Mike & Mike duo will be missed

Just five days remain for what has been the best, most important national sports-talk radio show in history, and when ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” signs off Friday, it will be missed.

“Mike and Mike,” with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, airs weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m. on hundreds of ESPN Radio affiliates across the country.

The show started Jan. 3, 2000, airing only on radio.

In 2004, a simulcast started on ESPNews, and two years later the show got more visibility when the simulcast moved to ESPN2.

No matter whether people listen to the show in their vehicles on the way to work, whether they turn on the TV as background noise at home, or even if they stream it online, “Mike and Mike” works.

It appeals to typical sports-radio listeners (an older, white male crowd) as well as people across the age and gender spectrum.

It also crafted a respectful reputation among coaches and players in many sports. That’s mostly a credit to the show’s approach and consistency — it was never crass, mean-spirited or shock-jock sports radio.

That contributed to its longevity and helped it earn a spot in the pantheon of sports programming in our country.

In 2016, “Mike and Mike” was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Yes, that all sounds a lot like a sizable bit of hype — especially if you’re not a fan of the show — but people at ESPN, in the industry and sports fans in general know the value of “Mike and Mike.”

The show has long been a testing ground for up-and-coming talent and the co-hosts were in many ways faces for the network. They were curious, informed and hard-working — a super combination. Plus, they had chemistry, making the show an easy listen (or watch).

Golic and Greenberg played to their “odd couple” pairing from the start.

They were also willing to embrace change while having a clear impact on the culture of sports, with things like their “sheet of integrity” challenge, filling out bracket sheets during the NCAA Tournament, going well beyond the show itself.

On air, Greenberg addresses topics the way he knows best, as a fan, while Golic (a former Notre Dame and NFL defensive tackle) brings a more measured, participatory background to all they do.

Both men come across as sincere in their work, and that’s something listeners can sense.

When the show ends, Greenberg will move to TV endeavors, including his own morning TV show that will start sometime in 2018 on ESPN.

Meanwhile, Golic returns to radio Nov. 27 on “Golic and Wingo,” something that feels similar to the current show but will be significantly different because of the personalities involved, and because it will not have the TV distribution of its predecessor.

Without “Mike and Mike,” nothing will completely fill its void. And there’s no guarantee what follows for Greenberg and Golic in their careers will match or surpass what they’ve done with “Mike and Mike.”

That’s actually what makes “Mike and Mike” so valuable. It was great, and you knew so while it was happening.

Plus, you know you’re going to miss it and might not ever get anything as good again.

Continued change

As more people cut the cord and leave cable, ESPN could be moving closer to additional personnel cuts, possibly as soon as this year.

Turnover at ESPN, whether by choice or earlier cutbacks, has hampered the depth of its talent pool and, as a result, its impact, in recent months.

Because people feel connections with those who share information with them (the personalities they invite into their homes when they turn on TV or radio), changes in that relationship matter. It hampers fan loyalty as well as the bottom line.

Such news can never be good for the media outlets themselves, or for the fans.

Ranking review

Sports Business Journal shared its complete ranking of 219 cities and towns across the country that serve as homes for minor league sports franchises, and Altoona fared well, falling 60th on the list.

That was fourth among all markets in Pennsylvania, according to SBJ’s process that considers attendance, economics and tenure.

Rankings for Keystone State markets were: Hershey-Harrisburg (7), Lehigh Valley (27), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (37); Altoona (60), Lancaster, (133), Williamsport (135), Reading (143); State College (157); Erie (164), Washington (184) and York (187).

Tuner tidbits

n The Penn State wrestling team plays host to Bucknell at 2 p.m. today. All Nittany Lions match during the season can be heard on a couple of radio stations in the region. Both WTRN-AM (1340) in Tyrone and WDBF-FM (106.3) in Mt. Union/Huntingdon are part of the wrestling radio network. Longtime play-by-play man Jeff Byers does a strong job on the broadcasts, which can also be heard online by visiting GoPSUsports.com and following the multimedia tab.

n Penn State’s men’s basketball team plays three games in the next five days — 5 p.m. today vs. Farleigh Dickinson, 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Montana and 7 p.m. Friday vs. Columbia — with only the Montana matchup set to be televised, thanks to BTN. All of the games can be heard on radio or through the GoPSUsports.com site.

n ESPN’s latest documentary as part of its 30 for 30 series, “Nature Boy,” which aired Tuesday and focused on professional wrestler Ric Flair, drew 1.831 million viewers and was the highest-rated show in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic that night. Beyond the numbers, it was well done and worth watching.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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