After 19 years, NFL and ESPN great Mike Golic will be going it alone. Yes, Mike & Mike, the beloved ESPN radio show will soon be losing one Mike (Greenberg). While Golic was in New York last week to catch his Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the ACC tournament at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, we caught up with him about the new move, his legacy, and his favorite Mike & Mike moments.
After 19 years on the air, Mike Greenberg is leaving your show. How do you feel about all this?
Hey, you know, nothing can go on forever. Everything comes to an end for whatever reason. It comes down to personal choices, and if Mike wants to go do his thing or try something new, I support him. It happens.
What’s your plan at this point?
I’ll continue with the show, but how it will be laid is still being talked about. Believe me, I’d be the one to know if something was set in stone on that, but you just move on. You find more to do. I played football, and then I moved into this business, doing games and then radio, and then on TV, and if one thing’s going to end, you find more to do. I’m sure I’ll keep doing the show with somebody else.
Any thoughts on who that somebody else might be?
I pretty much get along with everybody, but the one cool thing is that my son, Mike Jr., is now in the business. After a few years in the NFL, he’s working at ESPN, doing TV and radio, and we’ve worked together. I don’t know if we’ll do the show together, but we will do plenty of things together. He’s great at it. He’s a natural. To be involved when he’s involved in it too is pretty cool.
What has the show meant to you over the years?
I don’t think anybody thought it was going to be as big as it’s become. I had a partner before Green-y, Tony Bruno, for a year before he left, and the Green-y thing just happened by happenstance. He wasn’t even really a candidate for the job; he was filling in for a couple of shows, and we had really good chemistry, so we took it from there. One of the things that made it successful was that early on, nobody paid attention to us, and we got to learn along the way, make mistakes along the way, until we were doing really well, and then a lot of cooks jumped in the kitchen; all the sudden, there’s all this notoriety there. The best thing about it, though, is that I played sports all my life, and now I get to talk sports all my life.
What were some of your favorite moments from Mike & Mike?
Well, honestly, they weren’t necessarily from the show itself, but because of the show, we got to go to the White House — George [W.] Bush was in office, and Green-y and I were asked one year to call their annual T-ball game held on the front lawn, so we went and commentated and then we had dinner at the White House. My wife couldn’t make it because she was at a swim meet with our daughter, so I brought my son Jake. It was surreal. We were also on David Letterman’s show 11 times; he’s a monster sports fan, and he loved having us come on and talk sports.
How did the transition take place from playing sports professionally to talking about sports for a living?
I was a pretty accessible guy in the locker rooms. In Philadelphia, when I played for the Eagles, Randall Cunningham had his own TV show, so I did a segment for Randall’s show called “Golic’s Got It,” and it was a humorous look at the next week’s game. Right place right time: It won a local Emmy. So, ESPN contacted me while I was still playing and asked if I wanted to do some stuff during a bye week or during the off season. So I did some stuff for them, including, when ESPN 2 started, basically, there was like a three-hour show, like a Sports Center with Keith Olbermann, Suzy Kolber, and Stuart Scott — and I would be on that show some, and so when I retired, they were like, “Hey, you want to come here?” I started calling some college games for them and ABC, and I started doing some studio work for them, and the radio fell in line once they started radio, and it all kind of snowballed from there.
How do you reconcile your experiences playing a sport versus reporting on it?
First and foremost, I’m not a journalist. I was a ballplayer who gets to talk about sports. I’m fortunate in that they’re the only two real jobs I’ve ever had. Green-y was a fan; I was a player. It doesn’t matter what sport, but I can take people down into the mentality of the sport, whether it is in the locker room or the clubhouse or the field. The off-season routines. I can take people where they can’t go, so I can bring them down and explain the thought process of what’s going on. It’s a unique perspective and I’m lucky to have it.
What are the unique challenges when you go from the playing field to the studio?
The hardest part coming in to this business was being critical of players. So when I have to break down a play and say this guy’s doing it wrong — you know, I was in that fraternity once, and now I’m in the media and I’m criticizing. And afterward, when you go out and do a game, and you see them and they’re not happy about it, but you have to kind of get over that, and say it’s my job to be honest. That’s my job. At a point when you do it for a while, players start to respect that, so that’s a big jump for athletes who go into media.
Media-wise, are professional sports better or worse now for players than when you were active?
Both. If you got shit to hide, good luck. You can’t come stumbling out of a bar and not expect to have people find out. On the other hand, what you see more of today is players branding themselves. They have the power now to do it themselves, to get the word out there. They can break their own news. Fans used to know players as players, and now they know everything about them, which can be good and it can be bad.
Among your peers in the media today, who do you admire most?
Costas is fantastic, of course, but the best guy I ever worked with, especially calling games, is Mike Tirico. That guy prepares like no other, and he’s just as smooth as they come, and a great guy. He makes it very easy to work with him.
You’ve been in the public eye since the mid-’80s. How do you weigh the pros against the cons of being a recognizable figure for over 30 years?
Well, I’m not known to the point of ever getting mobbed, so there’s no real downside; I can go wherever I want. I’m asked to sign autographs at times or take pictures, but it’s not like there’s a line. A couple guys walk by and say what’s up, and I acknowledge them. Stuff like that. Overall, it’s been great. The opportunities it has given me have been really cool, but it’s never been overbearing. And then there’s the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.
You’ve been outspoken about living with Type-2 diabetes. Why?
I was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes in my early forties; my father had it in his forties, too, and he dealt with it on his own; I wanted to deal with it differently. I wanted to get everyone involved. I’m a sports guy, so everything relates to sports. My doctor became my coach; my family became my teammates. So, we had to find a game plan, and once we got my meds right, I partnered up with Janssen (pharmaceutical company and maker of Invokana, Golic’s medicine) to raise awareness to a lifestyle that I have to live now and for others to open up about it. Too many are embarrassed about it, like my dad, and don’t want to open up, and I’m like, “Get people involved; this is your life we’re talking about it here,” and if you don’t deal with it there’s going to be some serious complications, so this is something my celebrity, if you want to call it that, allows, and it’s not something that ends when the run ends — like Mike & Mike — this is my life.