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A Conversation With Bernie Miklasz

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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

 

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Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’

“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”

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This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams

This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host. 

“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.” 

As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week: 

“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.” 

Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though. 

“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”

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Sports Radio News

Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”

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Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”

Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.

Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.

“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”

After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.

RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.

“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.

Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.

There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.

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Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”

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Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.

Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.

“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”

La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”

Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.

While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.

“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”

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