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How Sportscaster Dale Hansen Morphed Into A Viral Sensation

Courtney Collins
Dale Hansen didn't know what "going viral" meant until one of his commentaries did.

The Dallas Cowboys' signing of Greg Hardy, suspended last year after a domestic violence conviction, fed a national conversation about domestic abuse. And one of the strongest voices came from a TV newsroom just down the street from KERA -- sportscaster Dale Hansen.

Hansen blasted the Cowboys' decision. “Just when I begin to think the Cowboys can't possibly sink any lower, they can't fall from grace any more than they have, they find another shovel and dig a few feet deeper,” Hansen said on one of his recent commentaries.

WFAA's longtime voice of sports has been going “Unplugged” in commentaries for several years now – a year ago, his defense of the NFL’s first openly gay player, Michael Sam, was seen by millions on YouTube.

Hansen stopped by the KERA newsroom to talk about how he's become a viral sensation.

Interview Highlights: Dale Hansen on… he became a social commentator with an international reputation: “I have no idea. Years ago, I morphed into this guy who wanted to write these what we call ‘unplugged,’ simply known as commentaries. I like writing, I really like giving my opinions. It is my personality and I think our business almost demands it to some extent. Then, when Michael Sam’s story came along, and as you mentioned I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I think Michael Sam raised the bar for me. When you have a gay man wanting to play in America’s favorite sport, the NFL, and the commentary comes from an old fat, white, bald guy in Texas, you put all of that together and that’s how it became this international story.”

…why he turns the microphone on himself:  “Because I think it makes the story resonate with the viewer; I think it makes the story real. I’ve never said I’m this perfect guy, in fact most people know I’m a rather flawed human being in many, many ways. And I think by showing that I understand, I’m not just sitting up on some pedestal or platform as some people think I think. I’ve lived this, I’ve been there. I understand.”

…whether he ever thought he’d be the guy who goes viral: “One, I never knew what that meant, until I did. No. I hope I never lose this. I’m 66 years old. I’m from Logan, Iowa. I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years. I’ve been to every major sporting event there is. I’ve shaken the hand of presidents and Hall of Fame players. I’ve been in almost every country I care to go to, and I still get a rush from an email from London telling me that they really liked my commentary. If that day ever comes where I don’t get that kind of a rush or a chill almost, then I’ll know it’s time to walk away.”

Video: Watch Dale Hansen talk about Greg Hardy

More about the Michael Sam commentary

After the Michael Sam commentary, Hansen appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Then Hansen’s commentary was auto-tuned.

But, as North Texan TV viewers know, Hansen was a big deal even before his Sam commentary. Leave it to BuzzFeed to explore the anchor’s long history in North Texas. 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.