Hey DNL, thanks for the memories

Posted: April 05, 2013

AFTER 15-PLUS years, Thursday was the final episode of " Daily News Live." For many of the regulars, the fondest memories of their "DNL" appearances go beyond sports. There were bomb scares and beagles. Birthday cakes and near brawls. And through it all, host Michael Barkann stood in the middle like a traffic cop in Times Square during a power outage; trying his best to control the insanity and keep things flowing. Here's a look back from some regular panelists:

* Did "DNL" have a theme song? I did the show for 16 years and cannot recall a musical opening or a humable closing. But I can recall, vividly and fondly, the time Michael Barkann recruited a drum and bugle corps unit to open the show.

Saw the group practicing on the sidewalk, hustled out there, sweet-talked the conductor, shepherded the kids into the studio, and told them to let it rip. They shook the set, loud and vibrant and wonderful. A joyful noise.

- Stan Hochman

* One day we were doing a remote from Citizens Bank Park. Shortly before we went on, there was a bomb scare. Somebody spotted something suspicious on the sidewalk outside and they evacuated the park. Ricky Bottalico and I sprinted over to the studio and got there just in time to go on at 5. Turned out to be a false alarm. The "bomb" was a hot dog wrapped in tin foil . . . that had been left there after the filming of a CSN commercial!

- Paul Hagen

* The Christmas Eve shows with John Chaney were classics. You just couldn't make that stuff up. And the things that went on after the show was over were even better. Chaney could fill 90 minutes all by himself, and was still talking as we went off the air. Anything from the NCAA to Republicans to you-name-it was fair game. Never a dull moment. It was like our gift to our viewers.

And there was the time we had Uno, who had just become the first beagle ever to win Best in Show at Westminster (in 2008). Being a big-time dog person, I quickly had him over by me on the old set, shedding away and giving kisses and just having a blast. At least he didn't do a 1 or 2. I don't know who was happier, the dog or me. I still don't think Michael quite got it, but that's OK. Made my day.

- Mike Kern

* In 1979, a group of militants stormed the American Embassy in Iran and initially took 66 hostages. Fifty-two of those were held for 444 days, including U.S. Marine Sgt. Rocky Sickmann, who stopped by "DNL" just before the 2005 Army-Navy game.

The tension around the country while Sickmann and the others were held captive was palpable. Yellow ribbons, encouraging the hostages' release, were everywhere.

The biggest ribbon decorated the Louisiana Superdome, which was getting ready to host the Eagles and Raiders in the Super Bowl when the hostages were freed on Jan. 20, 1981. I was 10 years old and will never forget how massive that bow was to see in person.

More than 25 years later, I got to sit next to Sickmann, one of the poor souls we all were prayed for, and listen, mesmerized, as he recounted his ordeal. Tell you what, it was much more humbling than that gigantic ribbon.

- Ed Barkowitz

* The most impactful "DNL" for me was the day that Wilt Chamberlain died (Oct. 12, 1999). We got word about it as the show was starting and I had no idea that it would hit me so hard. I just remember saying Wilt Chamberlain can't be dead. Wilt Chamberlain doesn't die.

I remember tearing up and losing composure.

On the lighter side, there was the time that I got to share some of Jon Bon Jovi's birthday cake. Not often that you can say you had cake with a rock god. And during the 2001 NBA Finals, I got a lot of props from viewers for deftly placing myself in front of the Los Angeles Lakers dance team, which was stretching and warming up while I was doing a live shot. Hey, I always believed "DNL" was for the people, and I tried to be a man of the people.

- John Smallwood

* I accompanied Mike Rathet, then the Daily News executive sports editor, to the first airing of "Daily News Live" on Oct. 1, 1997. It was the first live show on Comcast SportsNet. Rathet had worked with CSN's Jack Williams and the late Sam Schroeder on launching "DNL." Many were skeptical about whether a 90-minute local sports show would succeed. The show began slowly, but soon gained traction and has become a place Philly sports fans go to for information and entertainment.

It's remarkable that "DNL" has continued for more than 15 years: that's forever in television. The longevity is a tribute to the panelists, host Michael Barkann and the five full-time producers: Don DiRaddo, Jon Slobotkin, Shawn

Oleksiak, Rob Ellis and Dan Roche.

- Bill Fleischman

* My most memorable "DNL" moment was in the early years of the show, when I was on with Les Bowen and Greg Cosell of NFL Films. Fire, meet gasoline.

Les wasn't a big fan of Greg's. The two suddenly got into a heated argument about quarterbacks. I really thought I was going to have to break up a fight, but Barkann wisely went to a commercial.

My biggest "DNL" regret? That Kern got to do the show with Uno the beagle, who had just won Best in Show at Westminster, instead of me. He got Uno, I got some damn hockey player. Life isn't fair.

- Paul Domowitch

* Rich Hofmann and I were talking about a month ago, and he said, "If someone had said 15 years ago we'd be on a television program that would last 15 1/2 years, I'd say that's impossible. I'd say that's a pretty good run."

I'm with him. "DNL" has been as rewarding to me as any program, any sporting event coverage I've ever been involved with. Mostly hard-hitting, I hope. Many times fun and a little silly, I hope. I've always thought "DNL" should be like a good friend to Philadelphia sports fans.

I've hosted more than 3,500 shows. It's tough to boil it down to a few. We've shown "best of" clips this past week, though it's a punch in the gut when I see Phil Jasner and John Marzano. Two men who were part of the fabric of our city. Overbrook and Central. Two Temple guys.

In the end, the writers made the show, period. They were all great - all of them - all of you. Your knowledge, professionalism and work ethic and commitment to the program allowed all of us to understand what was really going on in this city and I can't thank you enough for that - cannot put it into words. A special thank you to managing editor Pat McLoone, who always said yes, always made it happen from the paper's end.

No, Richie, it was a great run.

- Michael Barkann

* I remember the first spring of "DNL," the Flyers had a playoff series with Buffalo, and for what I believe was the only time in the history of the show, it was broadcast completely from Buffalo for at least 3 days. (Very different from the Clearwater spring training broadcasts.)

The "studio" was the bar/restaurant at the somewhat tatty Adam's Mark Hotel where the team stayed. The bar had a vintage '70s disco decor, maroon and chrome. We sat on really tall barstools, facing the camera, swinging our feet like kids in high chairs.

Each show opened with footage of Niagara Falls. And each time, Michael Barkann began the Three Stooges "Niagara Falls" bit. "Slowly I turned. Step by step. Inch by inch . . . "

We had Steve Coates on as a guest and he was very exuberant about being in Buffalo, because Coatsey is pretty much exuberant about everything. I joked that he was excited to be there because he thought it was "Viagra Falls." Coatsey didn't laugh.

- Les Bowen

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