One night last fall I tucked my son into bed, and he was exhausted after spending several hours playing with his newest friend.
“Dad,” the boy, who was still 7 at the time, said as his eyes were fading to sleep. “I wish Gordon could be my brother.”
Grady was talking about his new best friend, Gordon Voit, the sports guy for KXLF-TV in Butte.
Gordon, who is a native of the Chicago area, visited our home to watch a Bears game. He stayed for dinner and then proceeded to stay to play with my kids in the back yard. He jumped on the trampoline and played football with Grady and his little sister for hours.
Together they reenacted historic plays, impersonated J.J. Watt and laughed until their bellies hurt.
When Gordon went home because the kids’ bedtime came and went, they were crushed. They didn’t want him to ever leave. Ever.
Those two kids are not alone. Gordon has young best friends all around Southwest Montana. He also has old best friends and best friends closer to his age. He knows the name of just about every man, woman and child around.
He plays games with the kids and then plays golf with their grandpas. The ladies at the bridge club absolutely adore him. That’s because, whether it is the quarterback or the security guard at the stadium, Gordon makes everybody he encounters feel like a superstar.
We’ve had lots of famous TV personalities in Butte over the years. Everybody knew Joe Wren, Shawn Ori and Dan Toth as the sports guys in town, and they were all great. Lisa (Gangel) Kerney had the talent and matching looks, and she now anchors SportsCenter on ESPN.
With Gordon, though, everybody knows him as a friend first. He is a close friend who just so happens to be the TV sports guy.
That charm carries over onto the television screen, and the few viewers who never had the chance to meet Gordon like him on the news. It is impossible to not like Gordon, who cleary has that special “it” quality that makes it easy to see that he will eventually make it bigtime in the world of television.
So, it was no surprise the other day when Gordon called to break the news that I knew had to be coming any day after his two-year contract with KXLF expired at the end of 2015. Gordon got a new job.
It isn’t the bigtime just yet, but it is definitely a step in that direction. Gordon will be the sports director and main anchor for WAND-TV in Decatur, Illinois. Decatur, the original home of the Chicago Bears, is about 180 miles south of the Windy City.
The TV station covers the area of Decatur, Champaign and Springfield, and Gordon will cover the University of Illinois. That is a very big deal.
It is also a very big loss for Southwestern Montana. KXLF will certainly hire somebody to take Gordon’s job. The station might have even done that already. But the station will never be able to replace Gordon. He is, without question, irreplaceable.
So, I had to sit down my two youngest kids to break them the news. I took the exact same approach that I would have taken if I had to tell them their dog died.
Grady started to cry, as I expected he would. Since the day he played with Gordon in the back yard, Grady asked no less than 50 times if I could call Gordon and ask him if he wants to come over to play.
Everybody wants Gordon to come over and play.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gordon’s time in Butte was how quickly he picked up on the sports scene of the area. Moving to a new area and adapting that quickly is hard to do, yet Gordon did it so seamlessly that you would swear he was a native.
He knows the Bulldogs, Maroons, Orediggers, Dawgs, Beavers, Coppeheads, Panthers and Trojans like Mel Kiper Jr. thinks he knows the NFL draft.
Most people probably don’t appreciate how hard that is to do, but I do. I worked in Moscow, Idaho, when I first got out of college, and it took me six months to realize the Troy-Deary rivalry is much different than the Troy-Genesee or the Genesee-Deary rivalries.
Gordon never had that problem in Butte. He got it right away. He came to town and was like a seasoned pro from Day 1.
KXLF is like a rookie league for sportscasters. They usually work hard in Butte for a couple of years and then move on to a bigger market. Rarely do they stay long enough for us to truly get to know them.
So we knew this day was coming for a long time, and I figured it would be bitter-sweet.
Apparently, the feelings are mutual. Here’s part of what Gordon wrote on Facebook when announcing his move.
“This is the truth: I don’t have friends in Southwest Montana. I have 80,000 family members. Thank you for all that you did and all that you are. I can’t express how much you mean to me, how big a fan I am of you and how proud I am to call Butte home.”
Gordon only has a few more days left before he packs up and heads to Illinois, and it will be a sad day when he signs off in Butte for the last time.
Here’s the thing, though, Gordon isn’t leaving to be the weekend anchor in Topeka, Kansas. He’s heading to be a big dog in a Big 10 market. More importantly, he’ll be covering his alma mater while living just three hours from his family.
He worked hard for this opportunity, and he’s definitely earned it. So it is great to see him jump at the chance, even though it is going to be as hard for him to leave Southwest Montana as it is for Southwest Montana to see him go.
Gordon is one step closer to his dream job, and there’s nothing at all bitter about that. I am just so incredibly happy for my friend.
My son will probably feel the same way in time.
Right now, though, he’s heartbroken that his brother is moving away.
— Bill Foley, who is not the Bill Foley from the Bill Foley Band, writes a column that typically appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 9 comments