Veteran sportscaster and newsman George Riba spoke at the Lake Highlands Chamber of Commerce Taco Talko Tuesday about his years as a broadcaster and the impact of his stories, but it didn’t take long for questioners to ask what was foremost on their minds after the Dallas Cowboys’ excruciating performance Monday night – will Jerry Jones fire Jason Garrett?
“I think that’s pretty obvious if they end up with a losing record,” Riba answered. “I love Jason Garrett – known him for years – but something’s not right. If they have a losing record, I don’t think they’ll have a choice.”
Riba, an avid runner with more than 30 marathons under his belt, grew up in Fredericksburg and began his career in radio. When he begged Channel 11 to hire him, they sent him to film school. One of his early projects was a documentary on Van Alstyne and a church there with no members.
“There was an old guy, Mr. Wiggins, who was taking care of the church and showing us around. We had no money to get aerial photographs and the town was really small, so I said I’d climb to the top of the water tower to get the shot. We asked the mayor’s permission, and he said, ‘Yes, and while you’re up there, will you change the little light bulb that’s been burned out?’”
Not only did Riba strap on a camera and scale the outer rim of the tower, he climbed the curved ladder to the tippy-top to replace the red bulb.
In the early 90s, Riba was riding the Cowboys’ plane with the team after a game in Washington. Owner Bum Bright had business partner, Ed Smith, on board, and Smith became very ill. The plane began turning around and dumping fuel. Riba recalled that great philosopher Nate Newton, never one to self-censor, exclaiming, “Just because he’s dying doesn’t mean you have to kill us all (expletives deleted).”
In addition to sports, Riba broadcast riveting stories about Cullen Davis, who was acquitted in trials for killing his wife and hiring a hitman to kill the judge in his divorce, the 1985 L-1011 Delta crash at DFW airport and hordes of others. He was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2016 and won the Mayborn School of Journalism Career Service Award, also in 2016.
Riba now works for Texas Motor Speedway, and he also creates a syndicated show, Special Edition, for the Cowboys. It goes out to Waco, Austin, San Antonio and Little Rock on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Riba, formerly a Lake Highlands resident, now lives in Lakewood with his wife, Maggie. The Lakewood Advocate featured Riba in this story in 2015.
Taco Talko Tuesday is a monthly free event during which the Chamber brings members of the media to Resident Taqueria to speak about current events. On Thursday, Nov. 15, the Chamber will host a Leadership Forum at JJ’s Café. You can learn more about both events on their website here.