Finding joy: A former WDIV sportscaster’s journey from TV to golf caddy

Van Earl Wright developed a devout following that included many athletes

We started running promos earlier this week for my story catching up with Van Earl Wright, and I immediately started hearing from people eager to know what Van Earl was up to.

In a way, it’s one of those “whatever happened to” kind of stories. But it’s more than that. Van Earl (never Van, never V.E., and certainly never Earl -- always Van Earl) had one of the more singular careers in our whacky business.

After leaving the University of South Carolina, he paid his dues in a few smaller markets like Beaumont, Texas. But he ended up back in his hometown of Atlanta working at CNN.

He was almost never on camera in those days. He was the voice of the twice hourly sports updates. He’ll tell you that as he would get bored late at night waiting for the west coast games to end, he would get a little punchy. And he started having all kinds of histrionic fun with his delivery.

Over the top? Absolutely. Polarizing to viewers? Oh, yes, indeed. Some felt it was just too much. But he developed a devout following that included many athletes like Charles Barkley who loved the Van Earl way.

He left CNN and came to Detroit and he will tell you his three years here were among the best of his life. He was the sportscaster when I arrived here and we hit it off pretty quickly. Van Earl was a walking party, always quick with a joke. And when he was at an actual party, he could be counted on to sing any and every Frank Sinatra song, word for word and note for note.

I missed him when he left WDIV. But when he became one of the lead anchors for the newly formed Fox Sports Net in Los Angeles (and any Van Earl Wright fan would know that his preferred pronunciation was “Los ANGLE-eeze”) I figured he was on a nice trajectory.

But after a career setback there, he fell into that part of the California lifestyle that does seem to prey on the vulnerable. He developed a nasty drug habit that flipped his life upside down.

When I first heard that he was caddying last fall at Pebble Beach, I wasn’t sure what it meant. It’s one of the most famous golf courses in the world, so it certainly spoke to his caddying ability. But was it representative of some kind of fall?


It was representative of a guy taking a look at his life and deciding to choose joy. (He’s hardly alone. The future trends report for 2023 from Ford Motor Company’s futurist found that a leading theme for the new year is people seeking happiness and joy rather than financial or career success.)

I fully recommend the watching our conversation in full, in particular to hear about the biggest highlight of his sports life. It actually occurred the year after he left WDIV -- but it was in Detroit and it involved a certain cup.

My photographer Norm Fairhurst and I got to spend all of about 20 hours in West Palm Beach for this assignment. But I’m so glad we did. I’m delighted to bring everyone up to speed on Van Earl’s new life. But I’m also tickled that he’s back in mine.

You can watch the full length interview with Van Earl Wright below.

About the Author:

Devin Scillian is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your stereo. Devin anchors the evening newscasts for Local 4. Additionally, he moderates Flashpoint, Local 4's Sunday morning news program. He is also a best-selling author of children's books, and an award-winning musician and songwriter.