Thursday, July 03, 2008
Mike North…A True Chicagoan and a Great Midwest American Success Story
I listen to radio and music more than I watch television. Talk radio and sports radio keep me entertained when I am working, driving or out on the water. Most sports talk is a bit boring and I am not an avid listener, but one host stands out to me for a few reasons explained later on.
Last week my only favorite local Chicago sports radio host went off the air after sixteen years. Mike North is a true Chicago original and one hell of an American success story. His contract was not renewed.
Mike was not the first sports talk show personality on local radio. That would be Chet Coppock, another Chicago guy.
The Mike North story fascinates me. Mike owned and operated a Vienna Beef Hot Dog joint with his wife, the story goes. It was located near a radio station in a north side neighborhood. The radio folks would eat lunch there and got to know him, his personality and his lust for sports. When they launched the first local all-sports radio station they decided to give the hot dog guy a shot at his own show. It took off and Mike began an extremely lucrative radio career, eventually earning over one million dollars a year. Only in America. What’s not to like?
What I liked about Mike was that he was a true “Chicaguh” guy. Mike had that Chicaguh speech pattern, dialect (deese, dem, doze, dat) and was loud and boisterous. He was the guy that sat on a barstool or in the grandstand next to me many, many times.
I often comment and write negatively about Chicago but it is a result of my time living there, the screwy laws they have and the perplexing way that Chicagoans vote the same crooks into office year after year and then complain about having the highest (10.25%) sales tax in the nation. I love Chicago as a place to earn money or visit. As long as I can live here in the Indiana countryside, the free world, me and Chicago get along just fine. I can appreciate guys like Mike who is a true Chicago original.
Mike lived in the city all his life and it all came through on the radio. Unlike most sports talk show hosts who are trained radio professional carpetbaggers, he's the real deal. It shows too.
SIDEBAR: Another good local sports talk guy would be Dan McNeil who grew up in nearby Hammond, IN. I once was on a weekend fall fishing trip with Dan, who is a friend of a friend. Dan did not fish on Saturday afternoon, preferring to watch the Michigan football game in the cabin. We all have our priorities. Dan and Mike are very similar. I believe they are on the air as they are in life, at least I know Dan is for sure. Tough. Gritty. No bullshit guys. In an age of an increasing population of feminine, pussyfied metrosexual males, we need more men like them in the broadcast media.
Mike did not hold back his opinions be it sports, politics or life in general. Politically incorrect would be a perfect description.
Local newspaper sports columnists did not think much of Mike because of that. Most sports journalists are lefties, as politically correct as they come. They jumped all over North when he made any comment considered offensive. When Korean Chicago Cubs pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu gave up several home runs, effectively losing a game to Atlanta, North reportedly said on his show, "Who was that Chinaman?", a racial slur. Now if he used the term “Chink” or “Gook” or “Slope” I would have agreed. To me, using Chinaman is no different than using Englishman or Spaniard. Since the pitcher was Korean they were able to stretch it into more than what it was.
It should be noted that it was Mike who "reached out" (gawd I hate that term) to none other than Jesse Jackson and partnered together to raise the money in order to erect a bronze statue of Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field. This is after Cub management put up a bronze of Harry Caray. We always knew Cub priorities are entertainment first, baseball second and this proves it. I think Mike did this primarily to stick it up the Cub management's ass. He was also involved in many sports charity efforts too.
I was not a sports talk listener until 2005, when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. Early that season my brother called me one morning and asked me to tune North in. We knew the Sox were a special team but unlike the 100 year losers also known as the Chicago Cub fans, Sox fans know better than to over react to an early season winning team.
Living near Chicago not many media outlets would give the Sox much time. WSCR 670 had the radio broadcasting rights and friendly Sox information was available there. Being “outed” as a lifelong Sox fan, Mike was refreshing to listen to and I was tuning in each morning. He began each show with the Foghat classic, “Fool For The City” at 6am, right when I was pulling out of the garage and heading for the commuter train. What great timing.
Mike wasn’t a “homer”. When the team made mistakes he pointed them out. When Ozzie called in unexpectedly one day and went on an uncensored rant, Mike took no shit from the Oz, as the youtube link at the top demonstrates. It is a real classic.
When a ditzy blonde news reporter commented on news items with her left leaning political opinions Mike was all over the comments, setting her straight. Good entertainment along with the sports information and opinions. It's gone for now.
I read today in the ChiTrib that Mike North claims to have a few offers on the table and will be back in about a month. It will be great to hear his bombast again. Since we are the same age and look at life and sports the same way, I can’t wait.