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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

Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

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The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.

“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.

“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”

“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.

“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.

“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.

“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.

“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.

When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.

“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”

Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.

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Sports Radio News

Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’

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Craig Carton

ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.

“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”

“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”

“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”

Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.

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Sports Radio News

Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit

“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.

“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”

“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”

“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”

After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.

“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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