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Published January 31 2011

Lubben still going strong as the voice of the Packers

Larry Lubben doesn’t hide his allegiance to the West Fargo Packers. He celebrates it.

In fact, much of the charm of Lubben’s cable access Packers sports broadcasts lies in the fact that he bleeds West Fargo green.

He’s the voice of West Fargo fans. And the guy didn’t even grow up here.

Lubben’s love for the Packers is so strong after 28 years that he’s still lugging his own broadcast equipment up and down stairs for about 60 games a year. He ignores the blindness in his left eye from a bout with cancer a few years back, and shrugs off the fact that his hourly wage would be about one cent if he weren’t actually just a volunteer.

“Once you get it into your system, it’s just something that keeps going on and on,” said Lubben, a 61-year-old retired former Fargo Blue Cross Blue Shield employee who has covered 1,446 West Fargo athletics events. “It’s so hard to let it go.”

Lubben’s broadcasts started out more “Wayne’s World” than “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

It was everything you would expect from public access television. The picture quality may have been poor back then, but the energy, excitement and knowledge of the broadcasters has always rivaled those that actually cash a paycheck to talk into a microphone.

Oddly, Lubben never wanted to be a broadcaster while growing up in Wheaton, Minn. He was always a numbers guy, which served him well as a computer analyst and later a vice president of membership and underwriting at BCBS.

Lubben was talked into doing games by a neighbor who helped announce Packers events for Harmon Cable.

That was the fall of 1983.

Eight years later he met new Packers football coach Jay Gibson, who eventually became Lubben’s broadcast partner for boys basketball games.

“This guy came up to me and wanted to do an interview,” Gibson said of his first interview with Lubben. “I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about or who he was. He had a camera and asked questions about the team. I answered them. I went home to make lunch, turned on the television and saw the interview.

“That’s when I found out all the games were on TV.”

That was in an age before the internet made it possible to beam a signal to anywhere in the world with a click of a mouse.

For about three decades, West Fargo athletes have been able to watch many of their games on television.

Lubben makes a point to cover most of West Fargo’s athletics teams at least once a year.

But he makes no secret of the fact that he’s a huge football fan.

Lubben has written down each play of every West Fargo football game since 1983. He’s the team statistician, historian and keeper of its records.

If anyone has a West Fargo athletics trivia question, it’s likely Lubben has the answer.

“I think it’s a great thing for the city because it creates more talk about West Fargo sports when you can watch it on television during the week,” said Greg Warren, a West Fargo police detective who has been broadcasting Packers football games with Lubben since the beginning. “It’s been an absolute blast. … (Lubben) probably has more West Fargo Packers apparel in his house than some of the sports apparel stores.”

Lubben’s game-day schedule would be difficult for someone half his age.

He shows up early, broadcasts the game, and hustles the recording to a makeshift room at West Fargo’s City Hall for a 10 p.m., airing on CableOne and Mid-Continent channel 12.

The games are also aired at 1 a.m., then a few more times throughout the week after Lubben adds graphics and a few more bells and whistles.

Advertising, which costs about 50 cents for each time a sponsor’s commercial is shown, has helped Lubben upgrade his equipment. The events are sharp, sound is crisp and clear. It’s come a long way since 1983.

Lubben said he’ll keep going as long as he remains healthy. He thought he was finished five years ago when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor that cost him the vision in his left eye.

Lubben says the killer of his cancer scare was not being able to be part of the basketball tournaments.

He started broadcasting Packers games again just to see if he could still do it. Of course, he could.

He likely would have come back in some capacity any event.

“West Fargo is a really neat community in that we are one big family,” West Fargo athletic director Curt Jones said. “Larry Lubben kind of ties us all together.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com