At five years old, Rudy Kalis’ view of the Statue of Liberty marked his immigration day into the United States. It also began a multiple decade battle with cultural, language, and educational challenges.
Persevering through tough college and military experiences, and an early introduction to broadcasting, Rudy used the same hardnosed tactics to try and make a name for himself. In the process he alienated others, until one day he was confronted with the truth of who he was, and a pathway to a live a different life.
In the choice between staying critical, negative and deflating or embracing a new world of possibilities, Rudy chose the unknown. The impact on him, and others has been profound.
The hardest thing for me in my life, it’s pride. It just eats me up.
I’m in an ego business, where you walk around and you want to be recognized. You’re full of yourself. You get to go to sporting events. ‘Scuse me! I’ve gotta go do interviews.
Everything in my work is to be first. Jam it down people. You know all the answers. And so if you deflate me, it just kills me inside because I’m not worthy.
I wasn’t born in this country. My parents are Russian. During World War II, my father was in the Russian army. He was captured by the Germans. And he met my mother in a refugee camp in the southern part of Germany after World War II.
In 1952, they immigrated to the United States. And think about that and say, how do you make that kind of a decision? How do you decide that you’re gonna leave that country and go to another world?
Well, I’m a little five-year-old kid. I got a seven-year-old sister who was a little older than me. And we got on a ship, and I can still remember the smell of the steel. It was the biggest thing that I’d ever seen.
And we got on board and came across. It was like an adventure to me. And I can remember cruising into New York Harbor, and it was in June, a sunny day.
I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty. Didn’t have any idea what it was, but saw it, looked at it.
A lot of people were lying on the deck, and a lot of them were crying. My dad told me afterwards, ’cause they were concerned. I mean, what are you gonna do in this land?
I remember going to school in kindergarten. I’d come home crying about every day because I didn’t know how to talk English, and thought the kids were laughing at this dumb little foreign kid. My mind was out the window.
My parents would keep saying to me, Rudy, why can’t you get grades like your sister? Why can’t you study? And education was key to them.
Not all of us, but a lot of us, one of two things happens. That we get in those formative teenage years and either somebody– and I had a coach, or parents without knowing it– would say to me, what’s wrong with you? You’ll never amount to anything!
Or a coach– you can’t play a lick! You don’t have any guts ! What’s wrong with you? Can’t get into the game. Get somebody else in here!
And voom! It sinks down inside of you. Or else, if you’re fortunate, somebody says to you, you’re magnificent. Mathematics. And music flies from you. You’re going to be great someday.
And I’ve realized at this point– it’s not all of us– but there are a lot of us that have spent the rest of our lives trying to either prove somebody right or prove somebody wrong. I think I’ve tried to prove somebody wrong ever since.
I flunked out of college after a year. Wasn’t smart enough though. Went in the military for four years.
Came back and took a radio production course. I thought that’d be so interesting. I knew I wouldn’t be good enough to be a professional athlete, but if I could be around them in broadcasting.
I finished four years of college in three years. I think I was trying to prove somebody wrong again.
Got a job in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Wasn’t even in news. I helped a little bit.
And after a year or so, a year and a half up there, the sports director quit. And I thought, ooh! I’m making $8,000 a year.
And they said well, we’re caught off guard. So why don’t you fill in for a little bit of time? And I did, and after a month they had a consultant group watch.
And they called me into a room, and these two guys sat with me and said, Rudy, why don’t you get out of broadcasting? You’re a nice guy. Sales. You’re just not suited for broadcasting.
Boom. There again, not good enough. What’s wrong with you, Rudy? Why can’t you study? All of this sort of stuff inside of me.
So I didn’t want to take no for an answer. Sent out tapes, and one of them was to Nashville, Tennessee. And they hired me! And I thought, this is my career. This is where I’m going.
It’s kinda neat. People recognize you. I was 31 years old. I was so busy trying to be somebody.
I was married and I wasn’t spending any time at home. I was so busy that my wife and I separated. I was too immature, or for whatever reason. It just broke me.
I’m driving down the road one day, and I pound the steering wheel in my car and I’m saying, God help me. I’m 31 and I haven’t been in church since I was 18 years old, ’cause I didn’t want to be around phony Christians.
And I go into this restaurant and this man walks over to me. And he wasn’t even from Nashville, but he walks all the way across, comes and looks at me. And he says, are you all right? You look like something’s bothering you.
And I said “no! “And he said, “wait.” And he sat there and he told me about hope. He told me about a God who loved me. A Jesus Christ who had died for me.
These things that I’d heard way back then. These seeds that had planted when I was back in grade school and high school, none of it was a lie. And also boom, it’s hitting me right between the eyes.
I said, “what is this?” I said “God, if you’re for real, I’m a reporter, you’re gonna have to show me. This is going to have to be consistency of time. “
And all of a sudden, I begin to listen to other people. And I began to look at other people. And my life began to change.
I began to see that the way I do my work impacted other people. That I could be cynical. I could be negative. I could be critical, which is so popular now.
Somehow we think that people that are in your face and know it all, that it’s a sign of intelligence. And that’s bull. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not the way God intended it.
And God began to make me look into other people’s eyes and to listen to them, and to realize that I impact thousands of lives by the spirit with which I do my work on television every single day. I’ve realized that the more I’ve grown in Christ, the more my life is diametrically opposed to what’s considered successful in this business.
And the glory of having Him inside of me now, is that I’ve realized my purpose is that this sportscasting and the work that I do is a vehicle to touch people’s lives with His spirit. Somehow He knew that this little immigrant kid, who stumbled around and made all these dumb mistakes, that He could mold him and shape him, and make him go through things that he didn’t want to go through, but that He could use him at the other end of his life in a way to touch other people’s lives.
My name is Rudy Kalis. And I am Second.