Before ESPN became such a media monstrosity, people in Pittsburgh used to get all of their sports news from men like Sam Nover.
Before ESPN became such a media monstrosity, people in Pittsburgh used to get all of their sports news from men like Sam Nover. As one of the mainstays at WPXI-TV for more than three decades, he kept folks in these parts informed with developments on the local and national sports scene each day, doing so with a deep and distinctive voice that could command a room like few others.
After graduating from Eastern Michigan University and doing radio and TV work in his hometown of Detroit for a few years, Nover accepted a job with WPXI-TV (then WIIC-TV) in 1970 and became one of the city’s most popular and respected sports anchors. Except for a brief period when he worked full-time for NBC on the national level in the early-1980s, he was a fixture on the local airwaves until he retired in 2001.
Nover, who turned 68 years old last month, now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he owns a condo on a golf community and wildlife preserve called Ibis Golf & Country Club. He does part-time work for an investment company, Innovative Benefits Consulting, but mainly says, “I’m just loving my life right now. It’s nice to be able to get up each day and do whatever you want to do.”
PM: Every major Pittsburgh team enjoyed historic moments and won championships during your years at WPXI-TV. Are there specific stories or specific moments that stand out for you?
S.N.: Well, how could you as a journalist dream of anything greater than to be in Pittsburgh in the ’70s when the Pirates win two World Series, the Steelers win four Super Bowls, and Pitt wins the national championship? It was remarkable, and I was right in the middle of all of it, you know. And then the big story of the ’80s was obviously Mario Lemieux and the incredible career he launched that translated into Stanley Cups in the early-’90s. I mean, that was all remarkable stuff. Those are the things that stand out in my mind, and just being a member of the industry. I mean the friends that I made, the colleagues I worked with—Stan Savran and John Steigerwald and people like them—who became friends and competitors as well. That was pretty enjoyable.
PM: When did you decide you wanted to become a sportscaster?
S.N.: You have to understand that sportscasting was a labor-of-love for me. I wanted to be a sportscaster when I was 4 years old. I mean, you talk about knowing early in life what you wanted to be? When the other little boys wanted to be a fireman or a police chief or a cowboy, I wanted to be a sportscaster. I remember my dad told me that at 4 years old I used to sit by the radio and listen to [sportscaster] Van Patrick do the [Detroit] Tiger games, and it was Van Patrick I was interested in more than the Tigers. I always wanted to do that, so I lived my dream truly.
PM: OK, you wanted to be a sports anchor or sports announcer from the time you were 4 years old. But when did you develop that distinctive voice of yours?
S.N.: (Laughing) I don’t know. I don’t think I came out of the womb with it, if that’s what you mean. I was never cognizant of my voice until I got into the business and people said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a great voice.’ But my father always had a good, deep, speaking voice, a good resonant voice. You either have it or you don’t, I guess. There’s nothing you can do to control it. It’s a God-given quality. I was blessed with it, but I can tell you that voices don’t make broadcasters. If you’ve got one and you’re a good broadcaster, that’s great. If you’ve got it and you’re a horrible broadcaster, you’re not going to survive with just a great voice.