By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Last year, the University of Hawaii embarked on seven road trips, accumulating nearly 40,000 air miles. By the end of the regular season, the 2021-22 Rainbow Warrior basketball team will have flown some 25,000 miles. Combined, that’s 65,000 miles. That, friends, is a lot of traveling.
No one knows this more than Bobby Curran, who travels with both teams as ESPN Honolulu’s play-by-play announcer.
In his 34 years of broadcasting UH football and basketball games, Curran says he’s logged more than 1.7 million air miles. That amounts to more than 68 times around the equator.
“It’s a reminder that I’ve wasted a lot of my life on airplanes!” he says, smiling.
As you are reading this, Curran is prepping for yet another road sojourn, this time to Southern California to call the UH men’s basketball team’s final road games of the regular season: a Thursday contest at UC Santa Barbara, then a Saturday game at CSUN. After that, he’ll hop on another plane to Las Vegas to broadcast the Rainbow Warrior and Rainbow Wahine games in the Big West Tournament (March 9-12).
Curran says he’s grown accustomed to logging frequent-flyer miles, although air travel isn’t what it used to be.
“It used to be really fun back in the day because they used to treat you really nice on airplanes,” Curran explains. “Once I accumulated enough miles, they would occasionally bump me up to a first-class seat, and that was luxurious. Now, it’s changed a little bit, especially during this time of COVID, Travel’s become more difficult for everybody. I’m not an anti-mask guy. I don’t have any of those issues. But I’m around a lot of people who are complaining all the time about the long waits in line or the impositions of COVID requirements and so forth. So that’s a little different.”
He isn’t complaining, however. He says life on the road has its perks.
“What I love is, I get a chance to see all these wonderful campuses,” he says. “Otherwise, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten to visit the University of Alabama or the University of Florida – or Michigan, Wisconsin or Oregon, just to name a few destinations. It’s really fun to visit and enjoy these settings, take a tour of the campus, that kind of thing. That stuff is really a fun part of the job.
“I thought the University of Michigan was especially beautiful. It was also really fun to go to Alabama because I got to go to the Bear Bryant Museum, which is about maybe 500 yards from the stadium. There’s always a former Alabama star there. The day I was there, it was the late Kenny Stabler. Those guys are there every Friday meeting fans and answering questions. That was a great time.”
It isn’t all fun and games, of course. Sometimes, road trips can get downright treacherous, especially during the winter months.
“I was leaving Logan, Utah once after we played Utah State, and I was the last car allowed without chains on my tires,” Curran recalls. “There had been a bad snowstorm. The state cop said, ‘I don’t know if we should let you go. It’s going to be dangerous.’ And he was right. I did two 360’s, where the car just spun on ice out of control. I was only going 30. I just tried to enjoy it as if it were an amusement park ride. I mean, there was nothing I could do. I had no control whatsoever.”
On another occasion, Curran was driving to the airport after a non conference game in Northern Arizona. Black ice warnings were issued. (Black ice is a transparent glaze of ice that forms on the road.)
“That was the scariest drive I’ve ever made,” says Curran. “It’s about 6,000 feet straight downhill from Northern Arizona to get to the airport in Phoenix. Trust me, I was white-knuckling it the whole way.”
Whether it’s Long Beach or Riverside, Reno or San Jose, in the Mountain West, Curran has become well acquainted with these Big West and Mountain West cities and towns.
“Yeah, there are certain restaurants that I like going to,” he says. “When we went to Fresno State, we used to stop at this one particular place, and I always got the pastrami sandwich. I mean, it was unbelievably good. But that place closed. When Riley Wallace was the basketball coach, he had this crazy [superstition] about the Golden Corral. He had to eat there. They once scored a big upset after going to a Golden Corral. That meant that every road ensuing road trip, even if you had to drive 45 minutes, you’re going to a Golden Corral!”
For Curran, one of the most difficult things about being on the road is missing out on family time.
“That is absolutely true. You hit it on the head,” Curran agrees. “For example, one of my sons is going to this doctor every day for this study. When I’m on the road, my wife Jo has to do it, and that interrupts her work. So the traveling does make things tougher. It puts so much on my wife. And for anybody in my business that travels to games, let me be clear: The spouses are the real superstars. They have to do so much of the work.
“You do miss a lot of that stuff. Fortunately, my wife’s birthday and our anniversary are in the summer. I miss out on my kids’ games and school functions and plays. But in the end, that just comes with the territory. I don’t ever complain about that because, in many ways, this job is a blessing. The dangling carrot is that you land someplace, and then you get to call college games. In my case, basketball and football. And I love that. I have never, ever sat in a broadcast booth or at a broadcast table and not been absolutely over the moon. I’m as excited as you can be. That feeling has not gone away, and I don’t know if it ever will. Right before kickoff or tip-off, the engineer and whoever your partner is, you give them fist bumps and say, ‘Let’s have a great broadcast, guys!’ That’s pretty special.”
Curran isn’t planning on hanging up his headphones and disconnecting his microphone anytime soon.
“Last year, I missed the Nevada road game,” he says. “I was there, but I got this altitude sickness where my oxygen dropped. Later, [the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s] Stephen Tsai researched the numbers and told me that the week before, I had called my 400th consecutive football game. Then he asked me how I felt about my streak ending.
“I said, ‘Time to start a new streak!’”