Many who attend or are associated with Liberty University have heard quotes from the founder, Dr. Falwell Sr. about how the way to reach young people is through sports and music. Falwell’s theory was the basis for many of the decisions he made throughout his tenure as the chancellor of Liberty.
Beyond his insight into American culture, there was another reason that Falwell wanted Liberty to have a big, successful sports program — he just loved sports.
“He was a sports nut,” Flames Sports Network Senior Producer Bruce Carey said. “And another thing about Jerry — he hated to lose.”
Carey, whose family began attending Thomas Road Baptist Church in its infancy, spent decades working under Falwell. According to Carey, many of the countless memories he has of Falwell are tied to sports.
“If you played a game where Jerry (Falwell) was on one of the teams, you wanted to be on that team,” Carey said. “Forget about nine innings, forget about an hour-long basketball game. He was going to play until he won.”
According to Carey, the softball games Falwell played in were known to last upwards of 16 innings.
“The other team would just give up because they’d just get tired,” Carey said. “It became a marathon if he didn’t win it early.”
As a boy, Carey’s earliest memories of Falwell in the pre-Macel days were when Falwell would bring Carey and other neighborhood children home from church, eat lunch in their home and then go out to play pickup ball games with the neighborhood kids.
“All the neighborhood kids knew he was coming,” Carey said. “He’d play ball with these kids, and then, when it was over, he’d come in, take a nap, and then he’d get cleaned up, and we’d all jump back in the car and go to church.”
After developing a great friendship with the man he knew as Pastor Falwell, Carey grew to know him as a boss as well.
In the early ‘90s, prior to the Flames Sports Network, Liberty athletic events were televised by an outside company called Creative Sports — for which Carey worked as a cameraman.
But Falwell thought that the outside company charged too much, so he began to mull over the idea of moving the operation in house.
“He came to me, knowing that I loved sports, and said, ‘Bruce, can you produce the sports here at Liberty?’” Carey said.
While Carey admitted that he did not have experience in producing, he said that he thought he knew how to do it — that was enough for Falwell.
“He just said, ‘You’re the sports producer. I’m turning it over to you — make it happen,” Carey said.
Carey did make it happen — and still does. Under his leadership, Liberty’s sports broadcasting slowly rose to its current award-winning status. What began as the Liberty Broadcast Network (LBN) Sports channel became the Flames TV Network, which became the Flames Sports Network, as it is known today. In that time, Carey has produced nearly every game held on or away from campus that the network has carried.
One of Carey’s favorite parts about his job has been producing promotional videos for the football team. Carey would often ask Falwell if he would like to make appearances in the videos — Falwell never missed an opportunity.
Falwell was meeting presidents and members of Congress. He was head of the Moral Majority at the time, yet he would take time out of his lunch hour to come and shoot these little spots with them, Carey said.
Sometimes, Falwell would not even have the slightest clue about the plot of the video. He would not know what exactly it was until the video aired.
Thanks to Carey and his staff, a few of those old videos — some of which include Falwell – are available at the Liberty Champion’s website, as well as on our Facebook page.