Answer Man

Here’s the real story behind the end of Mike and Mike’s 18-year run on ESPN

Sports radio personalities Mike Greenberg, left, and Mike Golic throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Chicago.
Sports radio personalities Mike Greenberg, left, and Mike Golic throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Chicago. AP

Q: My husband and I always watched the ESPN sports show “Mike and Mike” while eating breakfast. We enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between them. Now Golic has been teamed with Trey Wingo, and Greeney will have his own show. What happened?

Pat Packard, of Edwardsville

A: The entertainment highway seems to be littered with famous duos heading for Splitsville.

Lewis and Martin. Simon and Garfunkel. Lennon and McCartney. Even the not-so-brotherly Everlys. All have left the public perplexed over why they would want to go their separate ways when their professional chemistry seemed so ideal.

Now Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg have joined the list. After 18 years of perking up sports fans and non-jocks alike over morning coffee, “Mike & Mike” severed their seemingly unbreakable on-air ties for the final time Nov. 17.

Some say the tension between the two had been building for years, because Greenberg, now 50, apparently had been aiming for a bigger bite of the morning pie without talking to his partner. Greenberg perhaps thought this might happen two years ago when ESPN told its ad buyers that the show would be moving from the ESPN studios in Bristol, Ct., to ABC’s studio in New York’s Times Square.

According to a May 2017 article in Sports Illustrated, the idea was to turn “Mike & Mike” into a “Good Morning America”-style program that would actually interact with the popular ABC morning show. Since both networks are Disney products, the synergy sounded ideal, and to make the perfect splash, the revamped “Mike & Mike” would debut the day after Super Bowl XL.

Golic called it a “nice second act for the show” and said he and his family would be moving to just outside the Big Apple. Greenberg apparently was on board, too, saying the move excited him because he grew up in Manhattan and was looking forward to the homecoming.

For undisclosed reasons (some say it was because the two were in contract negotiations), the move was scrapped. Instead, in September 2016, Sports Illustrated reported that ESPN was considering Greenberg as lead host on a new morning TV show. Now that idea has come to fruition. On April 2, Greenberg will be joined by Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle on the debut of “Get Up.” Meanwhile, on Nov. 27, listeners expecting “Mike & Mike” woke up to Mike and Trey — as in Trey Wingo, former sports broadcaster at KSDK-TV in St. Louis from 1991 to 1997, along with Golic’s son Mike Jr.

Some critics say the changes were inevitable, that, in a sense, Greenberg was too good to play equal partner for the rest of his career. A graduate of Northwestern University, Greeney has been a lifelong sports reporter/anchor/writer since joining WMAQ-AM in Chicago fresh out of college. In 1996, he was one of the first hosts of ESPNews when the network went on the air in the fall of 1996. Married with two children, he has published two novels and, with Golic, co-wrote “Mike and Mike’s Rules for Sports and Life.” Golic, 55, is a former Notre Dame football captain who played eight years in the National Football League with Houston, Philadelphia and Miami before taking to the airwaves.

“Greenberg is a thinking man, a guy with a well-developed brain he uses to consider what he says before he speaks,” Bob Raissman wrote in the New York Daily News. “Golic was his foil. He was the regular guy, ex-jock contrast to his fastidious partner.”

When the breakup became widely known last May, the gossip mills shifted into overdrive, saying Golic was upset that his partner did not inform him of his desire to go solo and that the two bucked up for the show but no longer spoke off-mike. Speculation was that the show would end long before its planned December departure.

“It’s really a poisonous atmosphere right now,” one ESPN employee told Sports Illustrated. “But I give both these guys immense credit because when the light comes on, you would not know what’s going on. They are pros on air.”

Greenberg, however, blamed the rumor mongers.

“Greeney and I have talked,” Golic said at a spring awards banquet at Notre Dame. “Greeney and I are fine. In all honesty I had more of a problem and was a little disappointed that people that work on my show would anonymously throw stuff out there.”

Golic’s son Jake even sent a series of tweets blaming the “idiots” in the ESPN executive offices along with a picture of two dogs at a computer with the caption, “We have no idea what we’re doing.”

So on their final day, Mike & Mike left on the same high note that listeners had tuned into regularly to hear since Jan. 3, 2000.

“We were on before there was ‘Pardon the Interruption,’ before there was ‘Around the Horn,’ before there was ‘First Take,’ which was previously ‘Cold Pizza,’” Greenberg said. “Through all of it we have done our best and tried to make people a little bit less miserable in their mornings. If we have succeeded in that, then we accomplished everything we needed to.”

Responded Golic: “We figured if we laughed, hopefully you laughed along with us.”

ESPN radio producer Michelle Smallmon advises young women to be competitive and go for the dream job.

Today’s trivia

What’s the story behind Wingo’s nickname of “Trey”? Bonus: What magazine did his father help start?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: Where did Venetian blinds originate? Sort of like asking who invented the first Geiger counter, right? Well, no. Although it’s not certain, many historians trace the origin of the popular window coverings to Persia, from where traders took them to Venice and Paris. Many French still call them “Les Persienes.”

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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