If there’s one thing soldiers in Europe probably know about Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., it’s that he’s commander of U.S. Army Europe.
After the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe basketball championships a couple weekends ago, they might also know this: He’s a sports fanatic.
Campbell, a Kansas State grad, belted out color commentary on the American Forces Network’s live broadcast for the second half of the Division I girls’ and first half of the Division I boys’ championship games Feb. 22 like an old pro, leading some to say the general did a better job in the booth than AFN’s own stable of broadcasters.
Reaction to his performance has been positive – “so much so that I’m tempted to send the tape off to Bristol, Conn., to ESPN headquarters at some point,” he joked in an interview last week.
Seriously, though – he loves sports.
He’ll watch anything K-State does — “football, basketball, baseball, equestrian, rodeo — we have a rodeo team, by the way,” he said.
For pro sports, he follows the Washington Redskins, a habit he picked up from his dad, and the Cincinnati Reds, a team he watched dominate the major leagues in the early to mid-1970s. He follows college basketball more closely than the pros, he said, but he does tune in for the playoffs.
Another thing he tries to stay on top of: DODDS sports.
“I’ve been a sports junkie most of my life,” he said.
His son and daughter attended DODDS schools and competed in DODDS athletics, and even though they’ve both graduated, he still keeps up with the prep teams in Europe. A weekend before his AFN commentating gig, he went alone to watch the DODDS-Europe wrestling championships at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden.
“I kind of tried to be incognito, but it was kind of hard,” Campbell said.
During his appearance on AFN’s basketball championship broadcast, the general was anything but incognito in his seat at the announcers’ table. His thoughtful, on-the-spot game analysis and his ability to call players by name while delivering facts and figures about them indicated that he was well-prepped for his time in a different kind of limelight – more so than the guys whose job it was to be there, it seemed.
“Once I got into the flow of it, some of the stuff that I know about sports and some of the research I did trying to make sure that I sounded credible, kind of – it flowed a little bit for me, so it was enjoyable,” Campbell said.
He’d do it again if he’s asked, he said, but he’s already got a day job that prevents him from doing it full time.
“I’m kind of busy” being commander of U.S. Army Europe, “which I enjoy thoroughly.”