said John James Marshall, a local talk show host for most of 30 years and who teaches a media class at Loyola College Prep. "He's still standing. That's very much to his credit. He's maintained and prospered in a business that typically doesn't allow that. Nothing changes like the media business, and Timmy's still standing there with everybody else."
But "Timmy" was wobbly on his feet back in 2014. He was hosting “The Tim Brando Show,” a radio program that was also aired on CBS Sports Network – a sister cable TV network to CBS Sports. Brando called the Friday LSU-Arkansas game and hosted from New York the Saturday pre-game, halftime and post-game shows surrounding the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl.
"We had unbelievable ratings," Brando remembered. "That was just one of those incredible weekends." But soon came a call from Brando's executive producer – "the guy who was second in command."
"He called to congratulate me on a great weekend, and to tell me my show was going to be taken off the air in a week."
Brando was blindsided and freely admits his reaction sent him to the CBS canvas for a 10-count knockout.
"I will just say I didn't handle it particularly well. It was not one of my finer moments.
I was really, really upset about it. The contract for my radio show was totally separate from what I did for CBS Sports. But my reaction to that decision was something I really do regret."
Ultimately, CBS and Brando agreed to part ways. "I had put myself in that position. I had to look in the mirror and face the music." For several months, the music was solemn. Brando describes his time in limbo as "scary" and "perilous." His only option was going to work at the then-new SEC Network. Despite Brando's voice being synonymous for years with the Southeastern Conference, Brando wasn't too keen on the idea.
"I really did not want that to happen. If I had to take the SEC Network job, I think it would have been a noticeable step down for my career."
But just when it looked like Brando's decades-long run of calling network games might end – or at least be interrupted – his phone rang.
"My agent called and said, 'Tim, you're not going to believe this. We just got a call from the people at FOX. They want you to come out (to Los Angeles) on Monday. They want you to meet everyone. It looks like they're really interested.'"
A week or so later, the deal was done. Brando's career – which looked to be in critical condition – was once again healthy.
"It was a gift from heaven. I was dangerously close to seeing my career take a turn in the wrong direction. FOX was a godsend. They were an absolute godsend."
As a result of that "gift," Brando's assignments send him more to the western part of the country than the Deep South.
"Again, to his credit," Marshall said, "he's able to call a Washington-Washington State game just like he calls a Georgia-South Carolina game. That's the mark of a professional."
Brando, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, can live anywhere in his line of work. But the married (almost 45 years) father of two chooses to live in his hometown. Brando moved back in 1990 from Bristol, Conn., while still working for ESPN. These days, don't be surprised to see Brando getting groceries in Brookshire's or in Strawn's with wife Terri having lunch and strawberry pie.
"This is where the dream began. I love being around the people who always knew who I was and what I was about, and aren't terribly impressed with who I am. That's Shreveport in a nutshell."
Marshall thinks the decision to come home – and stay home – says a lot about Brando.
“That, to me, is just amazing – that he didn't just big-time Shreveport. 'Well, thanks for the start, but I'm on my way to L.A. or New York, because that's where all the people are and the action is.' He came back here. That's embracing your roots right there."
During football season, Brando flies to his game on Thursday and returns home Sunday – taking the earliest flight back. When it's basketball season, the grandfather of four ("They call me 'Big Daddy B') is on the road longer, typically calling two games a week.
"I've had it happen many times where a courier was coming to a Hampton Inn in Ames, Iowa, to bring me my suit right before I had to get to the game."
You may not recognize Brando this fall. Over the spring and summer – Brando's "off-season" – he lost 37 pounds. The extra weight was, Brando said, the result of early flights, sleep deprivation and poor eating habits on the road.
"It was a goal for me to get back to my TV weight when all this began for me at age 29, in 1985. I walk non-stop, and even in this heat, I walk rounds of golf. That's about 14,000 steps when I play, but even when I don't, it's a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. That's been key."
Brando, who signed a contract extension through 2026 earlier this year, doesn't plan to call it a career anytime soon. But he thinks he will recognize when it's time.
"At some point, when you don't want to get on that airplane, that's when you will know. I think that's the first (sign). It's more difficult to get around now than it ever has been. I'm not going to lie – it is. But if you're excited about where you're going, and you're being treated as well as anyone could possibly be treated at your destination – and I am – then it's not so bad."
Neither is continuing to rack up those frequent flier miles.