Emmy award-winning sportscaster Brian Custer looks back at his battle with Prostate Cancer, calling this year’s NCAA Final Four & Championship and more.
Often, when we are watching sporting events and the voices behind the action giving us the play-by-play, we see them as superhuman beings that should be there every day, and they don’t have anything going on in their lives except for the services being provided.
This is furthest from the truth, and for 52-year-old Brian Custer from Columbus, OH, life punched him with a Mike Tyson-like left hook when the doctor told him some chilling news back in 2013. Custer was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, and the walls internally started to cave in.
This summer will mark ten years since that cold summer day, and now is the right moment to reflect on the journey to get where he is today.
After pausing, taking a deep breath, and asking him his thoughts about it all, Custer told FanSidedMMA, “To be honest with you, grateful that I am still living. This August will be ten years since I had the surgery. I would never, ever forget the time that the doctor called me into his office and told me that I have cancer, it’s aggressive, and that he needed to get me into surgery like now.”
Custer continued, “I just remembered looking at him and saying, ‘I have never had a major surgery in my life. Is there something else we can do?’ He said, ‘Sure, we can try a lot of things, but I’m just going to be honest with you, if they don’t work, you’ll be dead within a year.’ The only thing I could think about is my boys, will I see them grow up, will I see them graduate high school, etc.? I had to go into fighter mode. I’m fighting, and this thing will not take me down. Cancer is a crazy thing because you have the surgery and you think you’ve passed it, then a couple of years later, the doctor tells you that your numbers are going up again. I had to do 39 bouts of high-grade radiation and work. It was tiring.”
Brian Custer will be calling this year's NCAA Final Four & Championship game
As you may get from reading this, Custer is a fighter at heart and wouldn’t allow this to defeat him. Although he was battling trying to move past all of this, in 2014, Showtime hired Custer to do their boxing telecasts, followed by being brought on by ESPN in the summer of 2021.
Between the time he was hired by Showtime and ESPN was the pandemic in 2020, where the world was on lockdown, forcing everyone to figure it out.
Like many in the media world, everyone had to tap into their creative thoughts to make a living through that time, resulting in permanent positions even after the lockdown was lifted. Custer was sitting at home trying to figure it all out until around April or May (2020) when he decided to start a podcast, “The Last Stand Podcast.” It began with Custer calling some of his friends for the show, but then it led to much more.
“I knew I had the numbers for so many people, so I thought maybe I could spend time talking to some of my favorite people and pumping out content. That’s what I did, and I found a good friend of mine who has his own production company, and I said, ‘Hey, look if I go help buy some equipment, could you edit it and put it together for me?’ I paid him to do that, and the next thing I know, I was calling friends, colleagues, and people I knew. It started with entertainers, but when I started interviewing boxers, the episodes would blow up. Later in the year, we just stuck to interviewing boxers, and I just started to really enjoy it,” said the Emmy Award-winning sportscaster.
Anyone who has watched a Custer interview knows he asks the tough questions that other media members may be hesitant to. Some may say he can do that because he is with Showtime, and it won’t affect any type of access to future events as he is with the network hosting the event itself. So the tables were turned, and I asked him the hard question of whether or not there has ever been backlash from a fighter after the cameras turned off due to the questions being asked.
Custer said, “Not in the way you’re probably thinking about. I can tell you that in the last episode, we did with (Terence) ‘Bud’ Crawford, I grilled him about the Errol Spence stuff because all we knew was that Errol wanted the fight. He wanted the fight they had been negotiating, and at one point, we had heard it was going to be in November, and then it falls apart. I wanted to know what’s the deal. Once we were finished, he was like, ‘Mannn, did the PBC put you up to do a hatchet job on me?’ And I said, ‘I’m just asking questions every fight fan wants to know.'”
Shifting from his podcast to his sportscasting career, Custer will again be calling the NCAA Final Four and Championship game this year. It was something he did last year and is looking forward to doing it again this year which will include Mr. “Diaper Dandy” himself, Dick Vitale. Hosting the NCAA Final Four and Championship game is a huge deal and is one of the most watched sporting events of the year.
Aside from his ESPN duties, Custer was the maestro for the Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis vs. Ryan Garcia pressers in NY & LA, along with the high spice level one of David Benavidez vs. Caleb Plant. He enjoyed being part of it, but they each had a different feel.
We saw how the ‘Tank’ Garcia one played out, as it seemed everyone in the world was watching. But the Benavidez vs. Plant presser, a matchup with more of a purist appeal to it, was the one Custer found himself giving pre-presser briefs to as he didn’t want to me in the middle of a melee.
On the occasions where each fight spoke, he positioned himself slightly in the middle in case the situation went left. Regarding the excitement level for this one, Custer said, “When I was walking over to the press conference, they (Benavidez and Plant) already had a little interaction downstairs. I was like, ‘I already know this one is going to be a little spicey. I don’t have to juice this one up.’ That fight will be “must-see” come Saturday night.
Although Custer is doing all these great things with ESPN and Showtime, some will think that all of this success came quickly to him. He wants to ensure that people get the most accurate picture while mentioning what those who desire a certain level of success should do.
“Work until your work is done. Everyone’s path is different. Everyone wants that success right now, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen on your time; it happens on his time (looking up). Someone can look at me now and say how successful I am, but I look at myself like, ‘Boy, it took me a long time to get here.’"
Custer inspires us all as a Husband, Father, sportscaster, and cancer survivor. He has come back from being knockdown by life to secure a victory on the scorecards but has to continue to face life in future matchups and try to do everything in his power to keep winning.