Sunday morning I will arrive at the radio station and for the first time in five years not be greeted by a guy who loves talking sports--all sports, any time, any time to any one.
He would greet me with the same enthusiasm each week whether the Buckeyes had won or lost. It didn't matter if the Blue Jackets were in the playoff hunt or not. It didn't matter whether or not the state basketball tournament was going on or the state field hockey tournament, the enthusiasm was always there.
Larry Larson retired last Sunday. He won't be in the studio with me this Sunday.
No way the show can be the same.
Oh sure, I've got some guests lined up. The show will follow the same general format. But without Larry Larson, the enthusiasm and passion may fall short.
Larry Larson loves sports--all sports. He loves football, basketball, baseball, hockey, Sprint Cup racing, horse racing, soccer, and any sport ever played by a high school athlete.
He just turned 67 years old but he still approaches sports like an excited kid recounting the events of his first Buckeye game or first trip to a big league ballpark.
He loves the games, the results and the outstanding individual performances whether it be a Rick Nash hat trick, a Troy Smith touchdown pass, or a Fairfield Union softball game.
He loves to stump people with interesting statistics. "What team in the majors has the best record since last August?", Larry would ask hoping you wouldn't guess it correctly.
"Who has more assists in the playoffs than Wayne Gretzky had at this time of his career?" Larry loves quizzes like this and would bring them in on Sunday mornings to put a little charge into the day.
Larry was never a big fan of controversy, choosing to highlight a positive high school effort over another Buckeye getting in trouble. We never spent a whole lot of time talking about holdout linebackers or drug abusing outfielders.
We barely touched the NFL lockout this summer and he was always able to find the positive ray of sunshine sneaking into another dismal Blue Jackets spring.
Because he is tirelessly positive, he is able to fight off that jaded edge that ultimately consumes everyone in our business.
He likes the Buckeyes for the same reasons he learned to love them as a kid in the 50's. He appreciates the dedication of high school athletes the same way he did when he was the Athletic Director at Grandview. That, never changed.
I will miss that.
Larry and I were lucky enough to have some big time guests on our show: Jack Nicklaus, Jim Tressel, Rick Nash, Gary Bettman, and countless former and current Ohio State football and basketball standouts.
None would make Larry smile the way our high school Athletes of The Week did.
It didn't matter if it was a state champion cross country runner, a diver, an all conference baseball player, or a golfer from Marion county. Larry would bring these guests on and treat them like Super Bowl Champions.
He used words like "great", "outstanding," and "spectacular" liberally. He would bring kids on the air by saying "It's our honor to speak with Lauren Prochaska" (Or whomever.)
From anyone else, that might sound like lip service, but for Larry, it was as sincere as it could be. Virtually every time we had a high school athlete on the air with us, Larry would look at me and smile and pump his fist as if to say "Isn't this great?"
I will miss that.
Larry gives credit to his late wife Jeanie for keeping him always looking forward. For teaching him never to be concerned with what's happened in the past and always looking ahead to what tomorrow may bring.
Imagine the power of Larry's positive outlook and Jeanie's "never-look-back" style. They were a power house.
Larry lost Jeanie three summers ago and it hurt.
He's had her in his heart every day since her passing and done his best to maintain her mantra of always looking forward-never back. But it's been tough.
Because for a positive guy like Larry, at the end of the day you want to come home and share all that good news with your best friend. Larry hasn't been able to do that and it's taken it's toll.
Imagine your team winning it all or a neighbor kid winning a state title and the person you most want to share the news with isn't there.
For the last three years, Larry's only option been sharing the news with his radio listeners.
He's punched up his reporter with phrases like "Excitement, Excitement, Excitement" or "How about that?" but it hasn't been the same since Jeanie died.
He picked up a gig tending bar at Planks so he could talk sports with real people when he wasn't on the radio. As much as he enjoyed announcing the arrival of luminaries when they arrived at Planks or talking about the latest Blue Jackets acquisitions while serving up a Bud Light, it still didn't fill that void that hit him when he got home.
So Larry's heading to California to share his sunshine in a place that despite it's reputation could use some positive rays.
He will live just blocks away from his daughter and grandchildren. He will have a new door to walk through each night and a new place to look forward to exploring every day. California will be better the day he arrives.
With all due respect to Jeanie, I'm not looking forward to looking forward--at least not right now. The radio show won't be the same without Larry Larson.
How could it be?