Off the Cuff: Chris Kerber
A nearly two-decade career as the radio play by play broadcaster and VP of broadcasting and content development for our Stanley Cup champions, Chris Kerber is quite simply known to most as ‘the voice of the Blues.’ Instead of getting to strictly talk hockey, family and interests, our current global climate forced a different conversation for this column’s inaugural interview. It’s enlightening nonetheless and will make us all want to get back to cheering, Let’s Go Blues!
What have you been doing to pass the time since the shutdowns took place?
The station (101 ESPN) has hockey content on the air four nights a week on top of normal segments we’re still doing. We’re doing a lot of work in terms of radio shows, replaying great games of last year and playoff games with fresh one-hour pregame shows. We’re recording content through digital meetings for fans to see. And then it’s just helping the family with school, cooking dinner, just taking advantage of family time that I normally don’t have this time of year when the Blues make the playoffs. Just trying to find some positives in it.
Even with an off season, you don’t have this much downtime. What have you learned about family and yourself in this situation?
We were taught at a young age by my mom to do what you have to do. Take what you’re given, adjust how you need to, and don’t worry about what you can’t control. Live within those constraints. That’s what we’re doing. This gives us the opportunity to teach our kids more about how our responsibility impacts the lives of others and that we have to do our part. It challenges you to try and find perspective that you need. That’s the biggest challenge.
You have two offices, one at the rink and one at home. The one at home is busier in nature right now; your wife is teaching, kids are in school at home. How do you balance your time and not drive yourself crazy?
We’ve been pretty fortunate. I can adjust my schedule as needed to help them out. When schedules collide, we turn the dining room or bedroom into an office and teach the kids that they are going to have to be self-sufficient! You just find a way to make it work and go with the flow.
The season ended abruptly. What went through your mind when it did? You guys were gearing up for the playoffs, to defend the Stanley Cup.
I was not surprised when it happened and the reason being, if you take a step back and get a bigger view of what we’re dealing with and how things could spread, you realize this was the only way to go. I’m not surprised by the length of it either. Now, you just have to sit back and hope that they get the testing capability they need to get things started back up again. We just have to accept that however this season concludes, let’s hope with games and playoffs, it’s just going to be different. You have to deal with it, and that’s the story the season tells. We’re in sports. We’re not saving lives like doctors and nurses on the front lines.
Let’s move on to fun stuff now. Let’s talk more about book night; you read a book on Twitter every night?
My wife and I were thinking about what we could do. And I started thinking about all of the different families and kids out there who are Blues fans, and I just said, “Why don’t we read a book every night on social media?” So that’s how it started. What’s cool is that the viewership has stayed about the same, but local authors have reached out to try and get their books to us to read. It’s cool to read a kid’s book written by a St. Louisan. You don’t know how it’s going to impact anyone specifically, but when you get someone sending a pic of them reading along with the same book at home, or someone sends a pic of their kid on their lap as you read Walter the Farting Dog, that’s just funny. It’s fun, and you hope you can bring something a little bit lighter to people however they are dealing with this.
What are you reading, and what is your favorite book to read to your kids?
Right now, I’m reading a book called Caddyshack, The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story and Failure is Not an Option, the story of Gene Kranz, a flight director for NASA for many years. My favorite kid’s book is any one from the Froggy series.
You’ve had a chance to get to what project during this downtime?
Several of them! We’re refinishing the basement, so I have tiled and grouted and finished up a downstairs shower. I’ve organized a closet; I threw out half of it! I’m not sure the clothes were in style when I bought them. I’m not sure I should be seen wearing them anymore. I am a slam-dunk participant for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Where would you be if it wasn’t for your wife? She sold you your first suit, I know. Isn’t she responsible for you looking presentable most nights?
Yep. When we travel, I will pick out two suits and three or four shirts for a four-game trip and my wife makes sure I have ties that match. When I buy a shirt, I always try and see if there is someone around to help me find a tie to match it. I can talk hockey and talk really fast and broadcast sports, but I have a hard time seeing patterns and stripes and colors that go together.
As much as you enjoy books, you could write Ties for Dummies!
You know what? That’s actually a heck of an idea to do during this quarantine.
What’s your go-to drink?
Any glass of whiskey, including bourbon and Scotch. Or frankly, put a fully-loaded, full-calorie Budweiser in my hand, and I’m a happy man.
What are you doing to be conscious of not amassing too many calories during this shutdown?
Not much! (laughing) No, I worked hard to get into shape over this past season, so I work out here at the house, watch what I eat, and work on small portions. I wear a Fitbit and make sure the totals get to where I need to be. And I log what I eat on the Lose It! App; it keeps you somewhat honest. Kind of like logging your own golf score. You might want to cheat, but if you did, you’re the one who knows it, so why do it? You’ve got to stay healthy. If you don’t find a way to get some kind of work out in, you’re going to feel bad.
You can’t shop other than at the grocery store. Who shops for food? And have you been doing a lot of online shopping?
I’ve done more recently, but both of us do grocery shopping. The order it online and pick it up curbside, I could get used to that in a real hurry. I did that with something at Best Buy and just pulled up and popped my trunk. It was great! I also could get used to the fact that only 50 people can be at Costco at the same time!
What can’t you get used to?
I cannot order clothes online. What a process! What if it doesn’t feel right? You have to drop it back off, then you have to wait for your return or exchange. I won’t ever get used to ordering clothes online.
What has come about that you thought you would really miss or you couldn’t live without and come to find out, it’s not as big of a deal as you thought it would be?
Here’s what I miss … I miss being able to gather with friends. It’s one of the most important things in life. I don’t miss the hecticness of the kids’ activity schedules, the hustle and bustle of everyone around you with their noses down going from one thing to the next. It’s perfectly fine if we take our foot off the gas pedal from time to time.
Has it taught you greater patience, this shutdown?
I don’t know, I’ve always had a pretty good amount of patience. It has shown you how many people around you don’t have it! You are learning a lot about the people around you, watching how they are handling it.
Do you do wellness checks on family or friends?
Absolutely. You have to, whether it’s a text or quick call to make sure everyone is doing OK.
Funniest thing that’s happened since the shutdown?
I got asked by the team to be an MC for bingo on Zoom for Cardinal Ritter Senior Services. We get through four rounds of bingo, and some woman says, “Hey, can we do the whole card for $10?” I was like, this woman is awesome. Forget the straight line or diagonal bingo, she wanted to fill the whole card and wanted the stakes to be higher.
In our biz, we always do an odd job or two, not necessarily what we signed up for. Was that bingo MC the craziest thing?
I’ve been in the mascot uniform before, I’ve been in dunk booths. But calling bingo through a Zoom meeting to a group of elderly men and women? Yep, that’s going to rank right up at the top.
Technology has gotten us through a lot right now. Friend or foe?
If I could get rid of one bit of technology, it would be emails on your phone. You’re never able to get fully away. Your phone is a great freedom for people to get a hold of you, but it might be 10 at night when you put your phone down and something catches your eye, and you look at it. I don’t think because of the way we can stay connected that people are able to disconnect from their work worlds enough. That’s one of those things from this lockdown that I hope for, that people are able to disconnect from work more and connect more with family and friends.
Defending the Cup. We waited more than 50 years for it to get here. The team was starting to play better, almost what I would deem playoff mode. How excited are you to get back to defending it and have a chance to be back to back champions? Because you don’t see that happen a great deal in hockey.
I think the Blues had a very good chance to repeat. I think it would have been harder to repeat than it was to win it last year, but if you look at how the West was, I don’t know that there is team you would say was more favored to come out of the West than the Blues. But you get to the finals and you never know what’s going to happen. I think the Blues are definitely in a win it all again window, whether that gets an opportunity this summer or not. I hope they get that chance. And I hope they get the chance with these players. I don’t know what free agency is going to bring. You’d like to get just one more crack at it. I’d be interested to see who looks like what, not having access to gyms. We’ve become more creative in how we have tried to work out, but he who has found a way to stay in reasonable shape will have a distinct advantage. This goes back to the one aspect about this pause. Some people are saying if you can’t have four rounds of seven games, the Stanley Cup is tainted. I say, hang on. First, there is precedence in the league of the first couple of rounds being less than seven games. They say, well, it’s about the grind. When was the last time you had a two- to three-month break before the grind starts? Teams that you would have played in the playoffs are healthier again because of the time off. Even players who weren’t injured can get healthier again. So I think it changes the dynamic of the whole thing all together. Accept whatever story it tells, and move on to the next year.