Fred Cowgill: Living the dream in the 'Ville [Local profiles]

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Fred Cowgill:  Living the dream in the 'Ville [Local profiles]

Cowgill absolutely loves Louisville and Louisvillians.

“It felt like home, from the first day I was here for my job interview,” Cowgill said, “And I really did not understand why. People here are nice.  They are genuine.  They are accepting of outsiders. It goes back 400 years to when this was a river town [and the falls of the Ohio River]. Thousands and thousands of people would visit here . . . It opened people’s eyes about giving a wide berth to outsiders, that continues to this day . . . It’s really hard to break into a market. ]Yet) I was accepted the very first day.”

Cowgill also loves the sports that are here, as well as the weather.  He said it is no coincidence, that by far, he has lived in Louisville the longest.

Cowgill even met his wife, Cindy here. He was teaching a class, at U of L, in the late 1980s and Cindy was in the class. Nothing happened at that time.  Several years later at a Rolling Stones concert, [a concert Cowgill said he wasn’t even supposed to attend] at the old Cardinals Stadium at the Fairgrounds, he ran across her.

That started a friendship and then later, dating and they would ultimately marry, in 1993. They have been married now, nearly 19 years and they have two sons, Freddie, 18, and Christian, 15, and two daughters, Gracie, 14 and Scarlett, 12.

But getting back to sports, before the most recent Final Four, Cowgill said that the event he enjoyed covering the most was Louisville’s hosting of the 2008 Ryder Cup, at Valhalla. When interviewed, just prior to the most recent Final Four, Cowgill said, “I’ve done television sports for 32 years and been a broadcaster for 37, and it’s by far the largest single event I’ve ever covered.” He remarked that it was one of the biggest news events in the history of Kentucky because it was an international event that only happens every other year, Louisville is only ranked 50th out of 220 television markets in the United States, and the United States won and with the help of two Kentuckians and without Tiger Woods.

But of all the sports he covers, Cowgill admitted that horse racing is his favorite. He said the sport is “closest to his heart” and that as a boy, he grew up watching, and imitating the legendary sportscaster, Jim McKay.  Cowgill said he always dreamed of covering the Kentucky Derby and that became a reality in l987, a Derby which saw Alysheba emerge victoriously.

Cowgill said his most memorable Derby is either his first one in 1987, with Alysheba, or in 2006, with Barbaro.  He said he was extremely impressed with the appearance of Barbaro as he got off the truck, at Churchill Downs.  “To see him get off the van and see this uniquely beautiful athlete and specimen,” Cowgill said.

“It’s the only time in my career where I saw a horse and immediately changed my Derby pick to him.”

Cowgill not only loves racing, he also loves Churchill Downs.  “Churchill Downs to me is the heart and soul of the sport, and the iconic representation of everything I believe is good and true about the sport,” Cowgill said. 

Cowgill reported that he often goes to the track just to watch the races, not even bet. He does so because he enjoys the ambiance of the Downs.

Cowgill has covered three Super Bowls in his career with WLKY.

Cowgill’s most memorable Super Bowl, was his first, in l987, when his beloved New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos.  He had just arrived in town, the Giants were his favorite team since childhood and Phil Simms [the Giants quarterback] provided an ideal local angle.

Cowgill even relayed how Simms sneaked him up on to Simms’ hotel room on the eve of the Super Bowl. That night, Cowgill witnessed Simms, Lawrence Taylor, and others playing two-on-two, tackle football in the hotel’s corridor; on the night before the Super Bowl. After the game, Cowgill said he got to host a special, televised homecoming for Simms, the Super Bowl’s MVP, in front of 3,000 to 4,000 fans at Louisville Gardens.

Cowgill’s most memorable NCAA game, prior to this year’s Final Four, was the championship game between Syracuse and Kentucky, in l996. Cowgill said it was because it was the first time WLKY got to televise the National Championship that involved a local team. Also, Rick Pitino had a unique team that year, and the weather was quite bizarre with rain, snow and hail, during the broadcast. Cowgill related how the three cameras started failing, and they ended up having to manage with just one.

“It was in New York City,” Cowgill said.  “I grew up outside of New York City.  I saw a lot of my friends, and had a great time. . .  It was a uniquely one-dimensional, special time for me, both personally and professionally.”

But nothing was as fulfilling as the 2012 Final Four, for Cowgill.  This year’s Final Four helped Cowgill put things in perspective.

“I am reminded of how lucky I am to have a job like this.  I’ve seen four [local] national titles in 26 years here: Indiana in 1987, Kentucky in l996, Kentucky in l998 and Kentucky in 2012.  The only thing I am missing from my resume is a Cardinal national championship.  I look forward to seeing that before I retire.”                                                          

Photo: Ryan Armbrust

About Bobby Densford
Born in Little Rock, Ark., but have lived most of my life here in Louisville. I love this city and cannot imagine living anywhere else. I like the Cards AND the Cats, and I enjoy working out, eating and writing.
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