In Denver through the late 1970’s and the entire decade of the 1980’s, you could not follow the Denver Broncos without seeing the likes of Ron Zappolo, Mike Nolan, or Gary Cruz.
All three were staples on the Denver sports scene.
Mike Nolan and Gary Cruz worked for Channel 9 at the time. Cruz later moved on, but his time in Denver is memorable for his getting up close with the team and his Broncos highlights and news.
Mike Nolan was the senior sports reporter in Denver, but he had a distinct way of warming up the audience for the sports report, he’d simply say “Broncos” then follow it up with “today…” or whatever the latest news was.
In a Broncos town, that’s all you needed to say to capture the attention of the viewers.
Ron Zappolo sort of won the lotto and came into his own when KOA Channel 4 TV became the official home of the Denver Broncos. Ron was always professional and found some of the best story nuggets prior to that time.
As the then NBC affiliate, the majority of Broncos home games were telecast then promptly followed by Ron Zappolo or Les Shapiro in the Broncos locker room getting the pulse of the team out to the masses.
Ron had a number of great on-air moments over the years, but probably his best was reporting from the Broncos locker room immediately following “The Drive” game in Cleveland.
In fact, he first coined the phrase live following the outcome of the game. Ron interviewed John Elway and Dan Reeves among many others from one of the worst locker rooms known to professional sports.
He did it without missing a beat or a key question.
Ron was later paid to jump ship over to Channel 9 where he had another great interview session with multiple players from the Colorado Avalanche after they captured the Stanley Cup against the Florida Panthers.
The down to earth approach of hockey players sort of threw him for a loop, but a welcomed one at that with the likes of Mike Keane interviewing from the top of his locker with stogie and champagne in hand.
Ron later decided to try something new and challenge himself.
In 2000, he moved to FOX 31 to become the lead anchor. He recently signed his extension that will lead him into retirement.
You see, this is one area I always felt NFL films would be better by including post game interviews on some of their highlight reels.
Guys like Ron were overlooked but not forgotten for their contributions.