NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Friends and family gathered Thursday morning at Congregation Micah in Brentwood to remember the late Mark Howard.
Howard was a sports broadcaster on NewsChannel 5 for nearly two decades before becoming a fixture on sports radio for another two decades. He died on July 24.
Former NewsChannel 5 sports director Hope Hines chose Howard for the open weekend sports announcer position from among hundreds of test tapes mailed to the station in 1986.
“I had two boxes of cassette tapes,” Hines said. “I was so tired of looking at tape after tape—and all of a sudden, I put Mark Howard’s tape on and he just lit it. I said, ‘I think we’ve found our guy.'”
Howard really covered all the bases, from reporting three World Series games for the Atlanta Braves, hundreds of high school football games, and the Nashville Predators’ start in Music City.
Voice of the Giants Mike Keith first met Howard while covering press conferences at the University of Tennessee, which often featured Howard and coach Johnny Majors back and forth.
“Coach Majors’ face would turn red and we just had to put our hands to our mouths and laugh. Mark wasn’t doing it to be difficult necessarily, he was doing it because he was Mark. He always did it,” said Keith with a laugh. “But Majors loved it. Majors could never have gotten mad at him because I think he knew Mark, and that was fine.”
Where Howard really seemed to shine was pumping humor into every sportscast.
When Leon Murray of Tennessee State University appeared as a dark horse, an outside nominee for the Heisman Trophy, Howard quipped in a storyline, “To advance Murray’s Heisman nomination, he needs a hook, a slogan! How about—”Don’t be Peon, vote for Leon?” “
“He could have written humor in his stuff, there was a clever trail of it in him,” said George Blaster, a longtime Nashville radio personality.
Howard also put together a tongue-in-cheek story about how NASCAR fans should assume he’s writing his scripts. “They can’t do that to him, it’s rage. I’ll put that into my story,” Howard said, as he dressed Buckshot Jones from head to toe. “There is a plot to get Buckshot Jones.”
“He’ll find ways to take things and make them fun and funny — just smart things,” said Kevin Ingram, former co-host of Howard’s 104.5 The Zone’s Wake Up Zone and current Vanderbilt University game.
Only Howard can take a mundane titan’s workout and turn it into a TV date. In 1999, he made the spotlight with Zach Piller’s one-of-a-kind haircut. “But the bigger question remains, when is rookie guard Zach Pillar going to get rid of that lock of hair that reminds some of the movie Pig – ‘Pep’?” Howard wrote, as side-by-side sketches of a door, the pig appeared on air.
“It was so much fun,” Keith said.
Howard can also be laughing at himself, like when he – and just about everyone else – crossed out Titans’ last-second chances against the Buffalo Bills during the historic 1999 playoffs. “Of course, I didn’t factor in the Music City Miracle – and listen to it and me,” Howard said. I stay calm and composed as a 10-year-old at a Brittany Spears party.” Howard’s hot microphone lit up as he cheered for Dyson as he ran into the field.
“Here comes Dyson, right here, and nowhere to be found,” Hope Hines recalls. “He was already in the end zone. He was waiting for him when he got there.”
In the early 2000s, Howard left NewsChannel 5, but he did not leave the sports world. Join ex-Titan Frank Wycheck and Kevin Ingram, unlock the Wake Up Zone at 104.5 The Zone.
Longtime co-host Kevin Ingram said, “This is where I thought he could really show his knowledge and how much he knows about the sport. It was unbelievable, it was almost as if he knew a lot of things in some time.”
“Oh my God, it was a traveling encyclopedia,” Blaster joked.
“He’s known more about the sport than anyone I’ve ever met, and I’m not sure it’s really close,” said Keith.
What Howard didn’t know from the top of his head, he always seemed to carry with him. “He was going to go through a bunch of papers within a week of the show I think,” said Paul Koharsky, a sports writer and longtime radio broadcaster in Nashville.
“I see these stacks of paper and I’m like – What the hell is this?” Gross said with a laugh.
Sports radio gave Howard the opportunity to speak his mind, and he did it as ever.
“He can be very rude on air, there’s no doubt about it. We joked about cutting him off from callers. As we went on as a show, he became more patient with people, but especially early on, there wasn’t a lot of goofs suffering,” Ingram said. “. “If he has a caller he doesn’t care about, man, he goes straight to him. I think a caller once called him Marcus Interruptus. I thought that was funny.”
“Brash, frank and if – I don’t want to say I hurt your feelings but there was a little bit of it. He didn’t really care, he was just saying what was on his mind. Often it was thought-provoking, definitely creating discussion. And that was fine,” Koharsky said.
But it wasn’t all serious. Kuharsky’s favorite moment with Howard had nothing to do with the game.
“He was bragging about his walk—his came—and he said to Frank, ‘I’m going to walk you to the ground.’ So right away I was like ‘We’ve got to get a walk round,'” said Koharsky. “Mark, at any given time, either pulls his calf or hamstrings. Frank is just a la de dah, walks like a normal guy, rolls Mark. I mean he’s hysterical.”
Because Howard had the last word, it seems only appropriate to continue that tradition here. For a sports reporter who didn’t just stand out in the Nashville media, he changed it for the better.
“I hope you’ll remember me as a brave reporter who always knows where he is,” Howard said, recounting an article that aired his last day on NewsChannel 5.
Mark Howard was 65 years old. He is survived by his two sons, Jack and Rocco.