BY JEFF FALK
Mike Givler has a face for television, a head for journalism and a voice for radio. He also has a heart for sports.
The Lebanon Daily News’ loss has been WLBR/WQIC’s gain.
Givler is one of the Lebanon radio stations’ newest play-by-play announcers/color analysts for live local sports broadcasts. In what now seems like some former life, Givler was also once the last sports editor that The Lebanon Daily News has ever had.
The parrallels between Givler’s former position and current gig are obvious – the connection with Lebanon County sports, the interaction with local coaches and student-athletes and the self-fullfillment one gets from enriching other people’s lives. But for Givler, it goes beyond that.
He has been, and always will be, simply a sports guy.
“I guess it just proves you can go home again,” said Givler. “I gave 15 years of my life to the Lebanon sports scene. I was laid off from the Lebanon Daily News in August of 2014, and four years later I was back in Lebanon County covering sports. I guess you can’t take the sports out of the sports guy. I really enjoy being back in the local sports scene.
“I probably like sports more than I should,” continued Givler. “I love it. I have a favorite team in every sport and I will go to great lengths to follow them. I’ve got a jersey collection and a man cave with stuff all over the walls. I’ve learned how much you can gain from sports. I love to compete, and the life lessons from sports can help you down the road.”
Givler is in his first season of calling local high-school games for WLBR/WQIC. He began in September, as a color analyst for the local station’s broadcast of county football games.
Currently, he works WLBR/WQIC’s coverage of local scholastic basketball games. Givler’s 20 games into a hobby/job that intrigues him, one which he is still learning about and refining.
“(Lebanon Daily News sportswriter) Pat Huggins works at WLBR/WQIC part-time,” said Givler. “He heard they were looking for new people to do broadcasts, and Pat thought of me. They contacted me and I told them I’d be interested. It’s one of those things you dream about when you’re a non-great athlete. I know the county. I know the landscape of the local sports scene. It’s something I wanted to try.
“For football, it was two-person teams, and I was always the color person,” Givler continued. “Basketball is a little tougher for me because it’s more constant. But I think I probably know basketball a little more. It’s more of ‘my game’. I think I’ve improved since I started. I’ve received some positive comments. But I’m just having a good time with it.”
Meticulous by nature, Givler’s attention to detail and passion for local sports comes through over the air. He has tried to personalize his radio work by incorporating more coaches’ and student-athletes’ reactions, through live and taped interviews.
In a different vein, Givler has also landed on his feet.
“My biggest fear is that I’ll be on the radio and have nothing to say,” said Givler. “I probably over prepare. I look at stats and preview stories and stories about the teams I’ll be covering, Basketball halftimes are ten minutes long and I’ll try to talk about how other county teams are doing. With basketball, you’ve got to be able to fill the time yourself. I try to be knowledgeable about the county and give everyone some love.
“I contact every head coach before I do one of their games, call them during the week before and record the conversation as part of the pre-game show,” Givler added. “The guys at the station wanted to take the broadcasts to another level. I tell the coaches, ‘If you want to send a player over to me after the game, I’d be happy to talk with them.’ It’s worked out great. I’m trying to make that aspect of the broadcasts different. With the current state of newspapers, they’re probably not getting the coverage they were.”
Drawing from a childhood that was filled with sports, Givler has sort of always wanted to try his hand at broadcasting. But his life took a different path, one that included newspapers, journalism and editing initally.
“It’s a bucket list thing,” said Givler of his broadcasting endeavor. “It’s a thing I always wanted to do. I always wanted to be a sports broadcaster, but things kind of went in the direction of newspapers and journalism. Who knows how far it will go? But I don’t have any interest in going to ESPN, or anything like that.
“Right now, the radio thing is new and exciting and fresh,” Givler added. “I wouldn’t go back to the journalism field. I’ve kind of run that course. It’s nice when the radio gig is over and you can pack up and go home. This just seems easier because you don’t have that back-end stress and deadlines.”
In 1999, Givler succeeded Bill Warner as the sports editor of The Lebanon Daily News. Until he was laid off in 2014, Givler managed a staff of three sportswriters and a handful of correspondents, laid out the daily newspaper and coordinated in-depth coverage of Lebanon County sports.
Now, Givler is emplyed full-time as a communications coordinator for the Synod of the Trinity, a non-profit organization associated with the Presbyterian church (PCUSA), in Camp Hill.
“Nobody ever covered Lebanon County sports the way we did,” said Givler, a resident of East Petersburg. “We covered that area like nobody else. You meet new people. You felt like you made a difference. But you don’t really understand what that work means until someone tells you. People do see it, what you do, and they respect it.
“The highlight for me personally was covering the Super Bowl (in 2001, when Lebanon native Kerry Collins quarterbacked the New York Giants),” continued Givler. “It was an opprtunity I wouldn’t have been able to get any other way. That whole week made the 15 years of stress worth it.”
Not unlike the newspaper industry, the future of radio broadcasts of local scholastic sports is in a state of flux. For Givler, part of the reward is simply loving what he does.
“I’m just hoping for more of the same,” said Givler. “Hopefully they’ll (WLBR/WQIC management) have me back next year. I enjoy football and basketball. I’m not going to go searching for anything more. It’s not a career change. It’s just another hobby. I hope they like what I brought to the broadcasts.”
In the name of Lebanon County sports.
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