After 42 years, Fred Roggin to sign off from KNBC Channel 4

They were beginners together. Fernando Valenzuela and Fred Roggin each made their Los Angeles debuts in September 1980.

33 years ago, Valenzuela threw his last pitch for the Dodgers. After a career in which he covered Valenzuela, Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky and Al Davis for Channel 4, Roggin is quitting the mic. His last day as a sports presenter there is Thursday.

It’s his decision, he says. He will continue to appear on his AM 570 radio show. He will explore opportunities in television production, whether hosting shows or inventing them for others. But after more than 42 years as a local sportsman, he’s ready to throw his final pitch off the anchor.

“I achieved dreams I didn’t know I had,” said Roggin, 65. “I was the happiest and most blessed person in the world.”

No farewell to Roggin would be fitting without an acknowledgment of the significant role he has played in revitalizing nightly local sports coverage here and elsewhere.

Sport used to be serious, talked about by serious people.

Roggin wasn’t one of them. A 1989 Times story about a new and lighter wave of sportscasters focused on Roggin and carried this headline: “Send In the Clowns.”

As a Channel 4 sports professional, Roggin continued the legacy of distinguished alumni such as Bryant Gumbel, Ross Porter and Stu Nahan. The station heavily promoted Roggin with its own tagline, “Fred will show you!”

“I said … that in an earthquake your odds were 1 in 3 of being crushed by a Fred Roggin billboard,” said Keith Olbermann in this 1989 story.

Olbermann was Channel 2’s sports guy back then, before becoming a household name on ESPN. Roggin stayed in LA and over the years realized that if you’d already seen it it wouldn’t matter if Fred could show you.

With apologies to older readers, a history lesson for younger readers: for a while you had to wait for the 11pm news to catch the highlights of the Dodgers and Lakers, and Fred was able to show you first. Then ESPN came along, and Fred could still show them to you, but hours later ESPN could. Then came the internet and the smartphone, and you could watch whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted.

“If we just sit and tell people what they already know,” Roggin said, “there’s no reason for them to watch us.”

This is not just an issue for Channel 4 or any other television network. This is an urgent dilemma for any media company, including this one.

For some fans, the bottom line is still a news item at 11 p.m. or in the morning paper. Not everyone looks at a screen at night. But for those who do, how do you attract viewers or readers?

Fred Roggin is sitting in a television studio.

For a time, KNBC-TV Channel 4 heavily promoted Fred Roggin with his own slogan, “Fred’ll show it to you!” Roggin more-or-less left the hardcore sports audience to ESPN and focused on everyone else.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Roggin pretty much left the hardcore sports audience to ESPN and focused on everyone else, with Hall of Shame blooper reels and Roggin’s Heroes segments, the sports talk-on-TV show Going Roggin, and “The Challenge” as a game show after the game.

And on Friday night, he himself presented high school football to a market of 20 million people.

“I’ve always believed that this is a point where we can carry our flag,” he said. “If you pick up the LA Times or read it online, the cover story isn’t about a high school kid or a high school game.”

Some days yes. The Times has embraced the dynamic duo of Eric Sondheimer and Luca Evans in high schools because, like Roggin, The Times sees an opportunity to reach new audiences.

It could work. Maybe not.

That really was the essence of rye. Not everything he tried worked, but he tried. In this age when teams and leagues are themselves offering scores and highlights and interviews, shouldn’t a local sports report offer something different?

“That’s not how local sports are approached across the country,” Roggin said. “It’s points and highlights. With all due respect to everyone who does it – and does such a great job – it just doesn’t have the relevance it used to have.

“That’s why you’re seeing local sports broadcast dying.”

Local sports coverage will continue in Los Angeles, on Channel 4 and beyond. After Thursday, however, they will no longer be broadcast live from Mr. Roggin’s neighborhood. After 42 years, Fred Roggin to sign off from KNBC Channel 4

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