Stuck half a country away from the edge of his signal, we've never heard the work of Portland Trail Blazer radio play-by-play man Brian Wheeler. But judging from what he's had to endure as a child, broadcaster and adult? It's fair to say he's vaulted to the top of our choice on the dial even without hearing him detail something as trivial as a missed free throw.
It appears that Wheeler was left in the hands of just about the cruelest stepfather imaginable at an impressionable age. And because we're human, "impressionable" can mean just about any age from the cradle to the grave. Wheeler has forged ahead, though, overcoming the loss of both of his adoptive parents and his stepfather's cruelty to make his mark as Blazer play-by-play man for the last 14 years. Even that gig, as you'll hopefully read in this fantastic feature from Matt Calkins at The Columbian, has been too nasty for too nice of a man.
A man who somehow forged a successful career in the face of a cruel caretaker in stepfather Brad Wheeler who seemed obsessed with humiliating him. Here's a snippet:
Brad had bequeathed a substantial amount of money to each of his five biological sons and to two of his three stepsons, but to Brian, almost 30 at the time, he wanted to give nothing.
Bob White, the stepbrother who was acting as Brad's attorney, explained to Brad that omitting Brian entirely could open the will up to a court battle; that Brian could argue a mistake was made and receive a sum equal to that of his siblings.
So naturally, Brad asked just how little he could leave.
"I told him it could be five dollars," recalled a flabbergasted White, Brad's stepson from a previous marriage. "He seemed to like that. He was like, 'Oh, that will humiliate Brian!' "
If you can handle it, the read gets worse. It also gets a lot better, as you take in Calkins' expertly penned tale about Wheeler's forgiving nature and eventual triumph.
And though we dig the work (we really do) of Trail Blazers TV callers Mike Barrett and Mike Rice, do yourself a favor the next time you're within range of Wheeler's team and dial up the AM call. You'll be listening to a true survivor.
- Brian Wheeler