I consider myself to be lucky to be born in the early ‘80s. It allowed me to spend the first 15 years of my life before the Internet could be found in most households. In a way, I have lived in two very separate worlds- one that involved relics like telephone books and encyclopedias, and the other in the fast and never-ending evolution of the digital age.
This may seem hard to fathom for anyone reading this who was born before the mid-‘90s, but at one point it was far from guaranteed that you could watch the Nittany Lions play on TV each and every week. Before the Big Ten Network and 17 different ESPN channels, you could basically eliminate any hopes of watching a Penn State play the likes of an Akron or Temple. If you were like me and lived outside of Pennsylvania, even marquee match-ups against ranked opponents were in question based on the regional coverage for that week. Without apps that allowed you to listen to radio from across the world, or game trackers that helped you to follow games play-by-play, the only hope was to turn the radio dial ever-so-slowly in the hopes of finding the right station coming in from our neighbor state to the east. There would always be several false flags while starting the search- polka stations, conservative talk radio, local high school football games- but all was right in the world as soon as you heard that golden voice, which meant that the majority of my afternoon would be dedicated solely to the Nittany Lions. Cleaning my bedroom, homework, and raking a yard covered in leaves would all wait for at least the next three hours.
That golden voice belonged to Fran Fisher, who passed away on May 14 at the age of 91. Fisher began in the Penn State radio booth during Joe Paterno’s first season as Penn State’s head coach in 1966, and spent 21 of the next 33 seasons calling the action each time the Nittany Lions took the field. He spent many of those seasons calling games alongside George Paterno, creating years of fond memories for legions of Penn State faithful.
While Fisher walked away from the radio booth following the 1999 season, he never seemed to slow down. I was able to experience this firsthand after tracking him down a few years ago when Google could not find the information I was seeking on the history of Penn State’s Senior Day. On a whim, I looked Fisher up on Facebook- sure enough he was there. He easily could have ignored my message, yet within 20 minutes he had sent a thoughtful and informative reply to my query.
While I never had the pleasure of meeting Fisher in person, we became "friends" on Facebook and occasionally conversed about Penn State football and his storied career. This also gave me insight into the life of a man I admired outside of the radio booth. The one thing that became immediately obvious is that as passionate he was about Penn State, he also held an unparalleled devotion to his family. There were a constant stream of photos of him posted alongside his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The warm smile on his face and twinkle in his eye said it all- there was nowhere he would rather be than spending time with his family, who obviously absolutely adored him.
Fisher lived a charmed life, from marrying his high school sweetheart to spending a career that involved one of his primary passions. His long life deserves celebrated, and his legacy will live on well into the future. There’s really just one thing left to say: Thanks for all the memories, Fran.