Bobby Hartin averages at least one on-air rant per day — bemoaning the latest loss by his beloved South Carolina Gamecocks, blasting the NCAA for bureaucratic idiocy, questioning an official’s decision that cost the Dallas Cowboys a first down. But nothing compares to the extended explosion one afternoon early in Hartin’s talk show hosting tenure.
It came just after his Chevy Blazer disappeared during a routine stop on the way to work.
“And to the guy who stole my truck …” Hartin shouted into the microphone after arriving at the radio station. “… I know you hear me! Because I always have my radio turned on to this station!”
Hartin, 64, this spring is celebrating 25 years as the host of the Kirkman Broadcasting's Fan Talk, the Lowcountry’s lone locally produced afternoon radio sports show for most of the last quarter century.
“I was surprised when they invited me back for a second show,” said Hartin, aka The Big Kahuna. “It’s hard to believe, 25 years. But it’s been fun, and that’s why I keep doing it.”
The Orangeburg native and proud former Gamecock cheerleader almost didn’t make it through that first show.
“Bobby was so nervous he threw up in a trash can in the studio,” station owner Gil Kirkman said. “I said, ‘Bobby, you can do it. Just breathe.’ He was turning shades of purple. But then he got through the second set, then the third set and said, ‘Hey, we’re into the second hour.’”
Kirkman way back in 1993 saw something in the rapport Hartin, a “barbecue loving” ex-sports bar owner, had with customers that he thought would translate into marketable radio.
“Bobby Hartin, true at heart, is a sports fan, that’s what he is,” Kirkman said. “He went to Carolina so he loves Carolina but he has learned the art of covering all of our state schools and how to pull for them. That’s what he’s created on the air. Honestly, there will not be another Fan Talk without Bobby Hartin — because he created it.”
What would happen if you let a typical, opinionated, jovial sports nut loose from a broadcast booth in a studio or at a sponsor's location?
“Bobby is just a normal guy,” said Everett German, a Comcast sales executive and College of Charleston basketball radio announcer who did an extended stint as a Hartin co-host. “When you think of national sports talk show hosts at ESPN or FOX, they tend to talk down to listeners or come across as superior and know-it-all. Bobby is one of us, just the next guy with an opinion. He loves sports the way we all do. Really what he’s done is just gone from being in a sports bar sitting around talking sports to doing it on the public air waves.”
Hartin’s legacy, however, goes beyond sports. His annual holiday fund drive has raised nearly $300,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.
“The best part of this has been just meeting a lot of people,” Hartin said. “I’m not talking about celebrities — just the callers and the people who listen. And what we have been able to do for local charities.”
A lot has changed since 1993. The Atlanta Braves roster that season included John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, plus Deion Sanders. Current Braves starts Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. were born four years into Hartin’s radio career.
And Hartin keeps rolling, 25 years in.
Just don’t mess with his truck the day of a show.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.