POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 1, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:31 a.m. HST, Jul 1, 2011
For Larry Beil this week, aloha means welcome home.
But the former KGMB sports director, University of Hawaii radio play-by-play voice and ESPN SportsCenter anchor can never completely escape his current San Francisco viewer base — even while on vacation home in Hawaii.
While enjoying a Portuguese sausage omelet at Wailana Coffee House on Thursday, Beil was recognized by a Bay Area viewer who briefly and politely chatted him up.
Beil, 50, learned a long time ago that’s part of the game for a high-profile sportscaster. “I have to always be on my best behavior,” he said, only half joking.
He’s not here for job interviews, though, just his annual trip home with wife Sharla and daughters Kiana and Nikki. Beil said he didn’t really consider inquiring about possibilities with Oceanic Time Warner, now that the island cable entity has the rights to University of Hawaii sports.
A new challenge and opportunity at KGO, where he has been sports director since leaving ESPN in 2000, keeps Beil at the San Francisco ABC affiliate, at least for now.
“They’ve turned me into a hybrid. When Oprah retired the station started a 4 p.m. newscast. They said what we’d like you to do is be the news anchor,” he said. “On any given day we can talk about the NBA lockout or the economic crisis in Greece. I have to know about both now.”
He’s one of the busiest people in showbiz, following the news stint each day with sportscasts at 6, 9 and 11.
Beil doesn’t envision a complete break from sports any time soon. “I still love sports, and I’ve been doing news three weeks, sports for 25 years. I guess that means I started when I was 7.”
BEIL LEFT Hawaii in 1989 for a first go-round in San Francisco and was hired by ESPN in 1995.
He enjoyed his stay in Bristol, Conn., where he anchored SportsCenter and turned his signature home-run call of “Aloha means goodbye” into a national catch phrase.
But Beil missed Hawaii and California. When he returned to San Francisco in 2000, he said it was a lifestyle choice. It’s one he doesn’t regret today.
“We were there for six years. Didn’t want to be there for 16,” he said. “Proximity to Hawaii is important to us.”
His garb yesterday was testament to that. Beil wore a UH cap and shirt. “This is my attire, this is what I wear at home. My T-shirts are 90 percent University of Hawaii. I’ve got everything. I could open a Rainbowtique in California.”
In addition to wearing green, he bleeds it. From his perspective across the ocean and what he sees in his visits here, the popularity of UH sports is one constant over the years and decades.
“I think it will probably always be this way. So many people live and die with UH sports. I think that’s great, having grown up with it and having seen the football program’s near demise and recovery.”
The last game he did play-by-play before leaving for the mainland in 1989 was UH’s historic 56-14 win over BYU. He returned in 1998 with ESPN to work Arizona’s 27-6 victory over the Rainbows.
“When (Arizona’s) Chris McAlister started the game with a 100-yard kickoff return, I thought, oh my, this is going to be a long 3 hours.”
It turned out to be a long season — the one when Hawaii went 0-12. And Beil was witness to the resurrection the following year, as he worked the Oahu Bowl win over Oregon State capping the 9-4 reversal in June Jones’ first season.
“There’s a great sense of pride (among Hawaii fans on the mainland) when UH does well,” Beil said.
He counts ESPN’s current SportsCenter anchor with Hawaii roots, Neil Everett, among his “good friends.”
“I’m so happy for his success. He’s one of the most talented and humble guys I know. Because I’m not that humble,” said Beil, who has always deftly combined confidence and self-deprecation.
Beil said he and Everett, ESPN director Steve “Kahuna” Anthony, and Beil’s sister, ABC vice president of marketing Jan Sage in New York, all joke about returning to Hawaii at the same time. But Beil repeats he’s not after anybody’s job in news.
“Joe (Moore) is going to live to 100,” he said. “And well he should.”