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Gorman: Savran still loves the show

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009

Stan Savran is synonymous with the first-time caller, long-time listener greeting that has become a sports-talk staple:

Love the show.

With Savran sidelined since Oct. 7 after open-heart surgery, listeners came calling with a show of love that has meant the world to the dean of Pittsburgh sportscasters.

Savran was "blown away" when Pirates president Frank Coonelly visited him at UPMC Shadyside Hospital, and even more stunned to hear the voice of Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux.

"I've talked to him 1,000 times," Savran said, "but when your hospital phone rings and it's him, I almost want to say it makes your heart stop."

Pardon the pun, but Savran has to laugh to keep from crying.

After covering the Steelers-Chargers game Oct. 4 at Heinz Field, he experienced chest pain and numbness in his arm while walking uphill to his car. Recognizing the warning signs, Savran contacted his tennis partner, Dr. Malcolm Weiss, who immediately called his brother-in-law, cardiologist Dr. Alan Bramwitz.

They wanted to admit Savran the next day but he wouldn't hear of it. Not with the "Mike Tomlin Press Conference" at noon Tuesday on FSN. Only after hosting the show did Savran return to the hospital, where he learned he would have surgery the next day.

He needed eight cardiac bypasses.

Don't think Savran fattened up on free food in the press box. He doesn't drink, quit smoking 20 years ago, meticulously minds his diet and plays tennis every weekend. What he couldn't control was the damage done by 45 years with diabetes.

Now, the surgery that saved his life is just killing him.

Although Savran made a call-in appearance on his radio show Monday, he missed Tomlin's news conference and weekly show and play-by-play duties for today's Edinboro-California (Pa.) football game.

"This couldn't be a worse time to be out," said Savran, who is single and has no children. "My work is my life — it is — and I look at the two of them being equal. It's important to me. It's not just an event. I feel an obligation — to the fans, to my employer, to the teams — to do it well and do it well every single time out.

"It's who I am. It's what defines me."

What you see is what you get with Savran. He has touched the lives of Pittsburghers through a mutual love of sports and has served as an all-knowing authority here for more than 30 years.

So if you feel like you know Stan, you do.

Savran has a special connection with his listeners, who have sent more than 300 get-well e-mails. His gap-tooth smile gives an endearing everyman appearance. His casual-conversation style has helped build a rapport with the audience — even when chastising someone.

"Stan's blatantly honest, almost to a fault," said Guy Junker, Savran's long-time co-host on FSN's "SportsBeat" and the "Stan & Guy Show" on 1250 ESPN Radio. "He's made as many enemies as he has friends. That doesn't always make him popular, but people respect him."

The cancellation of "SportsBeat" after 17 years ended the longest-running show in Pittsburgh TV history. Watching the two-hour special finale on July 13, we saw a devastated man openly mourning the loss of the thing he loved most in life.

"When 'SportsBeat' came to an end, that was really difficult for him," FSN producer Roger Lenhart said. "He lived and died for that show."

Savran looks at this surgery no differently than the loss of "SportsBeat." Both were life-altering experiences that took a piece of his heart, but they couldn't touch the spot for sports in his soul.

Like his listeners, Stan loves the show.

More than you could know.

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