Looking forward can be easier said than done. It’s easy to dwell on a divorce instead of focusing on the next relationship. It’s tempting to dwell on a previous job instead of directing your energy toward the next opportunity.
For Mike Golic, he’s shifting his focus to the next challenge, not the previous gig. It does his future no good to replay the end of his ESPN days over and over again. It’s a smart approach. If you drive down the road while only looking through the rear-view mirror, you won’t get anywhere; unless you consider a ditch or T-boning another vehicle to be somewhere. Life works the same way.
This is an exciting time for Golic. The next chapter of his career can go in many different directions. Plus, he doesn’t have to take a job he’s lukewarm about just to keep the cable on. He can pick and choose the projects he wants to dedicate himself toward fully. Golic talks about his passion for calling games and his reluctance to dive back into the local radio scene. He also has some great thoughts about weaving in fun, getting used to hard work, and not letting ego get the best of you. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: I’ve read a couple of interviews you’ve done since leaving ESPN. I’m curious if it’s gotten to a point where you’re like, I’d just rather look forward now.
Mike Golic: Oh yeah, I’ve definitely done my bit of explaining on how it all ended. It’s weird; we just posted the last show on July 31, which is just over a year ago. It was kind of a thing to look back on. But for the most part, yeah, it does me no good to look back. I explained myself a ton out there for people who asked. I have no problem speaking about it but yeah, at this point it’s like okay, what’s next?
The first thing was don’t do anything for a while. Basically have my agent say, don’t want you to hear from me for about six months. That was nice to just sleep in. Now it’s move forward, what’s next? What can I still enjoy? I’m not ready to retire just yet even though I have the gray in the hair and gray in the beard. I’m not ready to just be at home every day.
BN: If it’s sports radio full-time or only play-by-play, do you have a preference if it’s one or the other?
MG: Oh, I can do both. The analyst stuff is always on the weekend. When I first got to ESPN in ‘95, I called games right away and then we started doing NFL 2Night. It’s NFL Live now, but it was NFL 2Night. I was doing that three times a week, and doing a game on the weekend, and I was doing radio out in Phoenix with our mutual buddy Bruce Jacobs. I was actually doing five times a week on the morning show, but I would fly to Connecticut and do some morning shows from there, do three nights a week of NFL 2Night and then travel on weekends to do games. That’s when I was just starting out and doing everything under the sun. I stopped calling games for a while. I stopped because I told ESPN right when my kids got to high school, I was done calling games because I didn’t want to miss any of their stuff. That was my own hiatus on that, which I just picked up the last year. I did it for 10 years before I took a break on games. But I could do both without question. In fact that’s all I’m used to. It’s usually been both together. Whenever I’ve had to call games, I’ve usually had a show that was during all week. I’d have no problem doing that again.
BN: It’s a lot of work, right? Do you think that your playing career helped you move into working seven days a week, and flying here, flying there?
MG: A thousand percent. I told my kids that. I told any young kid I coached really in any sport. Then obviously it pyramided to football especially with my kids. My daughter was a swimmer. Forgetting how hard you work in football, it’s multiplied many times by a swimmer. Swims in the morning, goes to school, works out after school, and then swims again. I mean it’s crazy what they do. I said no matter how far this takes you, you’re going to learn how to budget your time. You’re going to learn sacrifices. You’re going to learn hard work and it’s going to help you.
I think what helped me as well, I was a 10th rounder. This is back when the draft was 12 rounds. Tenth rounders weren’t supposed to make it. I was fortunate enough to play for nine years. Mike was an undrafted free agent. He was on a couple of teams for a couple of training camps, but had to work extra hard. My son Jake and his wife, they own a couple of businesses now. They had to work hard and they had to work obviously through the pandemic. She was an athlete as well. My daughter Sydney, the same way. Hard work doesn’t affect them because they were used to doing it. Without question that helps you later in life.
BN: Would doing local radio be appealing to you at all?
MG: Umm, I don’t know. I’ve done national for so long, I don’t know because having a place here in South Bend and having a place in Scottsdale and knowing we like both places, I’m one of those guys, I like to be where work is. When I played football in the offseason I stayed in that city. Obviously at ESPN I lived in Connecticut where ESPN is. If I’m splitting time around the country in a couple of different spots and doing local but not living local, I wouldn’t like that. If I did local, I would need to stay in that area to get the feel of that area, to go to the games in that area and be part of it. Quite honestly you’ve got to dive a lot deeper.
When I was doing local in Phoenix, you’ve got to dive deep into the local teams in the community, where national you’re hitting more of the bigger stories and not diving as deep. Local is a lot more in-depth. If I were ever to do local, I would need to live there. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else and doing local in the city I wasn’t in to sort of feel that city. So I doubt it.
BN: What’s something besides not having to wake up at the crack of dawn that you haven’t missed with this down time right now?
MG: That I haven’t missed. That’s a good question. Really it would probably just be the timeframe because I love doing it. Think about it, I got to talk sports. Now sometimes in the offseason the tougher times in June and July once basketball ended, you had a lot of that down time before football started up, those were always tough. Then it was who’s the Mount Rushmore of the NBA, who’s the Mount Rushmore of the NHL, who’s your top-10 list? It’s a great list time or let’s reminisce about old jingles. That’s kind of wacky radio stuff. But for the most part, I do miss it. I loved it.
Getting up sucked, but once you start going and getting to the studio and everybody is there, I loved it. There wasn’t much I haven’t missed outside of that 4:15 alarm, which I swore every single morning. Every time 4:15 hit, I had a bad word come out of my mouth.
BN: I bet. It probably wasn’t “goodie, 4:15!” [Laughs] I’m sure you’re supporting your son while he’s doing his show on ESPN. Is it awkward at all when you listen to the network knowing you were there for so long?
MG: No, I’m past that. I equate a lot of things to sports. My first two and a half years in the league, I was with the Oilers. I got cut and I went to the Eagles. I didn’t sit around watching the Oilers play going oh God, I was there. And then when I left the Eagles to go to the Dolphins, I didn’t sit around and reminisce about my Eagle days. I played with the Dolphins. You just move on.
Obviously it was a little weird at first knowing I did a show there for so long and then all of a sudden there’s other people doing that show. But my son had been there already for a few years before me, him, and Trey were doing that morning show. I had been used to seeing him on air and calling games and doing all the digital work. So it was no different.
BN: When you look back on your time on air, what’s something you either learned from someone else or learned on your own along the way that helped you get to another level?
MG: I think the biggest thing that I needed to work on was — because I was a professional athlete, and you know this, when you’re going to ask somebody a question a lot of times you kind of know what the answer is going to be. For me it was as I asked the question, I gave my opinion about the subject. I learned and I was told and I really tried to do this is the interview is not about you. I have four hours to do a show. I can explain my opinion many times. Let the guest say what they’re going to say. Then if you have a back and forth with them, fine. To drill this down is keep your questions short. Who, what, where, when, why. Keep it short; give them their time to answer. Instead of me asking a question, and then I make a statement, and then I asked the question again, and then I continue to make a statement — they’re sitting there going, is there a question in there? What are we doing? That took me a while because I would catch myself doing it. I just needed to shut the hell up, ask the question I wanted to ask, and give them their time to answer.
BN: Who told you that?
MG: There was a guy that came through ESPN that went over questions, what to ask, how to ask them, and I could only make it for one day. He would have seminars and I remember making it to one day, but that was the one day he really talked about it. It really kind of stuck with me. I would put a card in front of me at times that said short questions. Who, what, where, when, why. Then I would just try and remember that.
There were times I failed and went back the other way especially early on. We’d have listening sessions. You listen to a segment and you’d hear yourself. Man when you hear it, it’s like watching tape of me playing football and I see the mistake and go oh my God, how did I do that? You hear yourself and you sit there and time it and go, hey great job, 48-second question. You don’t need a 48-second question because I’m giving my own opinion. Just get the question out there and let them answer.
BN: What’s the most fun that you’ve had in your radio career?
MG: The most fun I ever had on radio was when it was there organically. You can set up things in a segment where you’re going to go that could lead to fun. You have a plan. But quite honestly the best radio is when you go off that plan organically. You just go to something else and the next thing you know you’re laughing your ass off, you’re having a ball, and it’s coming out of the speakers that way.
My thought process in the morning because people are driving to work, was maybe I can take you where you can’t go, I can take you into a pro athletes’ head, I can take you into their locker room, I can take you onto the field of any sport because as pro athletes you have that mentality, and can I make you laugh a little bit. If I can make you smile and chuckle a little bit on your way to work, I feel like I did my job. So to me the best part of radio is when you went off course and that turned out to be the most fun.
BN: I call it grown-up stuff in radio that you have to execute — keep it moving, reset, don’t stray off topic too much. Do those things sometimes get in the way of having fun?
MG: No, once you learn how to incorporate it, like anything else you knew you had to do things and sometimes you were like oh hell, I’ve got to do this and it took you off course of what you wanted to do. In doing the show for 20-some years I got used to understanding that you’ve got to do those things. Weave them into the show while still maintaining the fun, while still not slamming on the proverbial brakes so I can do this and then getting back to what we were talking about. You’ve got to be able to weave it.
A lot of that just came with time. Time, experience, doing it, and quite honestly at the end not giving a shit if I got it wrong.
I’m not perfect. I’ll never have a perfect show. I think there’s a lot of that where you just do your thing and if you make a mistake, you make it. Laugh at yourself while other people laugh at you, laugh with them and move on.
BN: The Notre Dame football telecast hasn’t had many ND grads on there. Is that strange to you at all?
MG: It’s something that they do. For whatever reason they don’t want an ND grad in the booth. They probably feel they’ll be a homer. Maybe. I guess. I’ve done Notre Dame games in the past for ESPN and I would have no problem not being a homer.
Listen I love Notre Dame. I want Notre Dame to win all of their games, but I called one last year when they played at Georgia Tech. I called one when they played Air Force years ago. I had no problem doing that. But it’s not my rule. I don’t know how much of a hard, fast rule it is for them, but I know that has been something they have somewhat lived by.
We’ve had Boston College guys in there in Flutie, and Tony Dungy in there, and now a Purdue guy in Drew Brees. I’m like wait a minute, man, I’m a Domer. Let’s get a Domer in there a little bit. But I don’t get to make those decisions because I would love to do that, sure.
BN: If you were able to write out the next five years of what you were doing, what would that look like for you ideally?
MG: When I say calling games, I don’t care if it’s radio, TV, college, pro, I just love calling games. For this year at least some of it’s going to be with Learfield. It’s going to be college games. I did a thing for them last year, The Fan Exam, kind of a sports trivia for college. I’ve gotten to know those people. They’re getting a Saturday night game of the week and it worked out where I’m going to do that. I look forward to it. A full slate of college games hopefully, fingers crossed, we’re all traveling and going back out to colleges again. The script for me for the next five years would at the very least, at the very least, do college games and pro games. It would be calling games for sure.
Other than that, like I said if an opportunity arises for an everyday radio show, we’ll see. Podcast situations have come about. I’m still talking to people. We’ll see what goes on with that. I may have a fun little thing that I don’t have inked yet that has nothing to do with a sport; it’s more of a travel type of a thing that’s fun. It would be a lot of fun, which now that I’m not tied to one place like I was at ESPN I can do. Something like that. We’ll see if that turns out. That’s the beauty of it is I can kind of pick and choose now. But the constant for me would be calling games.
BN: This just randomly popped into my head; Tom Brady recently mentioned that a couple of teams were interested in him last year, and then they weren’t. He said if you had a chance to get Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky, I’m kind of scratching my head why you wouldn’t do that. If you apply that thought to you, you’re a big deal in radio. Have you ever had a moment where you’re like okay random company, I’m available and you’re not interested in me?
MG: Going in the 10th round, and basically there were maybe three years of my nine-year career where I felt very comfortable going into the season that I was going to be on the team and playing. Other than that I was kind of fighting and scratching to be on the team. Does your ego think about that and you say boy I wish this person or this network would contact me? What am I going to do? I’m not one of those that lives in the past about it. If they don’t, then I just move on to somebody who does. I’m fine with that.
Does everybody have an ego and would love the networks to give you their top spot? Well sure, but that’s unrealistic as well. My career has gone pretty well but that certainly doesn’t give me any expectation that the network is going to say, oh we’re plugging you for our number one guy, here you go, we’re bumping whoever. You know what? It’s not going to work that way for me. I know that. So I never expect it.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.