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Saturday, April 20, 2024

“Voice of the Eagles” is a Labor of Love of Paris Athletics and Community for Local Broadcasters Tim Johns & Marvin Wiggins


It was an afternoon before a late-season, Paris basketball game when I sat down with local broadcaster Tim Johns to visit with him about his role in broadcasting Paris athletics. Having known Tim for a relatively short time, I was interested in knowing more about him and how he became the “Voice of the Eagles”, broadcasting home and away games for Paris athletics. As we began to talk, it did not take long for me to realize how much Tim Johns loves Paris and loves the players, coaches, and members of the community. For Tim, his work broadcasting Paris sports is a true act of love and devotion to his adopted home town of Paris.

Tim began broadcasting Paris Eagles sports in 2017. Before coming to Paris, Tim had a sports show in Clarksville. “I had a sports show in Clarksville, KXIO, on a show called the “Sports Brew”. I started that in 2013, and did that up until 2016. It was a daily show, Monday through Friday. I had been in media sales all of my life in this area, and the older I was getting I started thinking I’d like to do something different. So, what I decided to do was to start a sports show. I am from Clarksville, so I called my home town radio station and they said sure, so we worked a time where I could do the show Mondays through Fridays. I sat that show up as a two-hour show from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. The first 30 minutes were dedicated to state-wide media. We had some of the best. I mean, we had Todd Murphy from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nate Allen from the Democrat-Gazette, Mike Irwin a couple of times, Grant Hall from northwest Arkansas was a regular, Kevin Taylor from the Southwest Times Record, Richard Davenport was a regular on Wednesday with a recruiting report, we had a lot of impressive media. The second 30 minutes was dedicated to Razorbacks sports. I called it the show that was “in the River Valley and for the River Valley.” We talked a lot about the Razorbacks because that was the one thing everyone had in common. The one thing that was unique and different was each town had their own home town heroes on Friday nights. So, the second half of the first hour I had a segment called “the Legends of the River Valley.” I started out right here (in Paris) with “Big” Ron Trusty, and he came in studio on day one over in Clarksville as an Ex-Razorback, and Brad Taylor (from Danville High School and Arkansas Razorbacks). Brad and Ron were there on the first day. Over the course of time, we probably had a hundred ex-Razorbacks on in those three years, and a lot of them would be on regularly.”

Before the program started, Tim wanted to start his new sports show off with a bang; with a larger-than-life figure with whom all of his listeners could identify. “I just, off of a whim, called the University of Arkansas to speak with coach Frank Broyles’s office. His secretary answered the phone and I told her what I was up to and that I would love to have Coach Broyles on our first show. She said she would be more than happy to ask him and thought they would be able to do that. I didn’t really think they would. Within 24 hours she called me back and she said that Coach Broyles would love to do it. So, on day one of that Sports Brew show, we had Legends of the River Valley with Ron Trusty and Brad Taylor, and head coach Frank Broyles. The second hour was devoted to the high school coaches. The way I set it up was on Mondays we had 6A coaches all the way from Conway to Springdale. I had all of those coaches for about 5 minutes each during the second hour. When the season changed to basketball, we had the basketball coaches on.”

When the show ended in 2016, Tim purchased the radio time to begin his own endeavor. “The station group based in Russellville changed formats and went to primarily a music-only format. It did, and still does carry high school games for all of the local teams around Russellville, but they don’t get into local programming or sports shows; its more music-driven. So, I was kind of looking for a different gig at that time, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought, well, just on a whim, I am going to go over to Paris and see coach Bryan Hudson. It was in the spring, I think in 2017, and I realized that Paris did not have their own radio coverage. And so, I just came across the river to see Bryan Hudson. I asked Bryan about it (broadcasting Paris football games) and he said, “sure.” So, that’s what I did. The previous owner of the Clarksville radio station built me a website, and we called it, a spin-off of the old radio show, the “Sportsbrew.net”. What I was originally going to do was just Paris football, and I didn’t know where I was going from there. But, we did the football season, and during the course of the season, I got to know coach Wes Davis, the Paris volleyball coach. Started having him on the show and became very interested in what was going on over here with the Paris volleyball program being the talk of the River Valley and the state of Arkansas in volleyball. I thought, we might as well cover the volleyball games too. So, that year, when they got into post-season play, we covered the district tournament and on into the state playoffs up in Hoxie. That’s how it morphed into volleyball. Then I thought, we might as well do basketball, and now we do basketball. And then it became softball and baseball, and it has just gone from there.”

Now, Tim is broadcasting approximately 150 Paris athletics games per school year. That is 150 out of approximately 170 games and events each school year. Even the spring blue / white football game is covered by Tim on his internet show. Quite an impressive production for a small, western Arkansas town.

Tim’s faithful color man is Marvin Wiggins. Anyone who knows Marvin knows that no one loves Paris and the Eagles more than Marvin. Together, Tim and Marvin bring a great mix of professional, sports broadcasting experience together with local love and passion for the Paris community, the Paris schools, and Paris athletes, past, present, and future. The two bring the best of both worlds that makes the show all about Paris and the promotion of Paris student-athletes. The two are a natural combination that bring great chemistry to the show. Each seems to know how the other thinks and knows exactly when and how to interject their thoughts on the spur of the moment, whether it be during the broadcast of a fast and exciting game, or if it is a more reflective comment regarding the analysis of a game or a player’s performance.

Tim and Marvin are a natural combination. So, I asked Tim how the two began to work together on the show. Tim said, “Around 2014 or 2015, I think it was the year before Coach Davis won his first state championship, I had Coach Davis on the air and was really intrigued with what was going on with his program. So I told him, “Coach, I am going to come over here, we can meet at Dari Delight, with you or your team, or at Logan County Glass and Mirror who is a big supporter.” We ended up meeting at Logan County Glass and Mirror. We dedicated the entire two hours to the Paris volleyball program, and Marvin came by. Marvin and Bentley Allen, and I had both on the air that day. Nobody bleeds Paris more than Marvin Wiggins, and I could tell that. And Bentley Allen, too. Had both those guys on and we had a good time. Three or four months previous, I had Coach Hudson and his staff on over at Dari Delight, and that is where Marvin and I really got to know each other. I think he heard we were going to be on with the volleyball team and he came over. Of course, when he and Bentley walked in, I thought, I have got to have those two guys. So, that’s how it started.”

Marvin is very humble when you ask him about his experience with Tim and broadcasting Paris sports. When I approached him to do this interview, Marvin said, “I’ve had never been in broadcasting. I know the first night that it took place was at Paris, I don’t remember who it was against, but he (Tim) had asked me if I was coming to the game, and I told him I probably was, and he asked if I would come up and be on the air with me and we would talk about the Paris Eagles between games. So, I did that, and once we got done, I went to sit in the stands and he asked me where I was going. He said, “why don’t you just stay here on the air with me?” I said, “well, are you sure?” He said, “yes”, and I have been on the air with him ever since. It has been a big time experience for me. I grew up listening to it (sports) on the air as a kid; listening to Bud Campbell and Razorbacks football, and he always had a color guy on with him. You remember all of that, especially if you love sports. So, I kind of had an idea of what to do, but when you do it, you kind of feel odd at first. But Tim and I, for some reason, click on saying things at the right moment. I just know the tone of him when he shuts down, and when I need to put a plug in at that time. I’ll jump in and say my few things real quickly and then I back right out. You actually have to have that when you work with another person.”

Marvin has dedicated his service to the Paris football team over several decades to keeping game day statistics for the team. Marvin recounted those years in our interview. “I’ve been with the football team doing game day stats for 41 years. It became a part of my life. I get emotional when I talk about it. I get close to a lot of these young men and women and become close with them. I have watched a lot of their parents play. Have come through all of that generation and then I have watched them get married and have families. And then their kids come; I have even watched some of the grand kids play. It has been a tremendous ride for me. I have loved every minute of it. I bleed the Paris blue. I’ve even told people that if my own grand kids are playing for someone else against the Paris Eagles, I am going to be a Paris Eagle. I watched my own football coach do the same thing. His grandson was the quarterback at Dover, and we played Dover. I looked over to our stands, and there sat our coach with a Paris Eagles shirt and gave me a thumbs up. Now that’s being an Eagle.” Legendary coach Jim Clay had a profound effect on Marvin’s life, just as he did for the many players who played under his guidance for so many years. In fact, today, Marvin indirectly credits Coach Clay for being the catalyst behind his destiny to meet Tim Johns and be in the position he enjoys today.

There is no doubt that Tim Johns hit a home run when he invited Marvin Wiggins to be a part of his broadcast team, and the nexus of the legendary Paris coach, Jim Clay, and Marvin Wiggins, and later, Tim Johns, has all combined to produce a local sports broadcast team for Paris sports that has the feel of the deep tradition of Paris athletics history, and the 100% devotion and loyalty to Paris athletics that has its origin dating back to the great days of Paris football and coach Jim Clay.

When Marvin is busy doing stats during football season, Tim has turned to Josh Rinehart for broadcasting help. Assistant principal and co-athletic director, Trey Prieur, has also been enlisted for broadcasting help during volleyball season. Marvin works with Tim during basketball season, as well as with the springs sports of baseball and softball. Tim knows he can’t do it all, and he has very smartly chosen people from the school who are directly knowledgeable about the sports and the current events surrounding the sports, the players, and teams in the regional and statewide areas.

In a typical broadcast, Tim serves as the play-by-play announcer, and Marvin serves as a color analyst. The two have to do their roles with precision coordination that often works, but sometimes events move quickly in the game, requiring both to quickly paint the picture for the listening audience, and therefore can be a challenge for any broadcasting pair at any level. The two men have great chemistry and seem to intuitively know just what to say and when to say it to compliment each other.

Tim has plans to expand his coverage in baseball and softball this school year. “I am not going to mention who at this time is going to help us this year, but this person does have some baseball experience and understands the game really well, and I think they are going to do a great job. Marvin and I will still do the bulk of it, but we will also utilize a couple of other guys too.”

I asked Tim about some of the more memorable moments he has covered as a broadcaster. Earlier in his career, Tim recounted a time when he covered Van Buren. “From 1992-2008 I covered Van Buren. The football game, as far as an exciting game that I remember, was in 1996, Texarkana at Van Buren. Both of those teams, Van Buren had Kenny Sandlin who later became an All-SEC player at Arkansas. That game was the most physical football game that I have ever seen. It was almost down right dirty. Texarkana was big and physical. Van Buren had a championship team that didn’t get there that year, but won the state the following year. The game ended in a 24-24 tie and was a non-conference game between two of the highest rated teams in Arkansas.”

As far as special moments and Paris sports, Tim talks about the state volleyball championship against Ashdown, and a softball game last year in the state quarterfinals. The game was in Harrison, and the hotel we stayed in had a water line break, and we had to move team and all to another hotel in Branson, Missouri. We bused back into to Harrison to play the next morning at 11 a.m. We see the team Paris is going to play that morning in the hotel, and they are up, and dressed, and ready, and they look like they are ready to play the World Series. Our kids, they looked like they had just crawled out of bed, which they had. About half of them still had their pajamas on when they came down to eat breakfast. Marvin and I looked at each other and said there is no way we are going to win this game. We get to the ballpark, and the other team is on the field, warming up. Our kids just mosey up to the field and kind of go through the motions warming up. And we are thinking this is just going to be disasterous. Low and behold, Paris beat them on two great catches, unlikely catches, one hard hit ball into center field and Karsyn Tencleve made a “snow cone” catch in center field on the run. The other was a hard shot with runners on base. If those hits had fallen and they had scored those runs, it would have wiped us out. Marvin was about to choke up, Coach Hart came by and talked to us; first time I’ve ever seen Coach Hart choke up.”

The other special Paris moment was another softball game that happened the year before. The team was playing in Greenland against a very good Atkins team in the state quarterfinals. “It was one of those games where you thought that no matter how hard we tried, we were not going to get there (win the game). It was bottom of the seventh, two outs, and we are down by one run, and we had two runners on base with two strikes on the hitter. We get a hit into right field, just a little blooper, it drove two runs in and we win the game. We weren’t using headsets at that time; we were in the press box. I had a microphone in my hand and I’m try to call the game; I don’t think anyone was able to understand me. I turned to hand the microphone to Marvin to get his comments and Marvin wasn’t there. He was about six feet above the floor! He finally got his breath and we got on with the broadcast.”

When I asked Marvin for his most special moment as a Paris broadcaster, Marvin mentioned the very same game in Greenland. Keep in mind that I interviewed both men separately on two different days; it was uncanny that the two men were on the same page, almost to the exact same details. “We have had a lot of great finishes; a lot of great games. Tim and I were broadcasting the girls regional in Greenland. We were down 1-0 going into the last inning. Somehow, some way, those girls managed to get a hit and then steal second base to put the tying run in scoring position. Paris gets a hit to tie the game, and the next hitter gets on with a base hit. She steals second, and now you have the winning run at second base. The next hitter hits a ball to right and Coach Hart gives her the sign to send her home. When she slid across home plate I jumped out of my seat. We were in a booth, and Tim turned to talk to me and I was already up in the air. That meant so much to me to see them pull that game out. We went on and won the next game and won the regional.”

The two stories tell how much the two men compliment each other. They are a natural team and for Paris sports fans, they are a team that I am sure many fans hope the two will be broadcasting Paris sports for several years to come.

Paris fans can catch Tim and Marvin on the air at Sportsbrew.net this spring as the pair will bring Paris baseball and softball to its listeners. And like all the other sports broadcasts of the past, it will be a labor of love and devotion to Paris as the two broadcast teammates bring the games into the homes, autos, and workplaces of Eagles fans everywhere.

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Jim Best
Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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