In the modern age of hyperbole it doesn't always take too much for someone to be declared a legend. A classic play, a memorable win, a short but successful career -- sometimes that's all you need to have "legend" status bestowed upon you. But sometimes there are true, honest-to-God legends, people who do truly remarkable things and live incredible lives. Bob Brooks was, by any reckoning and without any doubt, one of those legends. He was a true institution in eastern Iowa, an institution in not just Iowa sports, but also Iowa high school sports and with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, whom he covered for decades.
But it's his history covering Iowa sports that will forever be his legacy for us. He saw -- and forgot -- more about Iowa sports than I'll likely ever know. He watched Nile Kinnick win a Heisman Trophy from the stands in 1939 and he watched C.J. Beathard guide Iowa to a 12-0 regular season from the press box at Kinnick Stadium in 2016. He covered Evy, Hayden, and Kirk. He saw Kinnick and Randy Duncan and Alex Karras and Cal Jones play. He saw Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon and Andre Tippett and Marv Cook play. He saw Tim Dwight and Tavian Banks and Nick Bell play. He saw Drew Tate and Brad Banks and Chad Greenway and Bob Sanders play. He saw Beathard and Shonn Greene and Adrian Clayborn play. He saw every significant Hawkeye for the last seven decades (and then some) that suited up in Iowa City. He covered Iowa's first Rose Bowl -- in 1957 -- and he covered Iowa's most recent Rose Bowl -- in 2016. He covered all the ones in-between, too, and all the other bowl games and Big Ten Championships, too.
And that's just Iowa football -- Brooksie was a fixture at Iowa basketball games for decades on end, too. He saw Bucky O'Connor's Final Four teams in the '50s. He saw Ralph Miller's "Six-Pack" teams in the 70s. He saw Iowa hoops rise to glorious heights under Lute Olson and Tom Davis -- and he saw it fall to ignominious lows under Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter, too. And he saw Fran McCaffery lead it back from those depths and become a regular presence in the NCAA Tournament once again. He covered Hawkeye greats from Murray Weir to Don Nelson to "Downtown" Fred Brown and John Johnson to Ronnie Lester and Bobby Hanson to B.J. Armstrong and Roy Marble to Chris Street and Jess Settles to Andre Woolridge and Chris Kingsbury to Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner to Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff -- among many, many, many others.
Brooks saw and chronicled decades of Hawkeye sports, from thrilling highs to crushing lows. And he did it all with warmth, grace, dignity, and his own inimitable style. There was no one else like Brooks -- and there will never be anyone else like him again. Rest in peace, Bob, and thanks for the decades of beautiful memories and unforgettable stories.
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Brooks' passing has also inspired some tremendous writing from his colleagues on the Iowa beat, who knew him well and cherished their time with him. I wanted to highlight some of those pieces; feel free to add more in the comments.
Cedar Rapids — all of Eastern Iowa, really — had Bob Brooks.
Brooks, whose broadcasting career spanned seven decades, died Saturday at age 89.
Brooks had a passion for high schools sports and a devotion to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but he covered everything from professional baseball to the Olympics.
"He's a legend in Cedar Rapids sports," longtime friend Bill Quinby said. "When Bob Brooks walked into your gym or your football field, he was recognized by everyone."
Phil Haddy, a former University of Iowa sports information director who worked with Brooks at KCRG, called him "a jewel for the city of Cedar Rapids."
"He was a true gentleman," Haddy said. "Probably not a nicer person that I've known or dealt with. ... He didn't say bad things about people. If he did, I never heard them."
Talent. Bob was a first-rate broadcaster for so many decades.
Younger people in this area may have no idea what a skilled play-by-play man and sports reporter he was for so long, on radio and television. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 because of the good work he did over six-plus decades, as well as the goodwill he built.
When Bob called an Iowa Hawkeyes or high school game on the radio, he got things right. He told you what was going on. The broadcast was about the game, not him. Yet, he always pumped genuine enthusiasm into the broadcasts, making each one important. Which, as he knew, they are to the people who care about them.
Brooks covered his first Rose Bowl with the Hawkeyes in 1956, joined by another broadcasting legend-in-the-making in the late Jim Zabel.
"That was a thrill," Brooks told the Register in December. "We were standing out in the courtyard waiting for our luggage and I turned to Jim and said, ‘Did you ever think in our lifetime we'd be out here?' "
Brooks' career was filled with big sporting events, but none were too small either. He covered everything from preps to the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor-league baseball team to the Olympics and was honored as Iowa's Sportscaster of the Year 10 times. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, is on Kinnick Stadium's media "wall of fame" and in 2011 witnessed his name permanently emblazoned on the press box at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids.
Stories like the one about his legendary tape recorder. In an era when most reporters use digital recording devices or their phones to capture audio, Brooksie stayed true to his handheld cassette player which he would sometimes play back at loud volumes much to the chagrin of those working near him. In the mid 2000s after Illinois played Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Brooksie thrust his tape recorder in the face of the Illini's star guard, Dee Brown.
"Yo, dawg, is that a VCR?" Brown asked.
"No, dawg," Brooksie responded with much derision. "It isn't."
In a convo about Bob 3 wks ago, Kirk Ferentz says is "now that's a legend." Listened to Bob on 1st day at Iowa in 81 pic.twitter.com/ojLtGxmVBm— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) June 26, 2016
I'm sure when these guys got together, it always was a heck of a conversation. pic.twitter.com/e9JdAwknoD— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) June 26, 2016
They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks: pic.twitter.com/yLB5wr5Oea— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) June 26, 2016
Tribute to Radio Icon Bob Brooks https://t.co/0a4Y7upVeF— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 26, 2016