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A Conversation With Bernie Miklasz

Jason Barrett

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The Cardinals are in the midst of a remarkable season. They have the top record in all of baseball, and their pitching staff ranks among the best ever. But a string of injuries has compromised the offense, and the rival Pirates and Cubs are in hot pursuit. The Rams have looked shaky this preseason, perhaps destined for yet another losing year, but each new day brings a fresh round of speculation about whether the team will stay in St. Louis or bolt for Los Angeles. As the cooler weather last week reminded us, hockey season is just around the corner. And did we mention that Mizzou football is in the top 25?

Sports here are hotter than ever, but for the past couple of weeks, Bernie Miklasz hasn’t been around to help us make sense of the latest news, his familiar voice missing from the morning paper, his daily videos absent from the Internet. The venerable columnist, who’s been sharing his opinions in the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch since the 1980s, was busy preparing for a new challenge. He’s left the paper to join 101 ESPN, where he’ll host a three-hour morning radio show. It premieres at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

On Saturday, Miklasz took a few minutes away from plotting segments for the new show to chat with us, explaining the rationale behind his career move and previewing what we can expect from him in the new gig. We’ll jump into the full conversation below, but first, a few major takeaways.

1. Miklasz hasn’t given up writing. Though his focus will certainly be the new radio show, Miklasz still plans to write several pieces each day for the station’s website, keeping up the torrid pace that he’s set over the past few years as a prolific blogger. “I’m as committed to writing as ever, and I’m going to be delivering a ton of written content,” he says.

2. It’s not a done deal just yet, but Miklasz has been talking to Will Leitch—noted author, Deadspin founder, and big-time Cardinals fan—about possibly teaming up on a Cardinals podcast. For a preview of just how fun that could be, listen to this segment of Leitch quizzing Miklasz on trivia over at Sports on Earth.

3. The deciding factor that led Miklasz to make the move was a desire to connect with his audience in more ways—on the airwaves and on the web, through blog posts, videos, and the aforementioned podcast. But he also admits that the decline of newspapers, a trend from which the Post has been far from immune, was a factor.

So, without further ado, here is our (significantly abridged) conversation. One thing about Bernie, he’s never at a loss for words.

Obviously, after decades at the paper, this is a huge change, but you do have a lot of past experience in radio.

I was way ahead of the curve on that. I’ve had a simultaneous radio career in some form since like the early 1980s in Baltimore. I’ve always loved radio, and I’ve been fortunate enough to where people want to put me on the radio. It’s just a matter of being practical. There were times, it was just very difficult to do both jobs well. That frustrated me. I realized at some point I was just going to have to choose one over the other. I kind of put that decision off for as long as I could. This seemed like the ideal time.

What appealed to you about the specific opportunity at 101 ESPN?

It’s been hard for me to emotionally make the decision to leave newspapers, because it is such a huge part of my life for so long, but I’ve had this pull to go where I think the business is headed. I just think the way media is consumed in our culture has changed dramatically and it’s still changing. The notion that everyone is going to go to one place and not go anywhere else for their news and information, that is a hopelessly outdated and naive belief. Well, 101 ESPN offers me multiple platforms, and I think that’s the way you build an audience. I want to be able to present something for everyone. If you want to read, well, I’m going to be blogging like a crazy man at 101Sports.com. If you don’t necessarily want to read, but you want to hear me run my mouth on the radio, well, I got that for you, too. If you want some advanced video, that will be there.

What about podcasting? At the Post, you and beat writer Derrick Goold had a great Cardinals podcast.

I think podcasting is going to be big with 101 ESPN. I don’t want it to sound like it’s a done deal, but I’m hopeful that I’m going to team up with Will Leitch to do a Cardinals podcast.

From a more personal perspective, what made you want to make this move?

This will sound really self-serving. I don’t mean it to be. It’s just really honest. I’m 56 years old, and I’ve been in this business basically since 1980. I’ve never stopped trying to evolve. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten complacent. I’m really hungry. I’m really curious. I was doing radio in the early ’80s, when very few sportswriters in America were doing radio. I was way ahead of the curve on that. When the Internet became a factor, I started hosting a forum. This was maybe 15 years ago, maybe more. I had sportswriters around the country saying, “What the hell are you doing this for?” I said, “I’m investing in my future, because this is where we’re headed.” I say this with great pride, I think I was the first mainstream sports columnist in America to host an online forum. You got to adapt or you are going to fade or die. I really believe that. So for me, the next step for my career, even at age 56, was to put the old model aside and leave to go with what I consider to be the new model, which is multiple platforms, something for everyone, take advantage of technology.

Does changing career paths at age 56, after 26 years as a newspaper columnist, represent a risk?

I’m not an idiot. If I thought there was a distinct possibility or any possibility of failure, I would have never made this jump. To me, the risk is staying put. The risk is being afraid to try to reinvent yourself. I’m sitting at a desk all day, and I’m writing these pieces for STLToday. You’re just kind of in a rut. I enjoyed my work, but you’re just kind of bogged down with writing, writing, writing, writing, writing. After a while, I was wondering how many brain cells I was killing. It wasn’t a matter of getting complacent, because I will never be complacent. It was a matter of maybe wanting to challenge myself. I have had people say, “You could have worked there until you died.” That’s probably true. But am I really at a point in life and in my career where my goal is to run out the clock? No.

It also probably feels nice to have a company come to you and show that they value what you do.

This will sound self-serving, too, and I apologize, but frankly, I think they were intelligent enough to realize that I was a smart investment. They realized, we are going to have to pay this guy a lot of money, but he’s going to do this. He’s going to help grow the audience on the digital side. We’re going to have a local morning drive show, which we’ve never had. That’s new revenue. It just tells me they’re sharp in terms of recognizing the business opportunity. I’m just thrilled. To do this at 56, it’s just amazing. In terms of just optimism, and an extra infusion of energy and just having your creative juices recharged a little bit, it’s just gotten me really, really fired up.

How much did the slow death of newspapers play into this decision? Were you leaving a sinking ship?

My purpose is not at all the disparage the Post-Dispatch. I was very grateful for the vehicle they gave me. They gave me a chance. I’m eternally grateful. But we can’t sit here and pretend that there aren’t problems in the newspaper industry or that there aren’t problems with Lee Enterprises. The financial challenges are pretty extreme. There have been layoffs and more layoffs and more cutbacks. I mean what’s happening with the Post-Dispatch is happening everywhere. All newspapers have cut staff and the newsrooms are down to about as low as you can go. The people who are there who are excellent reporters want to do a great job. But they now have much more work put on their shoulders, and then there is another round of layoffs, and there is even more work put on their shoulders. It’s just really hard to not only maintain your physical and mental stamina to do the job, but also just to keep your morale up. It’s just becoming increasingly difficult. It’s just really sad actually.

To read the rest of the article visit STL Magazine where it was originally published

 

Sports Radio News

Brian Mitchell: Chris Simms Is ‘Becoming a Doofus’

Jordan Bondurant

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Brian Mitchell doesn’t have time for outrageous takes on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

On 106.7 The Fan in D.C. from Radio Row on Wednesday, Mitchell reacted to recent comments from Chris Simms, who said while Hurts is a big part of Philly’s success, the quarterback position has been set up to be “one of the easier quarterback jobs in the sport.”

“Right now he’s becoming a doofus in my eyes,” Mitchell said to co-host J.P. Finlay. “He just likes to say stuff.”

Mitchell added that the reason the Eagles QB job looks easy is because of the play of Hurts.

“Jalen Hurts makes it look easy. I don’t think playing quarterback for the Eagles is an easy job,” he said. “Because the quarterback has so much stuff to worry about and things to do. Jalen has become better, and the reason I think a lot of those other guys have a lot of easiness is because Jalen Hurts is the one taking the snaps.”

Finlay said if the position was one of the easiest in the league, why did back-up Gardner Minshew not play as well in his two starts?

“If it’s easy to do something, then anybody should be able to do it, right?” Finlay said. “If it’s easy to be quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, Gardner Minshew did two starts. He completed 58 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and three picks. That doesn’t sound easy.”

“I guarantee you, for his football team, all the things he does, he’s as important as anybody out there,” Mitchell responded.

Mitchell said folks like Simms coming up with these kinds of takes about Hurts comes down to not giving credit where credit is due.

“When you have to nitpick with every little thing, you’re basically telling us how damn good the dude really is,” Mitchell said. “We nitpick so much at little things because we don’t want to give him credit for what he does right.”

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Rob Bradford Truly Believes Baseball Isn’t Boring

“I’ve been able to get a wide variety of people and honestly, it’s been a blast to do.”

Brady Farkas

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Look. It’s not all about the Super Bowl right now. Did you forget that pitchers and catchers report to spring training next week? And did you forget that the World Baseball Classic is back this year – for the first time since 2017? Baseball is just days away from turning its calendar to 2023 and the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast is here to help you get in the mood. The podcast, hosted by Rob Bradford of WEEI, officially launched in October of 2022 through Audacy’s national platform, but it’s set to pick up major traction this season, launching episodes each weekday with some of your favorite players, managers, coaches, front office executives and media members.

“Every single weekday at 6:00 AM, the plan is to have something up,” Bradford told BSM this week. “And it’s challenging because I don’t have a built-in co-host and a lot of this is guest-driven but we’ve done it for about three months, and there hasn’t really been any days where I’ve had to mail it in.

“I’ve been able to get a wide variety of people and honestly, it’s been a blast to do. To talk to Joey Votto about chess or actor D.B. Sweeney about playing Shoeless Joe Jackson (in Eight Men Out), or executives, or managers, or players. It’s been a lot of fun,” Bradford said.

The podcast is just the latest explosion of the “Baseball Isn’t Boring” movement.

It’s the brainchild of Bradford and former Red Sox-turned-Dodgers-turned White Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Bradford has been the Site Editor of WEEI.com and has covered the Red Sox for more than a decade. His relationship with Kelly helped them form this partnership which has morphed into the podcast – and a book, which is set to come out on February 28th.

“Joe Kelly and I knew we wanted to do a book, and we knew that the premise of the book was going to be making people understand how good baseball is and all the things that are good about baseball and entertaining about baseball, all of that,” Bradford said.

While baseball was mired in labor strife during the lockout last offseason, Bradford and Kelly knew they had to get the ball rolling on the project.

“We started the ‘Baseball Isn’t Boring’ accounts with Cooper Leonard helping a ton and then we got down to spring training and we started handing out the t-shirts… The Red Sox players were wearing them all over the place… I think Kike Hernandez wore his every single day.

“Then Joe wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times stating our message and what we were talking about with baseball not being boring. ‘We should love the game. Let’s not forget about that through all the labor stuff.’ So we just kept it going and the more we talked about it, the more we understood how much meat on was on the bone when it came to that conversation.”

With Bradford being around the Red Sox, prominent players like Xander Bogaerts proudly displayed their t-shirts on social media, and Kelly, who was at White Sox spring training in Arizona, helped proliferate the message on the West Coast.

“Everybody wanted a t-shirt. Everybody liked the slogan. Everyone liked the logo,” Bradford said. “The first guy who put it on social media was (former Dodger) Justin Turner and that was because Joe gave him a t-shirt and Justin did this Instagram post where he showed up to spring training, got his equipment out of his trunk, and he is wearing this “Baseball Isn’t Boring” t-shirt. That was because Joe was handing them out to his buddies. It’s just an easy and fun conversation to be had.”

As he continues his work for WEEI, Bradford will continue to cover the Red Sox. He’ll make appearances on the station’s radio shows and write for the website, and he’ll stick with an additional Sox-based podcast called the Bradfo Sho but some of his priorities will change as a result of the national endeavor.

“I have to prioritize talking to people on other teams and other people when I get the opportunity to. “Obviously when the Red Sox play someone, I can talk to them,” Bradford said.

Bradford will be a part of nearly 20 spring training podcasts for WEEI but says on days when he has no Red Sox responsibilities he may take in some World Baseball Classic action.

“Am I going to cover the Red Sox like I did in 2008 when I joined WEEI? No. But you know what? No one covers it that way anymore. You pick the most interesting stuff and you lean into it. It’s not like you have to obsess over the minutiae as much as you used to,” he added.

The t-shirts are popular, the book is coming out, and the podcast is set to get bigger. But Bradford says there’s still much more good news to come.

“Audacy made a commitment to me and I’ve made a commitment to Audacy,” he said. “I think we have a pretty big announcement coming up in March about a partnership and I think we’re going to get into the gambling space at least one day with Jonathan Papelbon as our gambling expert.”

“There’s a lot of different things you can do and I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here.”

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Kevin Harlan: Play-by-Play Guy Most Important Thing on Radio, 4th on TV

Jordan Bondurant

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Kevin Harlan is set to make history on Sunday, calling his 13th consecutive Super Bowl.

Harlan, who is the voice of Monday Night Football on Westwood One on the radio and calls NFL games on TV for CBS, said on Bernstein & Holmes on 670 The Score it’s not lost on him what a privilege calling games like the Super Bowl is.

“When I put on that headset wherever I am, it’s a pretty special moment,” Harlan said. “And I never take it lightly and always think of the people that preceded me.”

Since Harlan has experience in both TV and radio, he was asked about the primary differences in calling NFL games. Kevin said the play-by-play voice isn’t the main priority on TV.

“On TV the play-by-play guy is the fourth most important thing on there,” he said. “It’s the picture – what the cameras are shooting – then the analyst, cause he’s gotta tell a lot of people and helps everybody in deciding why a play worked or didn’t. Then the graphics, then the replays and the bells and whistles, and all those fun things we see that they do in the truck. And then the play-by-play guy.”

Harlan meant no offense to his colleagues who have called games on television, but Kevin said he just understands where his position on the broadcast stands on TV versus radio.

“I’m there to accentuate the picture, accentuate the graphics and the statistics they put on the screen, set up the color analyst, give some pockets of space on television – let it breathe and give people a chance to digest what they’ve seen – what they just heard the analyst say,” he said. “Maybe try to digest the statistic or the graphic that’s been thrown up on the screen. They don’t want to overload them.

“On the radio, all you have for the listener is the theater of their imagination and their thoughts and their emotions,” Harlan added. “So the play-by-play guy on the radio is number one. So it’s all about pacing, delivery, word usage, reporting skill, and using the crowd as an orchestra if there’s a big play. But making sure that they’re constantly aware of score and time.”

Harlan has always found radio to be the dream industry to work in. He said there’s nothing quite like a radio broadcast.

“It’s the purest form of broadcasting,” he said. “It’s voice, it’s diction, it’s vocabulary, it’s pacing, it’s delivery, it’s reporting skill, it’s like every touch point that somebody in our business needs. Whereas in TV it’s a whole other set of skills.”

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