By Brady Henderson
As you’ve probably heard by now, Mike Salk is leaving 710 ESPN Seattle after nearly four years at the station. He will co-host “Brock and Salk” for the last time in-studio on Wednesday before the show heads to Ireland. His last show will be Friday from Dublin.
But before he returns to his hometown of Boston to co-host afternoon drive on WEEI, I’d like to share some thoughts and stories that should provide some insight into what it’s been like to know and work with Mike.
I first met Mike when I was interviewing for the sports-editor position three years ago. The guy who would later hire me was giving me a tour of the building when we stopped by the room where the hosts prepare for their shows. Mike’s stature was the first thing that crossed my mind when he stood up to introduce himself.
Wow, I thought to myself as I shook Mike’s hand, for all the jokes he gets about his height, he’s a lot taller than I pictured him.
Three years later, I’ve come to realize how big Mike’s presence is, too. And that’s not as surprising when you consider his combination of talent and drive.
Sports media personalities – whether it’s a radio host or a newspaper columnist – have something in common with the athletes they cover: Some are supremely talented but underachieve because they don’t work hard enough. Some overachieve because their work ethic makes up for what they lack in innate ability. And the great ones become great because they have both.
Mike Salk has both.
I’ve had a front-row seat as Mike, Brock Huard and producer Tom Wassell have turned “Brock and Salk” into the top-rated show it is today. Mike’s creativity, passion, sense of humor and understanding of what makes compelling radio have all been major factors in the show’s development. But anyone who has followed Mike knows his talents extend beyond radio.
Mike’s contributions to 710Sports.com – not just in terms of quantity but quality as well – have been essential to the website’s growth.
Fans of his Seahawks columns, his rebukes of certain coverage of the proposed SoDo arena and his musings about other Seattle sports appreciate how gifted a writer Mike is. I certainly do. The skill with which he writes, in my opinion, rivals that of some professionals. I would often marvel at how quickly he would write a centerpiece-worthy column after Seahawks games, as if he were a newspaper columnist working on deadline. I was only half-kidding when I told him he could make a career in that profession if this whole radio thing didn’t work out.
Since we started filming videos of Mike and Brock after each show, I can probably count on both hands the number of times we’ve needed more than one take. Think about that: We decide on a topic, Mike and Brock think about it for about five seconds and then off they go, rarely so much as stumbling on a word while looking into a camera and talking for three minutes straight. It’s impressive stuff.
The same is true for the work he’s done with local television stations – only some of that is live.
Perhaps more than anyone I’ve met in this industry, Mike realizes that wearing one hat is no longer enough. Expanding your repertoire is a key to survival in the new media age. To that end, Mike has done just about everything. It’s possible that at some point – maybe more than once – you have done each of the following in the span of a few hours: Listened to Mike on “Brock and Salk” or one of ESPN’s national radio shows, read one of his columns on 710Sports.com and watched him on NorthWest Cable News or Q13.
It takes a great deal of talent to do any of those things as well as Mike does. It takes a grinder to do all of them.
Mike did a great deal of writing for 710Sports.com, but not because of a contractual obligation or because I would ask him. He wanted to.
Back in January, a few hours after the Mariners announced they had traded for Michael Morse, I started to write Mike an email asking him if he would mind writing a column with his reaction to the deal. He had already written one, and he emailed it to me just as I was about to hit send.
I wasn’t even going to bother to ask the day the Seahawks traded for Matt Flynn. At the time, Mike was in France with his 2-month-old daughter and his wife, who was unable to leave because she had broken her ankle a few days earlier. What a nightmare.
It was a watershed moment (at the time) for the Seahawks, and it was killing Mike that he couldn’t make it back to Seattle the next day to talk about it. Somehow he managed to write about it, posting a column that is still among the most viewed stories in the website’s history.
It’s been a pleasure to get to know Mike outside of the office as well. We’ve had our share of light-hearted conversations as well as some deeper ones, whether it was in the pressbox at CenturyLink Field, over a round of golf or a round of drinks. I consider him a friend.
Mike has written a farewell column of his own that we will run later this week. I encourage you to read that and to listen to the final two shows. They should be fun.
After Ireland, Mike will fly straight to Boston, where he’ll have a few days to regroup before hosting his first show on WEEI on Wednesday. Though knowing Mike, he’d probably just as soon start right away.