I don't know why, but I was a little bit surprised to find out how many people loved Byron and Joe as much as I do when I mentioned them in approximately 20% of the "Five Less Essential Things to Know" post the other day. Somewhat paradoxically, I was also surprised to find out that some Xavier fans didn't even know we have a radio crew. I guess I assumed everyone knew they existed but I was the only one who thought they were legendary. Anyway, how did we get so lucky? Here's how we Byron and Joe ended up talking to me from my computer a few dozen times a year.
Back before I knew anything about basketball but right after my mom was born, Joseph G. Sunderman came into the world. He played basketball throughout his academic career, being named an honorable mention All-American by Street and Smith's in 1974 while playing at La Salle High School. Sunderman's career at Xavier was derailed to an extent by injuries, but he still managed to average 9.6 and 8.6 as a senior and never attempting a three-point shot.
Sunderman's basketball career's limitations were a boon to his broadcasting; he got his start serving as a color commentator for high school games while rehabbing from a knee injury. He would sit silently next to play-by-play man Bill Meredith, only speaking when Meredith signaled him by tapping the table. When Xavier coach Bob Staak wanted a former player to provide color commentary on the radio beginning in 1980, it was Sunderman who landed the gig. He worked alongside the legendary Andy MacWilliams until MacWilliams stepped aside due to voice problems. Sunderman slid over to the play-by-play spot, opening up a seat for...
Byron Larkin. Larkin as a player was a local legend from a family of local legends (perhaps you've heard of his brother Barry?). He scored 13 points in 19 minutes to knock off Pitt in his second game with X. He was starting by his 7th game and started 115 in a row, setting a since-broken school record. He was a three-time all-conference performer, two-time conference player of the year, and was the first Xavier player to be named a postseason All-American. His tally of 2,696 points still tops the school's leaderboard, and he was the team's leading scorer for all four years on campus.
After that sterling college career, Larkin blazed the trail that so many Xavier guards after him would follow: he was just a hair too short to play his college position at the next level. Every NBA team that worked him out wanted the 6'3" shooting guard to transition to the point, which was not his natural position. Larkin led the Venezuelan league in scoring twice in five seasons, played a sixth year in Germany and Hong Kong, then came home to get married. The owner of his team in Venezuela came to his wedding to try to convince him to return, but he was ready to establish a life after his playing career.
About that time, the aforementioned slot at the radio table opened up, and Byron and Joe have never really looked back. Larkin commentates with the vigor of a man whose head occasionally has to remind his heart that his on-court days are behind him. He'll occasionally advise players over the air loudly enough that it can surely be heard on the court. He exults when Xavier makes a big play and responds to critical errors with the kind of groaning usually reserved for when your son hits a batter with an 0-2 pitch on his varsity debut.
Joe is the level-headed yin to Byron's effusive yang. He has the vernacular of a man who may or may not have learned the game from Norman Dale, referring to gym shoes and time lines in a way you don't often hear anymore. He has a knack for sharing a lot of information in a short period of time without ever sounding rushed, a skill that I imagine has been developed by thirty-five years of effort and experience. He's the Vin Scully to Byron's Tom Hamilton. Google both those names if you have to.
I can't imagine that radio is a medium that will be with us forever, and I'm assuming at one point one or both of Byron and Joe will retire. In the meantime, we'll drop a link to the iHeartRadio feed of every Xavier game right into our game threads, much as we have always done. Do yourselves a favor and tune in. It won't perfectly sync up with your TV. I promise you it won't matter.