The Thunder Sports Network is more than a resemblance of sports media, it’s a resemblance of opportunity and friendship. The network is a production company that was born in January of 2006. Since then, the network has found success as a television talk show, a podcast, a website, and now a book.
Chris Brown stands as the president and host of Thunder Sports Network while Rich Hallstrom stands as the vice president and co-host of Thunder Sports Network. The book version, which was co-written and co-authored by both Hallstrom and Brown, stories each of their career paths, their sports adventures over the years and their journey together developing the Thunder Sports Network.
“We wanted to communicate with people… We wanted to have real meaningful conversations with people,” Hallstrom said. “We wanted to do things differently.”
Hallstrom and Brown come from similar career paths, both being involved with sports media and the Christian faith, but Hallstrom and Brown are two entirely different people. Hallstrom was born and raised in Washington and has been a part of the Pacific Northwest for his entire life. Hallstrom copes with a condition known as Spastic Diplegia, or Little’s Disease. The condition is a form of Cerebral Palsy that affects the lower extremities of the body. Due to his condition, Hallstrom sits in a wheelchair, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his passions.
A 1984 Issaquah High School graduate and a University of Washington alum with a knack for sports reporting, Hallstrom has had the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of different people over the course of his career. Hallstrom has been a freelance sports reporter in the Seattle area for more than 20 years, covering the likes of the Seattle Supersonics, the Seattle Seahawks and much more.
Brown grew up on the other side of the country in North Carolina where he would have the opportunity to attend the University of North Carolina, initially majoring in journalism. Brown would eventually go to work for NBC in New York City where he had the opportunity to integrate himself and find success within the television industry.
This led to Brown becoming involved with children’s television and eventually finding a landing spot in Orlando, Florida, with well-known television network, Nickelodeon. Like Hallstrom, Brown has always had a passion when it comes to the media and the nature of sports.
Brown would spend some time with the television network before finding a new calling to get involved with children’s ministry. This led to a change in direction and Brown eventually found himself on staff at Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland.
Interestingly enough, Hallstrom and Brown first met each other at Antioch Bible Church back in 2001. At the time, Hallstrom was attending the church and pursuing freelance sports reporting while Brown was there working at the church, employed as a minister.
The two came together because of their common love for the nature of sports and their affinity for the Christian faith. A strong part of Hallstom and Brown’s Christian faith pertains to their belief in having cross-cultural values. For Brown and Hallstrom, the true value of the Christian faith involves pursuing connections with people of different races and backgrounds, and accepting everybody’s differences as human beings.
“That’s what brought Rich and I together,” Brown said. “We both had a heart for being intentionally cross cultural.”
One of Hallstrom and Brown’s biggest moments together came in 2006, when the Thunder Sports Network was initially a television talk show. The two got to experience what many will call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity together, the Super Bowl. The two were on the field providing coverage and doing a program for Super Bowl 40 between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers and its week-long festivities.
This special opportunity involved sideline media access and interactions with big-time players from both teams, such as Shaun Alexander from the Seahawks, Troy Polamalu from the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger from the Steelers. Brown and Hallstrom were also able to interact with former NFL stars, such as Roger Staubach and Kurt Warner. For Hallstrom and Brown, listening to these star players talk about the Christian faith and tell their extraordinary stories really helped fuel the passion behind Thunder Sports Network and is an experience that both of them will never forget.
Their coverage and programming of Super Bowl 40 would air on JCTV, now known as JUCE-TV. Brown expressed that the opportunity to be on the sidelines and cover the biggest stage of the NFL really got the ball rolling for the network in a sense because it showed the potential possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead for the network.
To Hallstrom and Brown, the Thunder Sports Network has always been a work in progress. The network became a reality only about a month before their trip to the Super Bowl. Since then, the concept and purpose of the Thunder Sports Network has continued to live on through the memories and moments that the two have been able to experience together.
“We wanted to cover Christian athletes in big-time sports and their testimonies and their on-the-field adventures,” Brown said. “We had our peaks and valleys and it’s all described in the book.”
The network originally started out as a television talk show in 2006, but things would end up changing when Brown would leave Seattle to move back to North Carolina in 2007 where he still resides to date. With Hallstrom remaining in the Pacific Northwest, this distance made it difficult for Hallstrom and Brown to continue Thunder Sports Network as a television show, so they would eventually transition the network into a podcast.
After some time as a podcast, the network would eventually become its own website and more before the two believed that it was time to publish the legacy of the network and their friendship.
The idea to turn Thunder Sports Network into a book came later on when Brown and Hallstrom got back together after taking a much-needed break from the network. They initially got back together because they felt that it was time to revamp the network. In figuring out what the Thunder Sports Network should become next, the two realized that with all of the memories and moments that they’ve shared together throughout their friendship, it was only fitting that the time was right to write a book. With one thing leading to another, the two eventually published what has now become a nationwide success.
“Writing a book is a worthwhile goal, but what makes this book worthwhile is the goal of the book itself,” Hallstrom said. “We believe and know that we can affect people’s lives for the better and most of all for eternity.”
Down the road, Hallstrom and Brown have plans to continue promoting their book, “Thunder Sports Network.” To this date, the book has been endorsed and recognized by big names such as David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard. The book can currently be found in bookstores and on places like Amazon and Google play.
For both Hallstrom and Brown, it’s their unique relationship that has primarily helped to empower Thunder Sports Network and their overall journey since the beginning, when they first encountered each other at Antioch Bible Church.
With the success that Hallstrom and Brown have been able to experience as a team working within the line of sports media, they believe that their journey is a testament to the power that faith can have in bringing people together.