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Dick Calvert, voice of Rebels, facing battle after COVID

Updated January 6, 2021 - 12:35 pm

The Voice of the Rebels for the past 50 years, normally strident, straightforward and in its own way comforting, was almost unrecognizable Tuesday morning.

As the longtime and seemingly forever public address announcer for UNLV sports, Dick Calvert is not one to mince words. So when asked how he was feeling after being hospitalized for the novel and by now despicable coronavirus on Dec. 17, he gave a succinct answer.

“Horse(feathers),” he said wanly.

“I’m not in good shape at all. I’m very weak. I had COVID, pneumonia, spots on my lungs. I’ve got a lot of weird things going on. But they say I’m in the process now of rehabbing at home.

“It’s gonna take a lot of time.”

Calvert, 84 years young until the bug caught him, was reprising his Sam Boyd Stadium public address duties for New Mexico and San Jose State football games after those teams switched their base to Las Vegas amid COVID restrictions in their home states. He believes that is how he got sick.

“I was fine. Everything was great, no problem. Following protocol, doing the things you’re supposed to do. I was doing those games, and that’s where I think I got it. Somewhere, somebody nailed me,” he said.

Battle only beginning

Calvert was released from St. Rose Dominican Hospital on New Year’s Day. He said he is now COVID free.

“I can’t give it to anybody. Nobody can give it to me,” he said. “Whatever. Who knows?”

As Calvert continued to talk, his raspy voice continued to get stronger. He was nowhere close to growling “3-point goal … Anderson Hunt (or insert the name of your favorite UNLV long range gunner here). Nowhere near to welcoming the “Re-b-b-b-el Girls” onto the court during a TV timeout.

He was lying flat on his back in bed, sounding like a commercial for Vicks NyQuil, when his sense of humor suddenly jumped from under the covers.

“I remember the holidays, but I can’t figure out what the NFL is doing,” said the Class of 2010 Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductee. “Every five minutes I’m watching football. I don’t know what they’re playing for, but there’s 5,000 games.”

Calvert turned serious when asked about his two-week stay in the hospital that was miserable and solitary.

“You don’t ever want any part of this,” he said, adding a compound expletive for effect. “You can’t believe what I’ve been through. I’ve lived through a lot of things in my life — I’m not a baby — and I will tell you this just knocked the crap out of me.”

When asked about advice he would give to those who have managed to stay healthy amid this virus that only seems to be getting more deadly after the introduction of a vaccine to manage it, Calvert mustered the slightest of chuckles.

“Don’t get it,” he said.

In good hands

In some ways, having COVID-19 is like identifying a ball carrier without binoculars. Sometimes all you can do is guess about its effects, Calvert said.

“It can be totally weird. It can be somewhat weird. It can be nothing. Or it could just kick the crap out of you,” he said. “So I’m in bed taking care of myself. I am with my wife, and I’ve got nurses and (physical therapists) and all that kind of stuff.”

Calvert said his biggest fear during the ongoing ordeal is that his wife, Anne, would catch the virus from him. The Calverts have been married 65 years and are inseparable.

When Dick apprises spectators (when there are spectators) of down and distance to go for a first down and who is sinking 3-point goals at the 150 or more sporting events he annually works, Anne keeps those in the press informed and refreshed by distributing statistics, soft drinks and bottled water.

“I’m good,” she said after her husband handed her the cellphone. “I’ve got my patient. I’ve got my hands full.”

What about the patient? Is he getting stronger every day?

Annie Calvert hesitated before speaking the unvarnished truth.

“You know what, he has zero muscles. Zero strength. He can’t stand up, and he’s working hard at getting back …”

Annie Calvert was momentarily distracted. The new reality she and her husband, beloved by her and by so many for so many years, had arrived at the front door.

“Thank you for the call,” she said, trying politely to excuse herself. “I have the nurse here now.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.