Spokane sports icon shows softer side with ornament collection

He's a Spokane sports icon and a well-known radio and TV curmudgeon. But, if you get to know 700 ESPN's Dennis Patchin, you'll find he has an unusual hobby and a soft spot for all things Christmas.

On the radio, Patchin loves to mix it up with callers and has no problem loudly expressing his opinion. It's how he's made a name for himself for the last several decades on TV and over the airwaves. But, walk inside his north Spokane home and you see a completely different side of the guy we all thought we knew.

"I'm partial towards Santa ornaments," he said, showing off his tree. In fact, he's partial to ornaments in general. He and his wife Dorothy have more than 500 they've collected over the years. And, it's not just any ornaments; all of them come from Hallmark.

Space is limited, so not every ornament goes up every year. They rotate the theme from year to year. He has cartoon characters, cookie sheets, Santas and sports figures.

He showed us a handful of Seahawks ornaments, proving his hobby doesn't stray far from his day job.

"[I have a] Richard Sherman, and there's Russell Wilson.. there's Earl Thomas," he explained. "I don't know if Richard Sherman will yell at you if you open the box."

Dennis and Dorothy don't buy every Hallmark ornament every year. They sit down together and browse Hallmark's "Dream Book" each year, marking the ones they might want to buy. But, he won't order them online; he has to see them in person first. And, don't even try to buy him one. If he likes it, he would rather buy it himself.

He doesn't like the overly sentimental ones, and he thinks the comic book characters don't reflect Christmas. He points to one with the two old guys from the Muppets, saying they're just like he and co-host Rick Lukens.

While many of Patchin's co-workers didn't know about his side gig, he swears he hasn't tried to keep it hidden. And, he has a pretty clear explanation for why Christmas means so much to him.

"My dad grew up in the depression... on a farm where, a couple of Christmases, he got an orange, that was his only gift," Patchin explained. "So, when he had the money and the financial wherewithal, he went crazy on Christmas."

The Patchins continue that tradition with their kids. When they were old enough to move out on their own, they received their own Hallmark ornaments. Daughter Lauren calls her dad "a mix of Santa and Clark Griswold." Their love for their kids is reflected in the ornaments they choose, including Dennis's favorite: three children in a bed, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Two boys and a girl, just like the Patchins have.

"It reminds me of when they were little. They used to sleep in our beds on Christmas Eve."

Just steps away from the Patchins' tree, there's a room filled with sports memorabilia. Shelves and shelves stacked with football and baseball cards, bobble heads and press passes. He even has shards of glass from when Gonzaga basketball player Casey Cavalry shattered a backboard at the Spokane Arena. While that's the stuff you'd expect to see in Patchins' house, it's not what means the most to him.

For the Patchins, it's about family and tradition - and, it's reflected right there on the tree.

"I guarantee when I'm long dead and gone and not celebrating Christmases anymore, they will have an ornament on their tree thatw ill remind them, 'oh, that was my dad's deal.'"

Memories created, one ornament at a time.