For three decades, his voice was the backdrop for baseball games, hockey and football in the Fergus Falls area. Odis "Oats" LeGrand, 95, had a style that defined a colorful era of small-town sports broadcasting.
Craig Olson was a new broadcaster, trying to call a playoff basketball game for a local radio station.
Concentrating on that was nearly impossible seated next to Oats LeGrand, calling it for another station.
I've got to broadcast here and stop listening to Oats, Olson thought. But like decades of listeners, he was reeled in by the unpredictable blend of cheesy -- sometimes off-color -- jokes, the aptitude for the game and the withering sarcasm.
This man Olson also knew as his uncle was in high form that night: an endless cadence of crass jokes and blunt observations, delivered in a booming voice heavy on the long O's of a northern Minnesota patois.
"He had so many Oats-isms," Olson said. From the early 1950s to the '90s, his riotous play-by-plays made him a one-man tradition, Fergus Falls' loose cannon of a community ambassador.
He described one running back as having "faked [his defender] right out of his jock strap."
Told he couldn't say that, at the next game he announced that a back had "faked him right out of that piece of equipment I can't mention on the air anymore."
Third-and-long was "third and a Greyhound bus trip."
A good defense was "tighter than a fat woman's girdle."
Blue eyes twinkled behind dark, chunky glasses as he peppered fans with a what-you-hear-is-what-you-get delivery. Before heightened sensitivities raised eyebrows at some of his zingers, Oats personified an era.
"Coaches and players and the culture changed over time," said Richard Risbrudt, Fergus Falls football coach and former Ashby high school player. "But Oats didn't. He was the same from beginning to end."
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