Remembering Glenn Brenner

UPDATE: I found some YouTube video of Brenner and posted it on 10.16.2006

Fourteen years ago today, during the Redskins last Super Bowl run, W*USA-TV sports anchor Glenn Brenner died of brain tumor. He had been off the air for months following a “vascular event” in his brain that occurred as he finished the 1991 Marine Corps Marathon. All of Washington, from the White House, to Congress, to the Redskins — who dedicated their NFC Championship to him, to even the down-and-out, mourned his passing. To wit:

There will never be another Glenn Brenner. But there are a lot of good people out there doing sports. Let me tell you a story about the time of his last illness. He was lying in George Washington University Hospital, after the doctors had learned that he had an inoperable brain tumor. He was in a coma, and many of his friends were at his bedside around the clock. I ran home for a quick shower in the wee hours of the morning one day, and as I returned, I noticed a homeless woman sitting on a wall outside the hospital. She had a small portable radio, and as she walked by, she said, I’m praying for your buddy. I broke down on that one.

Former W*USA sports anchor Gordon Peterson on a washingtonpost.com Live Discussion

Brenner may have been the most popular broadcaster in the history of Washington and at very least, the most popular sportscaster. Sadly, there is little of his legacy on the Web. Most online references are from bios of area sportscasters who were inspired to enter the field by him or were privileged to be part of the W*USA team. There is also the Glenn Brenner Award, which is given out annually. For several years after his death there was a Glenn Brenner 5K as well. For a while W*USA sold a video of the on-air tribute, full of highlights and anecdotes, that aired not long after Brenner’s death.

The infectious zeal for life that Brenner had could not help but make all those around him more fun. His chemistry with his channel 9 colleagues, especially Peterson, was magical. He was irreverent without being snarky (something ESPN could learn from) and a joy to watch. His most popular regular feature was Weenie of the Week, awarded to the sports figure that had done or said something incredibly stupid over the past week. Weenie of the Year was also awarded. Also popular was the guest prognosticators segment featuring celebrities, local and national, as well as an elephant, and perhaps most famously, Sister Mary Louise, a local nun. Perhaps Brenner’s most enduring moment came during a another feature, which typically began with something like “today is Thursday, which means it is time for another episode of…(Peterson or another anchor would chime in) ‘Encore Wednesday’.” In one instance, not long before he died, Brenner showed a clip from a rodeo. The rider got kicked in the groin, eliciting uncontrollable laughter from Brenner. About sixty seconds into his fit, Brenner starting singing “un-pro-FESS-ional — that’s what you are!” before continuing to laugh for another half minute or so.

Brenner’s joyful legacy remains in the hearts and minds of Washingtonians. It would be fitting if the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission honored him with induction to the RFK Stadium Hall of Stars.

Tributes

The following is a tribute from the President and First Lady:

Statement on the Death of WUSA – TV Sportscaster Glenn Brenner

Barbara and I are greatly saddened by the untimely death of Glenn Brenner, a man whose wit and ability has endeared him to so many Washingtonians. The suddenness of his death and the warmth of his personality leave all of us with a painful emptiness. Sometimes we think we know television personalities better than we really do. But Glenn Brenner’s life and his many friends demonstrate that the man we saw was real, a man who loved his work, his family, and the community he served. We will remember him for those qualities that made him so special. Barbara and I offer our prayers and sympathy to his family and friends.

The following are tributes to Glenn Brenner from the Congressional Record shortly after his death.

Eleanor Holmes Norton

COMMEMORATING THE LIFE OF GLENN BRENNER (House of Representatives – January 22, 1992)

[Page: H26]

(Ms. NORTON asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend her remarks.)

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, the brilliant Redskins, the hometown team of the U.S. Congress, are on a roll toward victory at the Super Bowl on Sunday. But the lights are dim at RFK Stadium because this year’s season is ending without Glenn Brenner. Members and area residents alike watched the Channel 9 sportscaster who for 15 years made the reporting of sports an art that was a hybrid of information and entertainment. Glenn Brenner was one of a kind–a reporter of consummate skill, a man whose effervescent wit was born of intelligence and style, a sportscaster who brought as much to the game as he took from it.

Glenn collapsed while engaged in sports–after running his last race–the Marine Marathon. He died 10 weeks later on January 14, just after his 44th birthday, of a malignant brain tumor. All of Washington grieved.

But Glenn brought joy and fun to his own funeral as friends and colleagues took their cues from his unique way of covering sports. Glenn made us laugh as we learned. He brought fans to sports by the way he covered the games. You didn’t have to be a sports fan to love Glenn Brenner. But Glenn made us love them both.

Frank Wolf (R, Va.)

TRIBUTE TO GLENN BRENNER (House of Representatives – January 22, 1992)

[Page: H27]

(Mr. WOLF asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues today in paying tribute to Glenn Brenner–a man who was loved by so many people in the Washington area and beyond–and also to send my condolences and prayers to Glenn’s wife, children, and parents in their time of sorrow and loss.

I think everybody got to know Glenn Brenner like I did by watching him on television. A member of my staff who had the privilege of working with Glenn said he was everything he appeared to be on TV, and more.

Having been born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, like Glenn, I took a special interest in following his career.

Glenn Brenner was a consummate family man. Despite his success and the celebrity he obtained, Glenn’s family always came first.

In life–and death–Glenn Brenner taught us the value of laughter. More importantly, he taught us not to take our work and careers so seriously that we lose sight of what is most important in this life–our families and friends.

Thank you, Glenn, and may God bless your family and friends.

Constance Morella (R, Md.)

WE ALL MISS OUR PAL, GLENN BRENNER (House of Representatives – January 22, 1992)

[Page: H28]

(Mrs. MORELLA asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend her remarks.)

Mrs. MORELLA. Mr. Speaker, `How do you say goodbye to someone who gave us a million laughs.’ We remember that sentiment when we think of the tragic death of WUSA sportscaster and my constituent Glenn Brenner.

Rarely does the passing of an individual generate an outpouring of emotion from such a broad cross-section of a community–people from all walks of life were touched and uplifted by this man.

Glenn Brenner was more than a sportscaster to area viewers. Sports fans and nonsports fans alike were drawn to him by his magnetism, natural good humor, and ability to keep sports in perspective. He always made you feel good about yourself.

Whether it was his `Weenie of the Week’ award, his constant pranks, or his guest football progniscator interviews, Glenn kept it light. Who can forget his wonderful interviews with Sister Marie Louise, classics in the annals of Washington broadcasting.

Glenn Brenner distinguished himself with his charm, honesty, and extraordinary sense of humor. Watching one of his newscasts was a treat, for Glenn talked about the `big game’ without getting technical or too wrapped up in scores and statistics. He delivered a broadcast that nonsports fans could not only follow, but truly enjoy. He always kept sports in perspective.

Glenn began his career as an athlete, a baseball player with the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization, before moving into broadcasting. After stops in his hometown of Philadelphia, Huntington, WV, and Millville, NJ, Glenn came to Washington’s WUSA-TV, channel 9, in 1977. For the next 14 years, Glenn laughed and cried with athletes of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Sportscasters enjoy interviewing a famous athlete, but interviews with little leaguers and fans on the street were always done in a professional, yet sympathetic manner.

Some say Glenn Brenner was a comedian in a broadcaster’s body. That was partly true. However, no one can ever say that Glenn treated a story too lightly or did not treat it with sensitivity.

Glenn was a devoted husband and father to his wife and three children, making his family life his first priority amid a busy broadcasting schedule.

At a time when the sports world is focusing on the upcoming Super Bowl, our thoughts are with Glenn’s family and his many colleagues and friends at WUSA-TV/channel 9.

The entire community mourns the death of this great man whom his distinguished colleague, Gordon Peterson, called simply pal. We all miss our pal.

Jim Moran (D, Va.)

TRIBUTE TO GLENN BRENNER (House of Representatives – January 22, 1992)

[Page: H29]

(Mr. MORAN asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. MORAN. Mr. Speaker, last Sunday, all of us from the Washington area were overjoyed to see the Washington Redskins defeat the Detroit Lions in the NFC championship game. It was a great game fought between two of the finest teams in the NFL.

Our enthusiasm, however, was diminished and turned to sadness as we read the reports that Glenn Brenner’s bout with cancer had ended and that this jubilant and energetic Washingtonian had died at the early age of 44.

I remember Glenn Brenner as the witty newscaster who reintroduced us to the fun of professional sports and who showed us how silly we can all be when we take life too seriously.

I remember Glenn Brenner as the activist in the Washington community and as the guy who beat me by several minutes in a charity race for the homeless–only a week before his stroke in the Army 10 miler.

And I remember Glenn Brenner as a friend. One that I and many other Washingtonians appreciated for the joy, humor, and professionalism he brought so uniquely into our daily lives.

Steny Hoyer (D, Md.)

WASHINGTON REGION MOURNS THE LOSS OF GLENN BRENNER (House of Representatives – January 22, 1992)

[Page: H30]

(Mr. HOYER asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute, to revise and extend his remarks, and to include extraneous material.)

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, many of us from the Washington metropolitan area have risen to say good bye to a friend.

Television is a uniquely powerful medium. It is a medium that in many ways brings us together as a country and provides us with common experiences. Therefore, personalities on television tend to become very personally known to people. We think they are our friends, even if we do not know them well.

I had the opportunity of playing golf with Glenn Brenner from time to time and seeing him relatively regularly.

My kids from time to time say, `Dad, be real,’ when they think I am not focused on what they think is to them real.

Glenn Brenner was one of those happy people who was real. He did not take himself too seriously. He was honest. He lifted us up. He knew his business. He was competent. He was somebody that the Washington area respected. He was chosen by his colleagues as America’s outstanding sportscaster in 1989 and 1990.

So I join my colleagues in saying that Glenn Brenner ran the race. He fought the good fight. He kept the faith. Glenn Brenner we lost too early, but Glenn Brenner in the years given to him used them well.

God bless you, Glenn, and God bless your family.

Glenn Anderson (D, Calif.)

HON. GLENN M. ANDERSON

in the House of Representatives

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 1992

* Mr. ANDERSON. Mr. Speaker, watching Glenn Brenner on channel 9 was, from the beginning of his Washington career, a must for both the informed and the uninformed sports fan in the greater National Capitol area. Before long his sports segment became a must for anyone who enjoyed life, humor, and good television reporting. The man dominated the tube during his segments and attracted to himself a legion of admirers. I count myself amongst that group.

* Glenn Brenner’s passing has been duly noted and reported by all of the media. The void that his demise leaves in our community has been obvious since the first announcement of his condition. Our television programming will never quite be the same.

* All of the preceding is self-evident. What lies behind the story of Glenn Brenner is the immense humanity of the man. Loving husband and devoted father, he was also an affectionate son to his parents. He held the respect and admiration of his professional peers. He maintained a good working relationship with staff personnel, not always an easy accomplishment. In retrospect, we now realize that everyone adored the man. How are we to countenance his loss?

* Gordon Peterson, the consumate wordsman, put it best, as he always does. `We will miss you, pal.’ And that says it for all of us. Glenn Brenner was our pal. A pal to his wife, a pal to his children, a pal to his parents. He was a pal to all of his audience. A pal to the worker, a pal to the housebound, a pal to the professionals, a pal to everyman.

* So, it’s goodbye, pal. We will miss you. Everytime we turn on the television we will think of you. We will think of you with love, with reflection, and with sorrow. But, we will also remember you with tremendous joy. You brightened our lives, pal, and for that we will be forever grateful.

* My wife Lee and my Washington-based staff particularly, join me in expressing sorrow to Glenn’s wife, Suzi, and to his three children, Amy, Ashley, and Matthew. Their legacy is a rich one. Their legacy is eternal.

Glenn Brenner has also come up in numerous live discussions on washingtonpost.com

Q&A With Bob Levey – Gordon Peterson

The Weather Warriors – With Doug Hill

Q&A with Bob Levey – Dave Hughes

The Reliable Source Hosted by Lloyd Grove

Also

A number of Brenner memories are recalled in this extremeskins.com forum thread.

Audio of an appearance on WKYS by Brenner and Peterson, courtesy of DCRTV.com.

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5 Comments so far

  1. Annie (unregistered) on January 15th, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

    I remember him well, loved watching his sports reports and his exchanges with Sister Mary Louise. Sadly, what I remember more is my friend Tom, who died in the same hospital on the same night as Glenn Brenner.

    Annie


  2. RDM (unregistered) on January 20th, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

    Glenn Brenner was the first sports caster I saw who was more than a score reader. he was an entertainer, a comedian. And he never used the tired old cliches. He could have done stand-up for a living. Sports was just his vehicle. I miss him.


  3. Jim Perrus (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

    I interned for Glenn & the sports department in ’88 and ’89. I enjoyed every minute of it. Of course I remember his humor but working behind the scenes you saw how seriously he took his work. In addition, I remember his office decorated with his kids drawings and pictures. He was the best sportscaster and one of best human beings anyone could meet.


  4. S (unregistered) on February 17th, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    During the 80s, Nancy Reagan hosted a tennis tournament at the WH every year as a fundraiser for her “Just Say No” campaign. Every A-list celebrity of the 80s was there. Mr. T, Steve Guttenberg, Sugar Ray Leonard, Vanna White, etc. Glenn Brenner was the MC and “commentator” for the tennis matches. It was mostly cabinet secretaries and these celebs playing together or against one another.

    It was always in June, which is not the hottest month in DC but it could get nasty with direct sunlight bouncing off a tennis court and you’re sitting on bleachers in a coat and tie.

    I digress, the funniest moment one year was Glenn and 2 other celebs (names escape me) sitting in their chairs to the side givng the commentary as the match is going on. Apparently, the WH grounds crew had decided to lay new mulch/fertilizer the day before and right behind Glenn’s chair. Glenn first jokingly blamed the pungent odor on either one of his colleagues and then asked if they were wearing “Ode de Baltimore.” The whole place errupted in laughter.


  5. Dave (unregistered) on March 1st, 2006 @ 7:14 pm

    To this day I have a hard time watching the sports on the evening news because I still compare them all to Glenn Brenner. No one has ever come close to what Glenn broght to the table, after 15 years since his death I still miss him.



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