New England Patriots: Gil Santos, a great sportscaster and even better person

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: A general view of the radios used by the Buffalo Bills coaching staff before a game against the New England Patriots at New Era Field on September 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Patriots beat the Bills 16 to 10. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: A general view of the radios used by the Buffalo Bills coaching staff before a game against the New England Patriots at New Era Field on September 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Patriots beat the Bills 16 to 10. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /
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The New England Patriots greatest broadcaster, Gil Santos, an icon in broadcasting and a great person.

Some fans may not remember the greatest football broadcaster in the history of the New England Patriots. His name was Gil Santos. I’ll never forget him.

Gil started his Patriots career as the color man for Bob Starr who did Patriots games years ago. He went on to later be the Patriots lead broadcaster on the radio for 36 years.

Santos passed away in 2012, hard to believe it was that long ago. I still get sad when I think of it. He was a great Patriot and an even greater man, and I saw that first-hand.

Gil Santos, The New England Patriots radio broadcaster

The New England Patriots have some excellent broadcasters in their history, but Santos was the best. No one could compare with Gil. He was so good, and so revered, that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I’d say that’s a high honor and for a broadcaster, maybe the highest you can achieve in your broadcasting career. A member of the Hall of Fame of your hometown team. Gil was worthy of every bit of it.

Alongside was his partner for decades, former Patriots placekicker and wide receiver, the great Gino Cappelletti. They formed a tandem that in my opinion was one of the best in the business, anywhere.

Gino played 11 years for the then Boston Patriots. He was a good receiver but an outstanding placekicker. Before Adam Vinatieri, there was Gino. He is also a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Gil and Gino melded together like peanut butter and jelly on Wonder bread. They just were terrific together. Gino had the football acumen and Gil had the call, the “pipes”, as they say in the business. The splendiferous voice that mere mortals could only dream of having. That was Gil.

Together Santos and Cappelletti greeted Patriots fans with decades of wonderful camaraderie. They produced remarkable game calls and were the team “outside the team” that fans looked forward to hearing every Sunday. Gil and Gino. One of the Very Best Broadcast Teams, ever.

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My meeting with my idol, Gil Santos

Yet, I have another reason why Santos is such a special person to me. As a young man of about 25, I was in a position many of us find ourselves at a young age, flopping around trying to find their way in the world. A direction. A career choice.

Since a child, the Patriots (and all Boston teams, really) had been an abiding passion for me. Not sure why, but I just loved my home football team (as I did all of our home teams, of course), but the Patriots were special. Different. Every draft. Player acquisitions. Everything about the Patriots was for me.

I really loved sports, but had an educational background in government. Not very compatible at all. What to do? I, of course, had no idea.

But I thought, maybe if I could talk with my idol, the great broadcaster Santos, maybe I could find out how I might take this passion and transform it into a career. That was it.

So, I called WBZ radio, where Gil also held the morning sports anchor position and asked if he might sit down with me. A shot-in-the-dark for sure. He didn’t know me. I had no recommendations. No referrals. Nothing. Yet, amazingly, he said, sure.

I went into WBZ that special day to speak with my idol. He sat in a small office. I thought it was a bit ironic that this major sports icon had such a small office.

So, I put my cards on the table. I asked Santos, the top of the sports broadcasting profession in Boston, how can someone like me get into the sports broadcasting business?

Gil’s advice was short and to the point. He said, you begin at the bottom at a small station somewhere in the wilderness, and get started. That was it. That was the gist of it. You get started by starting small. That was the golden key.

The advice was solid. Right to the heart of the matter. Essentially, you can’t start your broadcasting career by being the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, or Bruins radio broadcaster. You start at the bottom and work your way up. That was the way. But …

That wasn’t the best of the story. That career never happened for me. I was too stubborn to begin at the bottom in those days. (I still look back and maybe wish I had.) But that wasn’t the most important thing I was left with to contemplate that day, and I still do to this day after that amazing meeting,

The most important thing was this, that this big star, my idol, a man who was at top of his profession had taken 45 minutes of his precious time to speak with this nobody, this young man he didn’t know, he’d never met and would as fate have it, never see again.

Santos was that kind of man. I miss him today and his incomparable calls of the Patriots’ games. I’ll never forget those calls.

But most importantly, I’ll never forget the kindness, the graciousness, and the understanding he showed to that fresh-faced, clueless young man that day. For 45 minutes.

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Santos, you were a star all those years. And you will remain a star to this listener and this beneficiary of your kindness, always.