By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 31, 2000
Between his gigs as play-by-play announcer for the Tampa Bay Bucs and Florida State Seminoles, the past two years have been the best of times for Gene Deckerhoff. But to hear him tell it, there never has been a worst of times.
He claims to have enjoyed every moment of his 11-year run with the Bucs, counting a victory in 1989 at Chicago (thanks to a Donald Igwebuike field goal with no time left) as one of the best he has witnessed. The Monday night victory over St. Louis two weeks ago ranks right up there, of course. But to Deckerhoff, the bad years were just as meaningful (well, almost) as the good ones.
"It was a frequently asked question: 'How do you do a game on Saturday and see (the Seminoles) score 50 points, and on Sunday, how do you see a team score seven points and lose and lose?' " he said.
"I honestly don't think I ever (got discouraged). It's two different games. It's two different assignments. I'll say this -- working pro football has certainly increased my knowledge of the game. You have to learn sometimes on the run, but you learn an awful lot."
Along the way, Deckerhoff, a Tallahassee resident, has learned plenty about the personalities in the game. He has watched former Florida State players Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks grow up and become NFL stars. He saw Marcus Jones play at North Carolina, and once did a baseball feature on ex-Buc Brad Culpepper when Culpepper was still in high school in Tallahassee. He first met Dexter Jackson when Jackson was on his recruiting visit to FSU.
"The guys who play for Tony (Dungy) are tremendous people because he wouldn't stand for anything less," Deckerhoff said.
That affinity for Bucs players and coaches is what comes through most during his broadcasts, and it's by design. His priority is the fans -- and he believes that generally they prefer an insider who'll tell them a good story to an unbiased national announcer. That philosophy has paid off with a loyal following -- Deckerhoff, 55, this year was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
"You can see those pretty pictures, but golly, we're your announcers," Deckerhoff said. "You do become more of a hometown announcer, and I think that's the way it should be."
It's that approach that has helped Deckerhoff keep his audience. Success means the Bucs are on television every week, which "makes you work harder," he said. But even now the rule of thumb is that 50 percent of the audience is listening to the radio, Deckerhoff said, and that doesn't surprise him.
"We have to play (teams from) markets that are bigger than we are," he said. "And some of those (TV) announcers, honestly, I'm telling you, they almost apologize if the team from the larger market's not winning."
Part of Deckerhoff's weekly ritual entails listening to a tape of his own broadcast. Often he replays the TV broadcast and compares notes. He acknowledges missing some things the TV analysts don't, but said he is confident "we're getting in some of the things our fans want to know."
Though he now has to compete for listeners during Bucs home games, you won't hear Deckerhoff complain. He saw the Seminoles win a national title last season, and nearly got to see the Bucs play for one.
"That stinking catch by (the Rams') Ricky Proehl," Deckerhoff said. "We had that game. ... The only way you can do better than (last season) is to make it to a national championship. That would be the icing on the cake."
Deckerhoff's already going to one title game Jan. 3. Despite the loss at Green Bay on Sunday, he thinks the Bucs can make it back home for another.
"I see the positive side," he said. "If you're going to lose a game somewhere, lose (that) game, and now if we get a four-game winning streak, we win the Super Bowl."
That's something you're not likely to hear from a TV analyst, but Deckerhoff wouldn't call it any other way.
PERSONAL: Wife of 35 years, Ann; three children; five grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Played basketball at St. John's River Community College; graduated from University of Florida.
THE VOICE OF: Tampa Bay Bucs (radio), 1989-present; Florida State football (radio), 1979-present; Florida State men's basketball (radio), 1975-present; Orlando Predators football (television), 1997-present.
AWARDS: Florida Sports Hall of Fame; eight-time Florida Sportscaster of the Year; 18-time best radio play-by-play announcer by Florida Sportscasters Association.