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Ubiquitous Mark Rosen Approaches the Big 6-0

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October 7, 2011

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Mark Rosen was fidgeting with a new iPad on Wednesday when a sportswriter joined him for breakfast. The TV-radio sports anchor and commentator had bought the iPad to Skype with his 21-year-old daughter Chloe while she is in London.

Although Rosen turns 60 next month, he’s no geezer when it comes to technology or his career.  His technology toolbox includes Twitter and Facebook.  “You’ve got to stay in vogue with that stuff,” he said.

Rosen is a regular on KFAN Radio, connecting with a young audience that also sends viewers to watch him anchor WCCO-TV sports news at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.  He enjoys being recognized by 20 and 30-somethings, and also talking about what’s happening in the world while having a beer with Chloe or his 25-year-old son Nick.  Rosen’s curiosity about life contributes to his vitality and enjoyment of a busy work schedule and personal life that includes his wife of 34 years, Denise.

His face and voice have long been among the most recognizable in local sports media.  He is the senior TV sports anchor both in age and number of years on air in this marketplace.  He heads up the sports staff at WCCO-TV and frequently is offering his opinions about Minnesota sports on KFAN.

This fall he’s hosting a weekly Jerry Kill show on KFAN and for decades has done the popular Rosen’s Sports Sunday show on WCCO-TV.  He also does weekly movie reviews for the TV station, is active with charity work and is completing a book that will be out next year.

It’s a schedule and world Rosen could never have imagined growing up in St. Louis Park.  It’s also a life he has no desire to change.

How long does Rosen want to continue this pace? “I don’t know,” he answered. “As long as I can.  As long as I am enjoying it (and) as long as the station wants me.  Honestly, I feel like I am better now at what I do than I ever have been.  Better writer.  I am more confident of my delivery on camera.  Better reporter.

“I find joy in covering the people and the events.  I am in a business where you never know what to expect any day and I am energized by it.  I would miss it. …”

Rosen, who fixed his receding hairline with the assistance of the Hair Restoration Institute of Minnesota, believes chronological age is “immaterial” and has nothing to do with the “fires burning” within. He often doesn’t fall asleep until after midnight and is up by 7 a.m. to start another busy day including his work on KFAN.

But there’s no complaining about the routine. “It keeps me young, keeps me vital,” he said. “I am tired when I get up in the morning. I haven’t slept that long. I just push forward.”

Rosen’s book is titled Best Seat in the House. It will tell the story of how he entered broadcasting and includes chapters on Bud Grant, Harmon Killebrew and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” But it will be more than a sports book, also talking about television news and how extraordinarily well it was practiced at WCCO-TV including during the 1970’s and 1980’s when the station’s roster of talent offered such high achievers as Dave Moore, Al Austin, Barry Petersen, Bill Stewart and Susan Spencer.

“Great reporters” in Rosen’s words and a time he wants others to remember. “When we arguably had the greatest local newsroom ever assembled ─ anywhere,” he said. “…This (the book) is a tribute to them because I don’t want future generations to forget how this place was built.”

The first chapter recalls the story of how a high school aged Rosen, fascinated by television, pitched Phil Jones ─ his St. Louis Park neighbor and another great reporter ─ about an opportunity to see the inner workings of WCCO-TV. One Saturday the teenager rode the bus downtown and got an introduction to TV. “This is just so cool to be here,” Rosen thought.

It didn’t take long for the station to create a position for him. He was hired part-time in August of 1969, before his junior year at St. Louis Park High where he was a student and baseball player.

A couple of years later Rosen was a full-time writer and reporter working in sports for WCCO. His boss was the late Hal Scott who taught him a lot about TV journalism including the importance of brevity in writing a script. “He was just the greatest boss in the world to work for,” Rosen said.

By the late 1980s Rosen became the station’s No. 1 sports anchor. His success ties back to being himself on and off camera. He both celebrates and suffers with the fortunes of Minnesota teams and athletes, but won’t hesitate to “call out” a nice guy like Vikings coach Leslie Frazier if appropriate.

Rosen’s commitment to journalism is appreciated by viewers who are looking for more than scores and sound bites. Last year, for example, he was the first in town to report that catcher Joe Mauer was close to agreement on a new contract with the Twins.

Years ago former Viking turned sportscaster Ahmad Rashad told Rosen he was going to propose to Phylicia Ayers-Allen on NBC-TV. It was the night before Thanksgiving and Rosen informed his WCCO audience to watch NBC the next day for the proposal. “Now if I did that today, everybody would know about it around the country because it would be on Twitter and Facebook,” Rosen said.

He gushes recalling some of his career experiences including covering the “greatest sporting event ever” — the U.S. Olympic hockey win over the Soviet Union in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York. Nor is there any forgetting his interview with baseball legend Sandy Koufax who was his childhood hero.

“I interviewed him (and) I didn’t even know where I was,” Rosen said. “I was so gone.

“I had a great color picture taken with him. That’s one of my prize possessions because he really was my idol growing up and he was so pleasant.”

A lot of pleasant memories will be in Rosen’s new book and while it’s far from a “tell-all” adventure in journalism, Rosen admits there will be details about the difficult times in his life, too. How could there not be during a 40-year career?

But what are those details?

You will have to read the book.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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