Mark Rosen, one of the most enduring and endearing personalities in Minnesota broadcast history, announced Monday that he’s retiring from the WCCO, Channel 4, sports desk next year.
“It’s been spectacular,” Rosen told the TV audience near the top of the 10 p.m. broadcast. Anchor Amelia Santaniello said her longtime colleague had earned his place on the “Mount Rushmore of WCCO.”
Rosen, 66, plans to sign off in April following coverage of college basketball’s Final Four tournament in Minneapolis. That would be 50 years to the month since he first walked into the CBS affiliate as a high school student eager to learn the craft.
His exit could come sooner, however. Much depends on the health of his wife, Denise, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July.
Rosen, already the longest-tenured TV sports personality in any major U.S. market, took August off to help in her recovery from surgery, and realized that spending time with her in the evenings was more important than chasing athletes or reading scores. Even things as seemingly routine as enjoying Amy Poehler’s reality-competition series “Making It” felt precious.
“We’d be watching these shows together on the couch on a Tuesday night and I’d think, ‘Is this what it’s like? Is this what normal people do?’ ” Rosen said Friday during an interview at Brit’s Pub, across the street from the TV station. “It just felt right. Home is where my energies need to be right now. I mean, I’ve never been home at night in my whole adult life.”
He doesn’t plan to be a full-time retiree, however. He hopes to expand his role at sports-radio station KFAN, where he has been a frequent contributor for many years, but he would be off the air by 3 p.m., leaving his evenings free.
Rosen had considered retiring from WCCO next August, but his wife’s battle accelerated that timeline, something he privately shared with a few colleagues and management a couple of weeks ago.
“I think he’s been really good at holding it together,” said Santaniello, who has shared the airwaves with Rosen for more than two decades. “Working nights is a strange shift in the television business, especially when you want to spend that quality time with family. I think he’s looking forward to doing that.”
One of Rosen’s most trusted confidants is Don Shelby, who retired from WCCO in 2010. He expects his longtime friend will also remain in the public eye — as long as it doesn’t interfere with being there for his wife.
“He’s doing an exemplary job of being strong for his family, but there are times things hurt pretty badly, as you can imagine,” Shelby said. “No one I know has ever said, ‘I wish I had worked longer.’ The fact is, he’s got a full personal plate right now and it needs his attention. I give him incredibly high marks for setting aside his ego and doing what’s important.”
‘I definitely missed out’
Rosen met Denise in the mid-1970s, when she was hired by WCCO as a courthouse artist. After a courtship that included dinners at Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que and hanging out at the lakes, the two were married in 1977. They have two children. Their daughter, Chloe, is a WCCO assignment editor, and their son, Nicholas, is a film and video editor in San Francisco.
“When they were growing up, I wasn’t able to come home for dinner at night,” said Rosen, occasionally taking long pauses to collect himself. “I made up for it on weekends, but I definitely missed out.”
His second family at WCCO has also been vital to him during a half-century of broadcasting, but times have changed. At night, he is often the only member of the sports team in the building. It can be quiet. Too quiet.
“When I’m doing the job, I’m not thinking about what’s going on at home, but between the 6 and 10 p.m. broadcasts, it’s often just me,” he said. “Not a lot of people to bounce things off of, like there used to be. That’s when I’m thinking, ‘I could be spending this time with Denise.’ That made this decision easier.”
Rosen said he could have left TV immediately, but he understood the station’s desire to prepare a proper send-off. A plan for a replacement has not been revealed.
“Whenever you think WCCO sports, you think Mark,” said WCCO news director Kari Patey. “He’s been woven into so many sports memories, both in the newsroom and for everybody at home. He has a deep love for everything purple and all the other team colors in the Twin Cities, but there’s also a tremendous trust from the community. That’s a trust he’s built over time.”
Over the course of his career, Rosen has been front and center for monumental sports moments, including 1980s Olympic gold-medal “Miracle on Ice” and the Twins’ World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. But his presence has resonated beyond the sidelines.
In 1987, KQRS’ Tom Barnard jokingly threw Rosen’s name in the hat for governor. He got more than 8,000 write-in votes. In the 1990s, he helped opened a namesake bar in the Warehouse District that remained in business until 2011.
But the anchor desk has been his main connection with the community. The fact that he’s walking away still hasn’t completely sunk in.
“I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to absorb it,” he said as he headed back to the station to pick up his daughter for lunch. “That’ll change this week.”
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