Farewell to Gordon Voit; gone but never forgotten

First, I can’t believe I’m writing about a TV guy. Then again, Gordon isn’t just ANY television reporter.

Gordon Voit embodies all that is good and real in sports, journalism and life itself. It just so happens he has managed to wrap all of those qualities into one refreshing package.

A soft-spoken University of Illinois grad finds himself in Butte/Bozeman at KXLF, the local CBS affiliate in Southwestern Montana, within a few months of work earns the respect of the entire market. Yep, sounds about as believable as an old timer and his fishing story.

In a business that is definitely cutthroat, one that sometimes results in jabs and insults from other news entities, Gordo never lost who he was. Even the story of how he was hired for his first post-graduate job here is one of legend.

One would imagine a Big 10-level journalist shouldn’t have a problem landing a sports reporting job in any choice of markets, but as he told me that wasn’t the case. After a trip and interview in Binghamton, NY, he was left with an uneasy feeling. He had known about an opening at KXLF-KBZK but wasn’t granted an interview. Speaking with his father, he was unsure about the upstate New York gig and wondered about continuing his search.

“He told me to get on a plane and go to Montana,” Voit told me yesterday following his final game covered in Anaconda, a girls’ softball game played in what should be better described as ice fishing weather.  

“Wait, what? You didn’t have a job interview and you flew here without knowing anyone?” I asked. Unreal, right?

That’s all you need to know about the dedication and drive of Gordo. Once he landed in Bozeman he tracked down sports director Ted Dawson to discuss an impending position. He’d do anything to get his foot in the door.

“I didn’t have a flashy reel,” he said, basically describing his television resume.

But what Gordon does have is class. You put him in an interview, one-on-one, discussing his thoughts and what he could do to improve the stations coverage, and he’ll knock your socks off.

“I gave him 10 instances how I would improve the product,” he said.

And the rest is history.

Gordon is leaving Butte after a remarkable three years where he has bridged the gap between Big Sky Conference and small-town athletics. He’s earned the trust of every beat, shying away from the controversial topics and instead putting all his energy into highlighting the athletic achievements of those who normally don’t get noticed.

Being in the business of sports media, it’s a rarity to find a reporter that hasn’t had a negative opinion or take at one time or another — and the only reason I can say it never happens is because Gordon is the outlier. Always upbeat, never a frown to be found, you’d think Stuart Smalley got a haircut, went to a terrible sports university and decided “Yep, I’m going to be a television sports anchor.”

As a newspaper reporter in Butte and Anaconda, my job was to provide the top coverage I could on area athletics. But really that wasn’t as important at scooping those damn TV guys. And with some of them, it was easy. Most were lazy and vain, caring only about the hot-take and single cut highlight during a 3-minute segment aired after some lying ass weatherman misdiagnosed the upcoming week’s temperatures.

Looking back, KXLF has given the area gold. Aslan Hodges, Shane Ewing and Bobby Oler were all very accomplished in their coverage, doubling up as personable people away from the spotlight. But Gordon is different. He didn’t just learn the beats, he entrenched himself into the community.

Gordon brought the often forgotten athletes in towns like Anaconda, Whitehall and Deer Lodge into the same light as those in Butte and Bozeman. It was his passion finding about those with rare talents who were always overlooked, and with every passing interview and story, he earned more and more trust from those extended communities.

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me about having Gordon as a dinner guest at their homes. Before leaving he was considered a part of their extended family. A column from Bill Foley of buttesports.com http://buttesports.com/no-replacing-friend-gordon-voit/ gives you an idea of how another print journalist like myself found Gordon to be a one-of-a-kind human.

While rubbing elbows with Gordon, it renewed my faith in the business. I knew if there was a local athlete doing special things, I could drop him a text and within a few days there was Gordon, highlighting their talents in a broader and far more professional scope. That he trusted my judgment to follow up without hesitation was the icing on the cake of our relationship.

Many wouldn’t know of Gordon’s faith in God because he’s the last to push his beliefs on anyone. Somehow he understands even the mere mention of the subject could possibly make some uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why I like him so much.

I often joked with him, “Damn it man, swear or do something, will ya?” It was always met with a laugh and a changed subject about something positive or uplifting. One of my favorite movies is “Bad Words” – a story about a man seeking revenge on his father by making a farce of and entering a youth spelling bee by taking advantage of a loophole in the rules. In a conversation about the crass language and behavior of the character played by Jason Bateman and a clean-cut, seventh-grade spelling bee competitor, Guy Trilby (Bateman) discusses his cussing with the youngster, Chaitanya Chopra.

CC: Have you figured out your favorite word?

GT: No, I sure haven’t.

CC: Is it the “F” word?

GT: It’s up there.

CC: Because you say it a lot.

GT: Everyone should.

CC: I shouldn’t.

GT: Why not? You should just say what you feel, that’s what they are there for.

CC: I feel the opposite of bad-wordy right now.

GT: Will you just say something bad you f*@!ing Quaker?

CC: (pause), um… motherf*!@er?

GT: Great, perfect. That’s a good one. And did your soul burst into flames? No.

This is the perfect analogy of our personalities. I’m the outspoken former Navy man who has little to no filter and often speaks with questionable language in social settings and Gordon is the effin Quaker. But that’s what makes him so refreshing.

When I’m calling Copperhead football, basketball and softball games on the radio, my wife, Melissa, is usually on the field or court taking pictures to accompany game recaps I provide on kana580.com. And as every reporter who crosses our paths during games will tell you, she’s much nicer than I am. The two have met and talked a few times, nothing meaningful or in depth, just passing the time in friendly conversation. Yet Gordon made it a point to remember her name and refer to her as such when we spoke.

I can’t express how much these actions mean to people, especially when they aren’t forced interactions. Do you know how many media members have come and gone while Gordon has been with KXLF? Melissa has maybe spoken with Gordon two or three times and he still committed her to memory. He doesn’t just know the athletes in Southwest Montana, he knows their family story as well, and that is why Gordon is irreplaceable.

When he broke the news about his new adventure in his home state of Illinois covering his collegiate alma mater, he was admittedly in tears. He felt like he was letting people here down. For two years I would always tease him, “So when are you heading to Bristol?” – chiding him about moving on to ESPN headquaters in Connecticut (and yes, he is that talented. Don’t kid yourself). A shy, embarrassed smile would always be his expression followed by a statement saying how much he loved it here, calling Butte his home.

Even if he ever doubted his talents, we all knew he would one day hit the road. It’s what TV guys and gals do. Usually it’s to bigger markets with the hopes of one day landing their own makeup artist, but Gordon honestly was completely comfortable with the life he built here.

Who honestly knew this was Gordon’s first crack at being a sports reporter? Who thought he was a mere 20-something dude seeking his first industry job fresh out of college? Nobody, that’s who.

I guess the best compliment you can give him is the guy just gets it. He’s honest, caring and compassionate. He doesn’t just report the news, he does so by treating every subject as he would if they were his own children.

In his farewell tweet, he thanked everyone for their patience, grace and friendship. The final sentence in the note will always stay with me … “My goal is the same as it’s been since grad school: Glorify the God that has shown me an absurd amount of grace by celebrating those who are overlooked, undervalued and amazing creations of His.”

Not only did he take the time to reach out to everyone before he left just for greener pastures, he did so by letting them know they will not be forgotten.

TV talent comes and goes, it’s the nature of the business in a small market. But rarely do we get to see a sneak peak of who will one day be on the biggest of stages working for a national media market. Sure he’s not flashy and doesn’t say outlandish things in a business that almost requires such hot “takeitude,” but he makes up for it in spades. In a time when negative comments and shock-jocks are more rewarded than actual journalists (see asshats Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless), it’s the Gordos of the media circus who keep the essence of insightful and thought-provoking stories alive and well.

Tonight, Gordon will be saying so long to what will most likely just be a blip on his career map in the business. He is holding a gathering at Muddy Creek Brewery in Butte from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with an after-party at The Post. If you can’t be there to wish him well, send him a note on Twitter or Facebook – the response he will give you is worth your time.

I will say it’s been a pleasure meeting his acquaintance and I look forward to sending him an invitation to my children’s graduation in 14 years.

And you know what, that sonofabitching, clean-cut, dry-humored Quaker will be there with a million dollar smile acting as if he never left.

That’s not weird at all. It’s just Gordo.

2 thoughts on “Farewell to Gordon Voit; gone but never forgotten

  1. Unfortunately, leaving Butte and Bozeman in late 2013 meant that I only got to work with Gordon for a few weeks, but I’ll always remember how relentlessly decent he was as a person to someone who he might never see again. He’s so personally invested in what you say to him and the time you take to say it. On his unscheduled interview you mentioned, Ted took him to a volleyball game in Bozeman. He introduced himself to the head coach even though he didn’t have anything resembling a job offer yet. I don’t mean Ted introduced him, I mean he went over and did it himself.

    I’ve been proud of him every time I checked in on his progress – either watching stories of his or asking how he’s doing. I came back to visit Butte last July, and Gordon came out to meet up for a drink. One of my friends doesn’t share his religious beliefs, and the two of them engaged in one of the most civil discussions in that realm I’ve ever seen, and it’s all because Gordon’s just as happy to hear about what you think as he is to tell you what he thinks.

    It’s no surprise to me that his departure is generating this kind of reaction. He’ll do great wherever he goes because, as we so often see in sports, it’s not just talent that transcends. Sometimes it’s the passion that drives you, and the passion you inspire in others around you, that invites success. Gordon has it in spades.

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