On Nov. 21, 1980, the TV show “Dallas” aired the episode “Who Done It?” which answered the question that captivated the nation for months: Who shot J.R. Ewing?
It was, at the time, the highest-rated TV show in history. In a world before the Internet and audience fragmentation, everyone was in front of their television set for the big, drawn-out reveal.
Well, almost everyone. Les Grobstein was at an indoor soccer game.
“We’re in the Rosemont Horizon watching that soccer game and everyone else is watching Dallas,” he said 37 years later, the memory clear as day.
It was a Chicago Horizons soccer game, of all things.
But that’s life, right? That’s Les’ life anyway.
Just before 10 p.m. on a frigid weeknight in the city of Chicago in 2018, Les Grobstein walked off the elevators of the Prudential Building and into the gleaming lobby.
Grobstein, known to Chicago sports radio junkies for the last five decades as “The Grobber,” was wearing a grey 670 WSCR-branded three-quarter zip fleece with no apparent T-shirt underneath. He had a pep in his step. He seemed happy to receive a guest.
With a six-hour shift awaiting him as the overnight host at 670 The Score, the 65-year-old Grobstein didn’t have to do too much work as he prepared to entertain insomniacs, oddballs, third-shifters, and even the occasional sportswriter driving home.
Grobstein just came from the first leg of a Grobber doubleheader: the Bulls game at the United Center, a loss to Toronto in which DeMar DeRozan torched the Bulls for 35 points.
“But at least he didn’t score 50 like he did the night before,” Grobstein said as we walked to the elevators. “You know he played at USC with Taj Gibson.”
I did know that, yes.
“And they were coached by Tim Floyd. And Taj played a year there with O.J. Mayo…”
The Grobber was just getting rolling. Aside from a few quiet moments during commercials, he won’t finish talking until he hands the baton to “Mully and Hanley,” The Score’s highly-rated morning show, at 5 a.m.
And even then, he might be talking on his way out of the door. I wouldn’t know. I could only make it until 3.
When Les Grobstein hits the air for his overnight show, Michigan Ave. south of Wacker Dr. is empty, illuminated by yellow street lights. The night I visited the Grobber’s domain was bone-chilling cold. How many icy nights has Grobstein shuffled out of an arena, carrying a recorder and a giant bag to his car? Even Les couldn’t remember them all.
But Grobstein has made a career — a life — by being the guy at the game.
What’s the number one rule of journalism, anyway? Show up. That’s how Grobstein achieved his greatest fame.
Grobstein has done a lot in his media career. He said the first time he was on the radio was 1970, when he was more than a year out of Von Steuben High School and a student at Columbia College.
“The first time I was on the radio was Dec. 29, 1970,” he said. “I did the color for two Northwestern games in Greensboro, N.C. Guess who Northwestern played on consecutive nights? Duke and North Carolina. Needless to say, Northwestern lost both games.”
Of course, I checked this out and of course, he was right. Grobstein’s Rain Man-like recall is his calling card.