A broadcaster’s life: 64-year-old Coppock faces challenge of staying relevant in young person’s game

If you live in Chicago and New York, you don’t need an introduction to Chet Coppock, the one-of-a-kind sportscaster full of enough bombast and bravado to fill Soldier Field.

And if you don’t live in either of those towns, this story still is highly relevant. It provides a snapshot of a broadcast lifer facing the challenge of being 64 in a young person’s business. He hardly is alone as countless veterans try to stay afloat in the constantly changing market.

Coppock recently gave this advice to a young broadcaster: “I said make all the dough you can before the age of 50. After 50, all bets are off.”

At one point, Coppock was that young person, enjoying the good life at the top. He was the sports anchor for the NBC affiliate in Chicago; launched a highly-rated show that was the forerunner for sports talk radio; and then took his act to Broadway working as a host for Cablevision in New York. In between, he did commercials with athletes like Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.

“I made $275,000 per year when I worked for Ch. 5 (in the early ’80s),” Coppock said. “In New York, it was into the 5s and 6s (as in $500,000-600,000). I won’t see that kind of money from a single entity again.”

Coppock then joked, “I don’t blow as much money on fur coats as I used to.”

So what do you when the phone stops ringing? Retirement isn’t an option. Coppock says he still has the hunger to work.

In his view, the course of action was clear: Hustle his tail off.

“I have to accept that Ch. 7 (in Chicago) isn’t going to come and say, ‘We want you to replace Mark Giangreco,'” Coppock said. “I have to accept the opportunities in the past aren’t going to be there. The stations want younger guys. I understand that. Heck, I was 31 when I joined Ch. 5.”

So Coppock finds the opportunities where he can. He does video work for the Chicago Blackhawks and serves as the studio host for Notre Dame football on radio. Coppock wrote a book and is constantly on Twitter and Facebook in an effort “to keep my name out there.”

His big endeavor is something called Noozebox.com. Working with Mike Romano, it is a Chicago-based site that covers and comments on all things sports from high school hockey to the Super Bowl.

“We found our niche with high school hockey,” Coppock said. “I don’t think people realize how big it is in Chicago. It’s enormous. We put up a video with a kid, and we get 1,500 hits minimum. I’m very optimistic about where it’s going. I see it as part of the new age.”

In a previous age, Coppock was front and center in New York or the voice of sports radio in Chicago. As late as 2009, he had a presence working weekends for the ESPN Radio outlet in Chicago. Then he took an offer to work at a web-based sports talk station founded by sports radio personality Mike North. The enterprise blew up quickly when the Feds learned that the owner, David Hernandez, was using a Ponzi scheme to fund the station and other businesses.

“That hit me like a left hook,” Coppock said.

Suddenly out of a job, Coppock had trouble finding a landing spot on Chicago radio. As he would say, “Everyone’s dance card was full.” He admits it was painful.

“There was a great deal of anger,” Coppock said. “It became obvious I was no longer in big demand. I began to literally think, ‘I’ve been called the Godfather of sports radio. That should give me a license to work until the day I die.’ Well, it didn’t work that way.”

Eventually, Coppock said acceptance of his situation helped him change his outlook. It has helped him to forge on.

Yes, it’s been humbling for a man who never has been humble. But you do what you have to do, Coppock said, especially when retirement isn’t on the agenda.

“You can’t beat yourself up,” Coppock said. “I’m proud of my legacy. You should be comfortable in your own skin. I have no bitterness. Disappointment? Hell, yes. But this business has given me more fun than any one person should be allowed to have. I’m looking forward to having more.”

And then in typical Coppock overstatement, he said, “With that being said, I’ll probably jump out of the window tonight.”

2 thoughts on “A broadcaster’s life: 64-year-old Coppock faces challenge of staying relevant in young person’s game

  1. As for some of the comments, it’s easy to be negative. For instance, I’m still waiting for Chet to finish his question to Bob Love on whether the Bulls will ever win an NBA title. But Chet, like the Swirsk (I’m partial to Ohio U. guys since one of my sons went there), helped get sports talk off the ground in Chicago (a note: when I worked for the Miami Herald Larry King did a late-night gabfest which often turned to the Dolphins and horse racing). And, frankly, Mr. Sherman was one of the best to don a Tribune jersey. Keep it up, Ed.

  2. ed: This is really great. I just happened upon it and could read it all day. If I didn’t have a deadline to meet.
    Thanks for it,

    Sam Donnellon, Philadelphia Daily News

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