the father-son bond
By Linda Cavanaugh, 1998 Inductee
It was a daily ritual in our newsroom. A special moment between father and son.
Every time Bob Barry, Jr. (BBJ) came in for his shift, he’d make his way over to his legendary sportscasting dad and give him a big, messy kiss on the cheek.
They’d both laugh, hug, and then move on to do what they did best: reporting sports in such a way that they endeared themselves to sports and non-sports fans alike.
The senior Bob Barry’s career got a jump start after he fell out of a second story window.
The childhood accident required weeks of bedrest. Bob used that time listening to play-by-play calls on the radio and mimicking the rapid-fire delivery of the announcer.
It served him well.
Decades later, when famed University of Oklahoma Football Coach Bud Wilkinson was looking for a new sportscaster to be the voice of the Sooners, he handpicked Bob Barry.
It was a milestone in a career that set the standard for those who followed.
At various times during his five decades in sports, Bob served as the play-by-play announcer for both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Perhaps it’s a testament to his fairness and professional demeanor that fans from both rival schools considered him friend.
Bob was always looking for new ways to entertain viewers while still giving them credible sports information.
That’s how our weekly “Football Predictions” segment got started. Bob thought it would be fun if we’d pick the college football teams we believe would win that weekend’s games. Bob took it seriously. He talked about the logic behind his choice and went into detail about the game.
I had no clue what I was doing—which is why he asked me to join him.
And yet, I’d constantly win. Blind luck. He said it made it tough to face his golf buddies.
Things didn’t always go as planned when we did the predictions.
One week, Bob had the folks at Oklahoma City Zoo bring out a baby gorilla. The premise was that even a monkey, or gorilla, could predict winners better than Bob. The predictions were going fine until suddenly the gorilla bit Bob’s thumb. The Zoo handler rushed up and said, “Has to have a tetanus shot now.”
I turned to Bob and said, “Are you current on your tetanus shot?”
Before Bob could answer, the handler grabbed the gorilla and said, “Not Bob! The gorilla!”
Bob lost that week.
Like his dad, BBJ was a guy who loved sports and worked hard every day to get it right.
But BBJ didn’t try to copy his dad’s style. He had his own. Full of energy and fast-moving.
He’d be out covering an event, rush back to the station, throw on a suit jacket and tie, sit down in the studio, and anchor the sports period what viewers couldn’t see because of the anchor desk were the shorts and athletic shoes he didn’t bother to change. He knew he’d be heading out to cover the next event as soon as the newscast ended.
BBJ never lacked enthusiasm or the desire to capture the viewer’s attention, which may explain what happened that one April Fool’s Day in 1982.
BBJ was anchoring the noon news. It was his first year at the station. Just before the commercial break, he announced that then University of Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer had resigned immediately to become the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
At the same time, the producer was yelling in BBJ’s ear piece that he was out of time. So, BBJ tossed to the commercial break without saying “April Fools.”
The phones went crazy. Sports Illustrated called. The Associated Press wanted confirmation of the story. It spread rabidly.
Although the news anchor and BBJ corrected the blunder after the commercial break, the “breaking story” had a life of its own. BBJ had to tape an apology that ran that night during the later newscast because he had a few unscheduled days off—compliments of his dad.
BBJ would later laugh that he was half-right. He just had the date wrong. Barry Switzer would go on to coach the Dallas Cowboys in 1994— 12 years after BBJ’s April Fool’s Day announcement.
Robert “Bob” Barry was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism aHall of Fame in 1998. He died when he was 80 on October 30, 2011. Bob Barry, Jr. was inducted in 2016, a year after he died in a motorcycle accident.