ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Adam Suderman watches the daily sportscasts on KSN Channel 3 a little more closely than most fans. Beyond a keen interest in the daily scores and highlights, the 14-year-old Hillsboro High School freshman has a keen connection with the man usually sitting in front of the camera, sports director Jim Kobbe.
A chance encounter in a furniture store back in 2001 has grown into a gift of friendship between the two that has lasted more than 51⁄2 years now.
“I was shopping for a sofa and this woman approached me and said her nephew was a big fan of mine, and then told me her nephew was almost 9 years old,” Kobbe recalled. “So I gave her a business card and told her to have him contact me.”
The woman was Adam’s aunt, Lori Thurston of Hillsboro. She brought back the business card, which Kobbe had autographed.
Another aunt, Roxy Klein, suggested that they arrange a tour of the TV station for Adam’s ninth birthday a week later.
“I didn’t know him personally, but I always thought he was a great guy,” Adam said. “Of course, I loved sports and he loved sports.”
Even so, Adam recalled being somewhat star-struck when the day of the tour arrived.
“I was so nervous I thought I wouldn’t be able to speak,” Adam said. “I remember walking in and, ‘Wow, it’s Jim Kobbe in person.’ He just welcomed us and said, ‘I hope you have a good time, and I’ll try to show you around as much as I can in the time I have.’
“I didn’t know how long it was going to last, but I hoped it would last a couple of hours,” Adam added. “We watched the 6 o’clock newscast and talked to him afterward.”
At the end of the visit, Kobbe said he invited Adam to correspond with him by e-mail.
“We’ve kept in touch over the years and it’s really been a fun thing,” said the veteran broadcaster who was working for KWCH-TV at the time.
Kobbe took a brief hiatus from broadcasting before accepting his present post at KSNW in 2005.
“I was ecstatic when he came back on TV at Channel 3,” Adam said.
About a year ago, Kobbe invited Adam to join him as his “intern of the day” at the Bracket-Buster basketball game between Wichita State and George Mason. The event gave Adam an up-close look at NCAA Division I basketball and the enthusiastic Shocker fans who fill Charles Koch Arena with a deafening roar.
“That was one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had,” Adam said.
But the young intern had to earn his keep.
“(Kobbe) wanted to get a report ready because he needed to do a live report from the arena,” Adam said. “Since he wasn’t totally ready for it, he kind of asked me for a few stats. I gave him the RPIs of the teams, and that these teams had never met before-basic things that it doesn’t take a real sports genious to know.”
Adam’s source of information was his own memory. His parents, David and Connie Suderman, say their youngest son has devoured sports information since his toddler days. He learned to read by scouring boxscores and had his own subscription to The Sporting News by age 7.
Since that first experience at Koch Arena, Adam and Kobbe have teamed up to cover a Wichita Wranglers baseball game and the Shockers’ basketball game against Northern Iowa in December.
The duo was in attendance again in Koch Arena on Sunday for the Shockers’ Bracket-Buster game with Appalachian State.
“It’s not every day you can go to a Division I basketball game and be able to feel the bounce of the ball at your feet,” said Adam, who sat with the media one row behind the courtside seats. “It’s like, wow, this is amazing.”
Their friendship was put to the test this past fall when Kobbe uttered a profanity on the air when he thought his microphone was turned off.
Kobbe was suspended by the station for a couple of days, but the incident didn’t shake Adam’s support for his friend.
“I talked to my parents about it and said I’m not going to judge him by this,” Adam said. “I still think he’s a great guy. I wouldn’t let one thing like this get in the way.”
Kobbe said Adam is the only young person he corresponds with regularly at present, but he understands his potential to influence young viewers like Adam.
“Anybody who wants to contact me, I’m there for them,” he said. “I remember when I was that age I wanted to be a sportscaster and I watched the sportscasters very closely. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I had an opportunity to meet the guys at KAKE-Bill Land and Mike Kennedy. I remember what a thrill that was for me.
“There have been so many people that have helped me along the way,” he added. “If I can befriend somebody and help them along the way, whether they become a sportscaster or not, it’s just a cool thing.”
Kobbe said one thing he hopes Adam gets out of their friendship is the realization that people on telelvision are normal people like anybody else.
“I’m from a small town also (Douglass),” he said. “A guy from Hillsboro, if he chooses it, has all sorts of resources if he’s willing to pick up the phone and contact some people.
“I think Adam gets out of this a relationship, and maybe realizing that living in a town like Hillsboro isn’t as small as you might think.”
Adam said he would love to pursue sports broadcasting someday, but he realizes he’s a little young to decide on a career path so soon.
As for the future of their friendship, both parties see no reason why it won’t continue.
“I hope to hear from him forever,” Kobbe said. “I enjoy him and want to be a positive influence for him. I hope we always communicate.”
Adam couldn’t agree more.
“Not that he needs a guy to tag along and give him stats, but he’s just a good friend. I think we’ve gotten to know each other really well. That’s been a lot of fun.”