Many on campus know Buena Vista University junior Tanner Hoops as the sports broadcasting voice on the radio. But not many know that he has Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder he lives with every day. Marfan Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder that affects the tissues that hold together the body’s cells and organs.
With the help of BVU’s radio station, KBVU, Hoops hosted a live music event, Music for Marfans, on Friday, Sept. 23, in central campus. Hoops is a student leader at the radio station, so his colleagues at KBVU were eager to plan the event with him.
Hoops hoped to raise awareness about Marfan Syndrome with the event.
“Right now if you ask anybody what Marfan’s is, I don’t think they’d be able to tell you,” Hoops said. “It’s not very well known, even though it affects one in 5,000 Americans.”
The event was full of entertainment. The line-up included Laura and Josh, Oddity ft. $pooky Fire, Run N Gun and Liberty Hall Collective. There was a little something for everyone. KBVU offered the event for free and it was open to the public. There was free will donation, and all money collected will go to the Marfan Foundation.
A sample of the Music for Marfans event
Hoops has a detached lens in his eye as a result of Marfan’s, so his sight is effected. Marfan Syndrome also affects the connective tissue in other parts of the body, so people who have it tend to be taller and thinner and sometimes find it difficult to gain weight. The disease can be especially dangerous if it affects the aorta in the heart because it can rip or tear.
Recently, Hoops received news about his own heart and the way Marfan’s is affecting it. Last week he visited his doctor in Minneapolis where he had an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (EKG) and met with his cardiologist and geneticist. They told Hoops that he would need to have a heart valve sparing surgery soon. His aortic root has grown .30 centimeters and now measures at 5.1 centimeters. At 5 centimeters, the aorta could burst at any time. His surgery is tentatively scheduled for December, a few days after finals end.
Hoops’ surgery will take place at the University of Minnesota, one of four Marfan’s specialist hospitals in the country. The procedure will replace his aorta with a plastic tube that will act as an artificial aorta. Hoops will then stay in the hospital for a week, so he can be monitored. He’ll stay at home for another two to three weeks, and it will be six to eight weeks before he can drive and feel normal again.
“I know these doctors have done this plenty of times before. I know they’re experienced, so it really doesn’t worry me a whole lot,” Hoops said. “I feel like it’ll be inconvenient more than anything because I like to do stuff. I like to be active.”
Hoops is disappointed that the surgery will affect his sports broadcasting schedule.
“I’ll miss some basketball broadcasts over the winter, and things like that I enjoy doing. But you know, I’m blessed with a lot of support, family and friends. A lot of people are making me feel special and just reaching out to me, and I know they’re there for me, which is nice,” he said.
Hoops was diagnosed with Marfan’s at 3-years-old. He takes blood pressure medicine every day, wears contacts to help his vision and abides by restrictions to protect his heart. Growing up, he wasn’t able to play sports with his friends like he wanted. He wanted to be involved in football, basketball and baseball, but his disorder prevented that. He was able to play tennis in high school, however, which he played all four years. Instead, Hoops found another way to embrace his love of sports – sports broadcasting.
“I got into broadcasting early in my childhood. I couldn’t play most sports competitively, and I loved hearing the broadcasters when I watched a game on TV and thought it was the coolest job in the world,” Hoops said. “Sometimes, I’d turn the sound down on the TV and call the game myself. It became a passion and a way for me to be involved in the sports I couldn’t play.”
Middle school was the first time Hoops stepped up to the mic as a sports broadcaster. He started out as a public address announcer for a youth football league in Storm Lake when he was in 8th grade. His first radio broadcast was his freshman year of high school for a basketball doubleheader where sports director at KAYL, Chris Boeckman, took Hoops on air with him. He started interning with Boeckman throughout high school.
Hoops has broadcasted play-by-play for six different sports teams on BVU’s campus, including football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and wrestling.
“Tanner is just beginning to tap his ability behind the microphone,” Boeckman said. “He has natural ability to engage the listener in his broadcast through his description and enthusiasm. Couple that with his never-ending work ethic, and the sky is the limit for him.”
Hoops is currently interning at KAYL this fall where Boeckman is his supervisor.
Tanner Hoops sports broadcasting Storm Lake football
Photo by Kyle Wiebers
Andrea Frantz, Professor Digital Media and faculty advisor to the campus radio station, has watched Hoops flourish in radio broadcasting on-campus as well.
“He is very passionate with what he does and it shows. He’s an award winner in multiple areas of state and national awards,” she said. “Hoops is very grateful to the staff that takes time out of their busy schedules to help him run the boards in the studio. He was even invited to sit in the Minnesota Twins press box this summer simply because he tweets so much about them! He is a funny kid and the faculty and staff appreciate it.”
Tanner Hoops sports broadcasting Buena Vista University men’s basketball
Hoops recently learned that he is a national finalist for the 2016 College Media Association Pinnacle Award in Best Radio Sportscast. He is one of only three finalists. He also received a 2016 Society of Collegiate Journalists National 1st place award in best sports radio package, a 2016 Society of Collegiate Journalists National 3rd place award in best television sports package, a 2016 Iowa College Media Association 1st place award in best sports radio feature and a 2016 Iowa College Media Association 3rd place award in best sports writing feature.
Five years down the road, Hoops hopes to be working as a sportscaster in a mid-level sized market. Long-term, he hopes to go as far as possible with his sports broadcasting dream, not limiting himself and making the most of every opportunity.
Marfan Syndrome may not have allowed Hoops to play sports, but he says it won’t stop him from chasing his sports dreams in broadcasting.
“Overall I’m very blessed, and given all that’s happened and the way it worked out, I wouldn’t change it if I could,” Hoops said.
Featured Image by Mackenzie Rappe
Written for The Tack