CONVERSATION WITH …Mike Greenberg
ESPN sportscaster to speak at VISIONS event
By Stacey Dresner
Mike Greenberg talks about Prada shoes and Armani suits as easily as he does about baseball.
Unlike most other sportscasters, the ESPN anchor and co-host of ESPN radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” Greenberg prides himself on being a “metrosexual” n the term for men who are interested in good grooming and nice clothing. On his radio show, he can be heard not only talking to co-host Mike Golic about sports, but also about marriage, fatherhood…and cashmere sweaters.
Greenberg will be the featured speaker at VISIONS, the Fifth Annual Men’s Event of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, on April 25.
Born in New York City, Greenberg attended the United Nations International School. As a child he traveled abroad extensively with his parents, Harriet, a third-grade teacher, and Arnold, a lawyer, who also wrote travel guides as a hobby.
Always interested in sports broadcasting, Greenberg graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He stayed in the Chicago area after college and worked as a news anchor on local radio stations, wrote sports columns for Copley News Service, and reported for SportsChannel Chicago.
The author of the 2006 book, “My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot,” Greenberg lives in Westport with his wife, Stacy, and their two small children, Nicole, 6, and Stephen, 4.
While on a recent shopping spree in New York City, Greenberg spoke to the Ledger about his life, sports, and the Mike and Mike Show.
Q: What was your Jewish upbringing?
A: My father is an agnostic, so as a consequence, I am very culturally Jewish. I was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All four of my grandparents were Polish immigrants so they spoke Yiddish in the house. I was and remain extremely culturally Jewish, but as far as an actual connection to the religion, I was raised with none. My father is opposed to basically all forms of organized religions, so my brother and I were not bar mitzvahed or anything. We were almost kind of steered away from it. But I married a Jewish girl and we were married in a Jewish ceremony, but we are pretty irreligious.
Q: Did you always want to be a sportscaster?
A: I always wanted to do what I am doing. I went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University at a time when they didn’t have nearly enough broadcasting opportunities in their curriculum. In fact I am now on the advisory board of the school working with them to try to expand some of the opportunities for people who are interested in sports broadcasting.
When I was there 20 years ago, they kind of looked down on it to a degree and now because it is so popular, there is a lot more interest in it.
Q: So you didn’t want to work in the world of regular journalism?
A: Some might argue it is regular journalism. I don’t draw a distinction between them. I think there is plenty of journalism in what I am doing. In this day and age, the coverage of sports is really not that different from the coverage of business or politics. When you are dealing with things like steroid scandals and labor agreements and a lot of the off the field stuff that goes on these days with players getting arrested for this or that there is a reasonable amount of journalism going on.
Q: I didn’t mean to put down your field. I had read something about you working for a newspaper and getting turned off by hard news.
A: That was from my book… In the book I explained how I decided I could never be in hard news. I was an intern at a newspaper during college and a local high school football hero tragically drowned in an accident. I was an intern and I basically followed this reporter around, and they sent her to the kid’s house to interview his mother the next day. I just couldn’t believe what we were doing. I couldn’t knock on the door, I couldn’t handle it. That was when I decided I really couldn’t handle this kind of hard news.
Q: Tell us about your love of sports.
A: I always say, Mike Golic and I are from the two different kinds of sports families. Mike’s father played football, he and his brothers played football and his sons play football.
I am from the Jewish kind of sports family n we had season’s tickets.
So I grew up with season’s tickets to the Jets and the Knicks, and that was really the way my family bonded. We are just big, big sports fans ever since I can remember. A lot of my best memories of my childhood are of me going to these games with my family.
Q: Why do you think the “Mike and Mike” show is so successful?
A: There is any number of things, but if I had to pick one thing it would be an almost inexplicable chemistry. We are the two most different people in the world n Golic is from a blue-collar Catholic upbringing from the middle of Ohio. I am from Manhattan, from a Jewish family -- sort of an intellectually snobbish kind of sophisticated family. Golic is a football player, and I am a journalist. And yet, from the very first time we were together, there was a chemistry between us that I think more than anything is why the show is successful.
There is really no reason why anyone would look at the two of us separately from one another and say, ‘Oh yeah, these guys would be a good match.’ There is literally no reason. And yet it has worked. We have been together for eight years, and we have never had a fight. It just works.
Q: You are an avowed “metrosexual.” Can you explain that to our readers?
A: Yes, as we speak I am at Barney’s in a room with a private shopper, and my wife and I are going through stuff.
Golic makes fun of me all the time, but I have always believed that the way you present yourself is very telling about who you are. I am not suggesting you can tell a book by its cover on all occasions. But I certainly think that the way you present yourself to the world says a lot about your attitude. I like clothes and I like fancy things n I was raised around a lot of that. I generally know who made the clothes I am wearing, where with Golic, you know because he is usually wearing a golf shirt and it says the name of the charity on it.
Q: When you give your talk at the VISIONS event for the Jewish Federation, will you talk mostly about sports or being Jewish?
A: I like to say I am the only sportscaster in America who currently uses the work ‘mishegas’ on the air. Everything I do has a little bit of that shtick to it, but the focus of the speech will be 50-50 between my life covering sports and the stuff in my book.
I came up with this theory, well, its not really a theory, but a statement of fact n that all married men are married to a woman who thinks he is an idiot. So I will do about 20 minutes on the sports stuff, 20 minutes on the idiot stuff and then take 20 minutes of questions.
Q: Who would you say is your favorite sports figure?
A: I am fond of saying that we historically don’t have a lot of great Jewish athletes. There was Sandy Koufax, and before that was Hank Greenberg and before that you pretty much have to go back to David.
Most of the Jews in the business that I admired were broadcasters. I grew up listening to Marv Albert do Knick games, and I still love Marv Albert as a broadcaster. So he would probably be the closest thing to a Jewish sports hero I had.
Mike Greenberg will speak at VISIONS, the Fifth Annual Men’s Event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford on Wednesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m., at the Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Drive, West Hartford. For more information or tickets, visit www.jewishhartford.org or contact Kim Margolis at (860) 767 n 6115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.