A pair of DC sports anchors — NBC4’s Lindsay Czarniak and WUSA’s Brett Haber — left their terrestrial broadcasting jobs this summer for cable opportunities, news that City Paper’s Mike Madden claims was greeted with a collective shrug. By contrast, Madden considers the legacy of Glenn Brenner (below), writing, “there was a time when the local sportscast was a basic part of what made the several million people in the Washington region feel tied together…ask any native Washingtonian about a sports anchor he or she misses, and chances are you’ll hear about Brenner.”
Brenner came to Channel 9 in 1977. For the next 15 years, he was the funniest, liveliest, best thing on local TV. His own portions of the broadcasts were full of silly stunts. He had a nun pick football results (against the spread, of course). He named some overpaid athlete or sports owner Weenie of the Week each Friday. There was no question Brenner knew he was reporting on fun and games; the joy he took from all of it shone through the television.
Like many households in the area during Brenner’s time here, my family watched Channel 9’s newscasts nightly. Sure, features like Weenie of the Week may have been tailor-made for adolescent boys like me. But Brenner added warmth and kindness to his sophomoric shtick, and the results were magic.
When Brenner died in January 1992, after being off the air for a few months with what turned out to be a brain tumor, the whole city mourned. President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush issued an official statement. Channel 9 ran a 30-minute prime-time retrospective, mixing clips of Brenner at his most antic with touching tributes from his colleagues and man-on-the-street interviews. Just how fiercely did people love Brenner? On the afternoon he died, I arrived at a Rockville municipal swimming pool for my high school team’s practice. The coach canceled it midway through, too distracted; he choked up as he told us to go home. None of us thought that was odd. It’s hard to imagine such an outpouring for a contemporary local-TV personality.