Norm Hitzges, a pioneer in sports radio, is to Dallas airwaves what colorful writer Blackie Sherrod was to newspapers. He’s a beloved icon respected by athletes, coaches and fans alike.
Deeply analytical and as hard-working as they come, he has a track record of excellence that sets him apart in a field dominated by younger broadcasters. At age 70, Norm is the dean of Metroplex sports broadcasters with a big following during his two-hour talk show each weekday at 10 a.m. on KTCK, 1310, The Ticket.
To reach the lofty pinnacle where he’s perched for so long, Norm has plumbed the depths of sports in a compassionate manner, known for dealing with current, significant sports issues in a civil manner — even if callers on the other end of the line refuse to meet him half way.
It’s a wonder he ever “caught on” in a major market. Called a “melon-headed Yankee” by a smattering of critics who maintain he has “a face for radio,” they also say his voice quality languishes right alongside basketball personality Dick Vitale — high pitched, with a nasal twang diluted by gravel.
One wag remarked that “Norm doesn’t say it, he whines it, and his thunderous laugh sounds like a farmer’s hay-baling machine that needs a good greasing.”
Such descriptions aside, most listeners know he has an “outdoor-sized heart” rarely matched in compassion. Masses care what he thinks, taking his predictions to heart, and some to the race track.
At the turn of the century, Norm’s focus sharpened on the mission of the Austin Street Center, where food and lodging are provided for some 350 men and women nightly. He buttonholes numerous sports personalities to participate in “Norm-A-Thon,” an 18-hour radio marathon whose proceeds benefit the center.
He’s now been the backbone for this annual event for 14 years. More than $2.5 million has been raised, with the 2014 mark an all-time high of $400,000. Norm’s at Dallas’ Star-Power Home Theater Store to interview sports celebrities, urging call-in bids, pushing raffles, and, in general, beating the drums for Austin Street Center.
He’ll do so for the 15th time come Dec. 26.
Jordan Spieth — Masters champion and darling of the golf world — was a 2014 participant. Maybe it brought him good luck — and who is to say it didn’t. If there’s any superstition, Jordan may be a “lock” for future “Norm-A-Thons.”
Norm made an on-the-air mention that since the 2014 “Norm-A-Thon,” Jordan has played in four PGA events, finishing under par for all 16 rounds.
When other pro golfers hear this, they may well flock to Dallas to see if such good fortune “rubs off” with association to programs that help the poor and hungry.
We’ve needed a sports hero like Spieth for a while. His head is on straight. He handles all matters so far in a pleasant manner, without a hint of cockiness. Asked about his humility, he answered that if he talked about it, he wouldn’t be humble!
Few people can handle fame where pressures never ease and spotlights never darken. He credits his 14-year-old special needs sister for inspiration each day, and foul words — uttered so casually by many athletes — seem foreign to his upbringing. In short, many are banking on him to continue being who he is.
It is clear he’s from a family of values. He wears the “apples don’t fall far from the tree” mantle well. He’s “been raised right,” with a good chance to warrant admiration for decades — a bona fide national sports hero.
My guess? His britches will always be big enough. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Shakespeare warned. And already, this young man has taken heed.
And so has Hitzges. He has humbly accepted tons of accolades. And his love of broadcasting is exceeded only by his passion to help the hungry and homeless.
My wife and I have followed Norm’s career with interest and hurrahs. He was my successor as Director of College Information at Sul Ross State University for the 1967-68 school year. He was a guest in our home for about a month until he found housing. He is remembered fondly in Alpine, particularly that he “talks funny.” (I recall that he covered the first rodeo he’d ever seen.)
Both Norm and Jordan have life figured out to a significant degree. They’ve learned that happiest folks give back.
On May 22, Austin Street Center’s annual “Humble Beginnings Awards Luncheon” is scheduled at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Norm Hitzges will host the event honoring Dallas Cowboys’ great Roger Staubach. The public is invited to attend.
Details available on website, austinstreet.org.
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to email@example.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Archived at venturegalleries.com.