In our recent interview with The Fox's Rick Lewis, published two years after longtime partner Michael Floorwax announced that he wouldn't be returning to the Lewis & Floorwax show for health reasons, the man who's arguably the biggest star on current Denver radio talked about new opportunities ahead of him, particularly in the realm of sports media, thanks to the success of The Truth, a Denver Broncos pre-game show that teams him with ex-Bronco Matt McChesney.
Mere weeks later, the first of those prospects has come to fruition. Lewis will be handling color commentary alongside veteran play-by-play anchor Dave Logan for the 850 KOA/Fox 103.5 FM broadcast of this Sunday's Broncos road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I've been wanting to do more things with the Broncos over the years," Lewis says, "and fortunately for me, Ed McCaffrey" — a former wide receiver for Denver who is Logan's usual partner for Broncos broadcasts — "can't make the game."
Turns out that McCaffrey's son Dylan (brother of Standford standout Christian McCaffrey, onetime Duke pass-catcher Max McCaffrey and high-schooler Luke McCaffrey) is playing quarterback for Valor Christian in the Colorado state championship game on Saturday, "and the Broncos' flight leaves that morning," Lewis continues. "So Tim Hager, the market president for iHeart Media, asked me, 'What do you think about doing the Broncos game with Dave Logan on Sunday?' And my response was, 'Hell, yeah!'"
Lewis's yes didn't end the story. "Tim had to clear it with some people," Lewis notes. "There's a lot of protocol that goes along with this, not only with the Broncos, but with the NFL." By day's end, though, he was given the go-ahead, and since Monday, he's been in preparation mode. But becoming as much of an expert on the Jaguars as he already is about the Broncos is only part of the process.
"Everything before and after the broadcast has to be done a certain way," he says. "The Broncos are a very good organization, and they run a tight ship. There's even a dress code on the plane where you have to wear a suit and tie — and I told Dave, 'I don't even know how to tie a Windsor knot. I can get a tie tied, but it doesn't look the way it's supposed to look. But Logan said, 'I've got you.'"
The outfit itself is also an issue, as Kathy Lee, Lewis's on-air foil, reminded him.
"She ended up suit-shaming me," he admits. "I have a couple of suits that could probably work. In fact, I had to buy a new suit about a month ago because I hosted an event where I got to interview Peyton Manning for 45 minutes live on stage. But then Kathy Lee started showing me pictures of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas and DeMarcus Ware before getting on the plane wearing these Hugo Boss and Armani suits. So I guess I'm going to go shopping for suits."
What would happen if Lewis dropped $5,000 on a custom suit and expensed it to The Fox? "This would be the last Broncos game I'd ever call," Lewis says, laughing.
The call itself is the least of Lewis's worries. He first broadcast games as a student at Long Beach State, where he was sports director for the campus station, and in recent years, he's emceed contests at the high school and college levels for Comcast. And while he's never done color commentary before, his experience at play-by-play gives him a feel for when to speak up. As he sees it, "My job will basically be doing whatever I can to enhance the broadcast when you're listening to the radio — provide some colorful insight, explain why a certain play worked or didn't work, and really help the play-by-play guy shine."
At first blush, the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars might seem like an easy opponent for the Broncos. But as Lewis points out, the Jags have been in most games this season before finding ways to lose. Moreover, a victory will be absolutely vital if the Broncos want to make the playoffs in a division where rivals such as the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs (who eked out a heartbreaking win over Denver last Sunday night) are having fine seasons — and with starting quarterback Trevor Siemian currently listed as day-to-day with a sprained foot, the degree of difficulty has increased.
"They're going to have to cross the country and a couple of time zones and play an early game, which is never easy," Lewis points out. "But they have to win this game, and I would expect them to do that. After all, they are the Super Bowl champions — a team with a lot of pride and a lot of talent."
Lewis is hoping he'll come out on top, too.
"I really want to expand my role any way I can," he says, "and having the opportunity to do a National Football League game for the Super Bowl champions is great. A lot of people are going to hear this, and hopefully I'll do a good job and it will open some other doors for me."
In the meantime, Lewis likens the buildup to Sunday to the first time he played Red Rocks with the Groove Hawgs, his band with Floorwax; the group is now known as the Rick Lewis Project.
"I think it was 1998," he remembers, "and getting ready for that is hard to describe. But once you get out there and play the first bar of your first song, you settle into the groove and you're just playing a gig. I have a feeling it'll be the same thing doing this game. After all the game prep and travel, you arrive at the station and get into the booth, and as soon as the broadcast starts, you're doing a radio show — which is something I've done thousands and thousands of times before."
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Although never a radio show quite like this.