When Your Family is Named Mike – and Mike

For eight years, my commute to work involved an hour’s drive. When I first relocated to working in the suburbs, I realized I had to upgrade my 12-year old car for a new, more reliable model. And along with the car, I decided to subscribe to satellite radio. After all, I needed entertainment for all that alone time. Being a sports fan, I happily settled into commuting to the office accompanied by Mike & Mike on ESPN radio.

For the uninitiated, the Mikes are a team of opposites – Mike Greenberg is a sports journalist while Mike Golic enjoyed an eight-year career in the NFL. Together, they chatter as a self-proclaimed nerd and a jock, with an on-air chemistry that’s both entertaining and informative. Whether dishing on the prior day’s professional sports highlights or offering insights to help settle March Madness brackets or fantasy football line-ups, I became a loyal listener.

What’s interesting was how easily I made an emotional connection with two guys I never met. Maybe it was the subject matter – yes, spectator sports are a very emotional pastime! Or perhaps it was the genuine easy rhythm that comes after 15 years of working together. No matter how it happened, they made it feel like I was spending time with old friends. I even got to know their families a bit!  And frankly, it got to the point that I actually found I missed one or both Mikes when travel or vacation took them away from the show.

Last spring, however, I had to give them up because my job moved back into the city and I reclaimed train commuting. I occasionally listened to a replay of the show but it’s just not the same as live. Recently, I was driving to work in another one office and was excited to tune in to the Mikes. It had been a while and the football season was in full swing so I was ready for some good insights. But just like any good family, a surprise was in store – today’s scoring highlight was Mike Golic’s standout performance in a donut eating contest! With a laugh-out-loud moment in the car, it felt like we’d only been together yesterday as I listened to Greenie proudly congratulate his co-host on his big win.

Why was this such a great example of the “Mike & Mike” brand?

  1. Authenticity – these guys are who they are. Golic is a self-deprecating, extrovert, who understands that being a radio host requires entertaining. And Greenie is student of journalism, who often talks about his humble start, and helps steer their focus.
  2. Emotional connections – whether the NFL Superbowl or the station’s donut challenge, these guys know sports and help listeners appreciate athletics through their lively dialogues. Yet their friendly demeanor and down-to-earth style is classic water-cooler office chatter vs. know-it-all smartypants.
  3. Consistency – you know what to expect in terms of overall content and style. And if you like the experience, you want to come back for more!

I congratulate these guys for providing a thoroughly entertaining show that kept my dial positioned on ESPN for eight enjoyable years. I don’t miss putting all those miles on my car, but it’s comforting to know that whenever I have the occasion to drive to work, my Mikes will be waiting to keep me company!

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Why the NFL scores big

Scandals aside, you can’t help but admire the National Football League. Supported by passionate fans, they dominate their TV time slots, prompt highly engaged social media activity and generate over $1 billion in merchandise sales. With a brand value exceeding $10 billion, dramatic, high-quality competition is the main event. However, the NFL has also nurtured its brand magnificently with strict usage guidelines and clever brand extensions. They have also enabled an addictive manner to expand interest beyond “your team” through fantasy football. So instead of planning your entire week around watching one game, you now have an excuse to spend Sundays watching football – and probably Monday and Thursday nights, too. According to NBC Sports Pro Football Talk, 34 of America’s 35-most watched fall 2013 TV shows were football games. If you’re in a fantasy league, you get it. And if you’re not, you probably have too much free time on your hands.

Fantasy football traces its roots to eight Oakland Raiders fans in 1963, but expanded very slowly due to the manual effort required to track the scoring. Fast-forward to the late 90s when the CBS launched a free fantasy website and then to 2010, when the NFL itself released an official fantasy site. Today roughly 33 million people spend hours refreshing their statistical capabilities by carefully managing a fantasy football team through the season. Trades, waiver claims, contemplating who to start or bench, and of course bragging when you’re winning – and quietly going off the grid when you’re losing – are all fantasy fan habits.

My team did well last year, and I will admit that I watched a lot more football, contributing to the NFL brand’s success. The 2015 season is young but I’ve already spent money on an official NFL jersey (Gronk, of course!), have tuned in to hours of game time and am fretting about my fantasy team. If you’re in a league, I wish you a winning season and let’s compare notes in February! (P.S. if you want more statistics, check out FiveThirtyEight’s “Complete History of the NFL” post.)

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