Mike Golic concluded his 22-year morning radio run this morning in a family-filled airing. Emotions and feelings don’t describe his historical run, but the word family succinctly does.
On-air personalities are routinely accused of shticks and amplifying personas. Skip Bayless has his takes; Stephen A. Smith has his volume. Howard Stern’s skits are his signature. Mike Francesa is synonymous with arrogance. Golic is a family man, that’s his brand.
Golic’s shows, between three different co-hosts — Tony Bruno, Mike Greenberg, Trey Wingo — differed. But all three had one common thread: they were family first. Golic’s family. His kids grew up with his listeners, and later his viewers. In the morning show’s third iteration, his son, Mike Golic Jr., joined him as an on-air host.
“Even when we turn off our mics, you still get to be our Dad,” Golic Jr. said this morning on Golic and Wingo.
Golic invited the audience into his living room, they invited him back into theirs. Sports fans, of all ages and interests, woke up with Golic. His audience varied from star athletes to celebrities; to the every-man to the hungover sports nut; to mothers driving their children to school.
“I would have mothers come up to me and say, ‘You know what, I appreciate? When I was driving the kids to school, I never had to worry about turning it down or turning the channel real quick because you were going to say something my kids shouldn’t hear,'” Golic reminisced with Sarah Spain this week.
Over the last 22 years sports media changed. A few times. Social media was born. Hot takes replaced reason. Buzz became more lucrative than quality. Golic didn’t change, and that’s why it worked. It is why he worked.
Being ‘relatable’ and ‘likable’ are the most underrated skills in sportscasting. Two qualities mostly overlooked and forgotten about. Golic personified both. He reminded his audience of their jolly uncle — they felt comfortable with him. His programs were smart, funny, self-deprecating, and always focused on sports. This all sounds so simple, but so few do it. Even fewer do it well.
Golic is an industry stalwart. A default early-morning escape from the toxic world that this is. His listeners connected with him. They heard him raise his children, saw him go from chubby to fit (still hard to fathom), and experienced him sing Darius Rucker on-air.
As the experience grew wider, Golic’s Q-rating expanded. He was on with David Letterman, a few times. Everyone, in and around the sports world, knows who he is.
On the Sports Talk Mount Rushmore, it’s Jim Rome, Chris Russo, and Mike Francesa. The fourth spot is open. Golic’s resume is enough to make his case. (Other options include Paul Finebaum, Tony Kornheiser, Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, and Golic’s former co-host, Mike Greenberg.)
Golic is a radio legend. It’s hard to do anything well for over two decades. He did it in a field infamous for constant change.
Humans are creatures of habit. Particularly, in the morning. For sports fans, Golic is a morning routine. When habits are involuntarily disrupted, individuals quickly oppose. Golic’s successors now face the aftermath.
Golic wanted to remain on morning radio; ESPN chose to move him. This is a mistake. Replacing Golic is forcing coffee drinkers to drink tea. ESPN is removing waffles from the breakfast table. It’s throwing out a peaceful alarm clock for a startling, unsettling new sound.
On August 17, ESPN rolls out its new radio lineup. Keyshawn, Jay and Zubin take over for Golic. Sources around the industry have expressed serious doubts this show can work. The casting is lackluster and far from promising. Morning radio needed a revamp, but not at the expense of its draw. Golic, Golic Jr., and Jason Fitz checked off the boxes as a pragmatic replacement. The chemistry is there, it even extended off-air.
Golic’s future is much in the air. This season, assuming there is one, he’ll transition back into a college football role. His contract expires later in the year.
Whether he stays with ESPN or moves on, he established his legacy years ago with an unprecedented, industry-paving career.
If I were to say Golic’s 22-year run is inimitable, would you argue back?