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Wrestling bears, arguing with Switzer, hanging with MJ: 3 iconic (and real) Dale Hansen moments

Four decades is a long time in TV, and along the way there were several moments that were just, well, very Dale Hansen. And yes, these actually happened.

DALLAS — Dale Hansen retires this week, ending a run of more than 40 years in television, most of those spent here at WFAA.

In recent years, you've probably known Dale as the face of his "Unplugged" commentaries, from his support of Michael Sam to his perspective on the death of Botham Jean.

Going back further, Dale exposed a pay-for-play scandal at SMU in the 1980s, and for decades he's hosted his annual holiday feature, "Thank God For Kids." 

But between the incisive commentaries and touching tributes, there have been plenty of moments that were just, well, very Dale.

Here are three you might have forgotten or missed:

Dale wrestles not one bear, but two 

Just a quick disclaimer before this one: This actually happened.

If wrestling a single bear was too tame, Dale went toe to toe with two.

Now, WFAA can't claim a direct tie to the first one. But Dale's bear-wrestling debut is probably why he ended up in Dallas.

It was the late 1970s and Dale was working in Omaha, Nebraska, where, as he put it, he was "the fourth-rated sportscaster in a three-station market."

At a boat show one year, the organizers brought out a bear for visitors to wrestle, because, apparently, that's what a boat show offered in those days.

A guy asked Dale if he wanted to "put on a show for the crowd."

So that's what Dale did.

“They introduce me, and I just come flying across the stage as fast as I could because I was younger and thinner, and I could actually run a little bit in those days. And I just went full bore into a tackle on that bear and I swear to you and he kind of went <shrugs his shoulders> and just reached over and bit me. He didn’t even budge,” Dale told the Y'all-itics podcast in May. “This bear pinned me three times.”

RELATED: 'He beat the hell out of me': Dale Hansen wrestled not 1, but 2 bears, and that's why he ended up in Dallas

Dale would soon get fired from his job in Omaha. But he did have that video of him and the bear wrestling at a boat show.

As it turned out, someone found it interesting. 

He sent the tape to a headhunter in New York City, and the headhunter sent the tape to Channel 4 in Dallas. 

“The general manager calls me in for my interview and he said if we hire you, will you wrestle a bear? And I figured what are the odds? What are the odds? I said sure, I’ll wrestle a bear. If you can find me a bear, I’ll wrestle it,” Hansen explained.

Dale got the job. But the odds of Round 2 with a bear were better than he expected.

About six months later, a boat show came to the Dallas Convention Center - a boat show with a bear for visitors wrestle. Dale stepped into the ring again.

“He beat the hell out of me," Dale said. 

But Dale survived and stayed in Dallas.

Three years later, he joined WFAA.

RELATED: Dale Hansen's Top 8 WFAA memories — No. 1: Michael Sam

Dale spars with Barry Switzer

This one wasn't quite a wrestling match with a bear...but it was close.

Let's go back to 1994, when the Cowboys were coming off back-to-back Super Bowl wins and gunning for a third. 

But they were still the Cowboys, so they had drama brewing with a new coach in Barry Switzer, following Jimmy Johnson's split with Jerry Jones.

Dale, then the Cowboys radio color analyst, found himself in the middle of that drama before the season ever started. 

It was August 1994, at training camp, when Dale was scheduled for a sitdown interview with Switzer. Earlier that day, on the radio, Dale, who was then the Cowboys' radio color analyst, told Norm Hitzges that Switzer was having trouble with his assistant coaches, some of whom believed they should have gotten the head job over him.

Dale later caught wind that Switzer was "coming after you tonight" on his interview. And Switzer indeed did. 

Watch how it unfolded:

The fallout didn't end there.

Here's how Dale explained what happened next:

That Saturday night we had a preseason game and Brad did a commentary in support of me, calling out Switzer. And Larry Lacewell, a member of the Cowboys staff at that time, said then, "I don't know if we can win a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer as the head coach, but we can win a Super Bowl without Brad Sham and Dale Hansen on the radio."

Well, apparently they can't.

But as we have also found, I've said it many times, it was a choice that Jerry Jones had to make between his head coach or the radio crew.

I think he made the wrong choice.

RELATED: Cowboys' Jerry Jones reveals what would make him hire a real GM

The MJ countdown (and a shoutout 14 years later)

Long before Unplugged went viral, before the Cowboys dynasty of the 90s, even before the SMU scandal of the 80s, Dale noticed a young rookie for the Chicago Bulls "doing things with a basketball that I couldn't even imagine."

It was November 1984, and Michael Jordan was already making his presence known in the NBA.

When Dale asked sports editor Jose Gant when Jordan was coming to Dallas, they looked it up: March 22.

And so the countdown began.

Every. Single. Night.

"So when I began the sportscast, every time I showed Chicago Bulls highlights, I said: "Michael Jordan plays in Dallas in 132 days...Michael Jordan plays in Dallas in 97 days...Michael Jordan plays in Dallas in 63 days..."

The day finally came, and Jordan, curious to meet the man behind the countdown, came to WFAA and sat down with Dale for one-on-one interview.

Let's have Dale take it from here...

At the end of the interview, I just wanted to throw something goofy at him, like I usually do. So I asked him about his thoughts on "no pass, no play." It was a big argument in Texas back then. As I started to laugh and end the interview, he said, "Can I answer that?" He gave an unbelievable answer about the importance of education.

When we finished the interview, a security guard came and told me he would bring my car around because there were like 20 kids in the parking lot. It was a simpler time. I said, "That's fine." And Jordan said, "No, no, no! Let's go out back and talk to the kids." 

So we went out back and he jumped up on the hood of my car, and talked to the kids and signed autographs for about 20 minutes.

Jordan remembered Dale through the years, when the Bulls passed through town to play the Mavericks. In March 1998, when he played in Dallas for the final time, Jordan gave a shoutout to Dale, who was out of town at Rangers spring training.

"I still remember Dale Hansen's countdown when I first came into the league. So, I've had a lot of memories here," Jordan said.

Here's how Dale remembered that moment, when his wife told him about Jordan's postgame interview.

The lovely Mrs. Hansen called me later that night in my hotel room in Florida, and said, "Did you hear what Michael Jordan said?" 

I told her of course I did, it was on Channel 8.

She said, "Dale, I bet you're more excited now than you were on our wedding night."

I couldn't tell her then, but I will now. Of course I was! It was Michael Jordan!

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