I had the opportunity to do one of the cooler things of my career this morning. I awoke at 3:30 a.m. and went to the Dye Club at Barefoot Resort for Monday After the Masters. The brainchild of Darius Rucker, this charity event draws professional golfers and celebrities. The portion of Monday After the Masters that I was specifically attending was Mike & Mike, only my favorite sports talk radio show ever. Because of the close relationship between Rucker and “The Mikes”, it is a tradition that the show comes to Myrtle Beach each year for the fundraiser. Our dance team, mascot, and pep band were on hand to give this morning’s show a special spark so I was given a media credential to cover it.
I just want to briefly mention the minor disappointment and get it out of the way before I talk about what a blast I had. Unfortunately, Mike Greenberg had to cancel last minute. The common fan half of the show, contrasting to the ex-jock persona of Mike Golic, had a family issue he needed to tend to. In his place was Ryan Ruocco, an ESPN up-and-comer who happens to be the same age as me.
The students and a handful of us staffers arrived at the broadcast site around 5:30 a.m. As someone who attended College Gameday last September, something jumped out at me immediately. Mike & Mike was much more intimate. Instead of numerous different sets, a large crew, and a spectator area liberally roped off to accommodate a thousand students, the Mike & Mike setup was cozy. You probably had no more than a hundred chairs and a crew that numbered around ten.
The show started and it was pretty much just like watching at home. Everything went very smoothly. Even though it was their first show ever together, Golic and Ruocco had a natural flow. I stood right next to the dance team just a few feet from stage and enjoyed the banter about the Masters. An ESPN cameraman would come over to the band when the show was about to go to break. While Golic or Ryan would start to send the show to the first commercial the band was given permission to start playing. While Mike & Mike seemed just like I was listening in on the radio or watching on ESPN2 during the live action, once the commercials started a much more personal side came out.
If I could describe Mike Golic in one word it would be awesome. During the commercial breaks he did several different things from talking to our dance team, addressing the crowd with a microphone, signing autographs/posing for photos, and judging a “best sign contest” with Ryan. He acted just like a regular guy and was accommodating with every request. I photographed him with Chauncey, our dance team, and then with the whole group including Ryan Ruocco and Shane Battier and each time he was gracious and humble. When the show ended he let his hair down a little. When he competed in the longest drive contest he chugged a can of Michelob Ultra as he walked up to the tee and then had the whole gallery laughing as he made joke after joke while taking his swings.
Celebrity guests on the show this morning included Shane Battier, Golden Tate, and, of course, Darius Rucker. Before he went on Mike & Mike, Darius was holding court with about 15 members of the media. Chauncey saw this and ran over, completely video bombing the whole operation. Mr. Rucker was a good sport about it though and I got some awesome photos of the exchange. For Darius’ interview with Mike and Ryan they went away from the main set to a putting green. With the other members of Hootie and the Blowfish surrounding the three, I stood a few feet away and watched the lively and funny interview. Unfortunately I don’t think Darius recognized me from the crucial part I played in his latest music video.
The show started in the dark with a modest crowd. However, as the sun came up more people arrived and the buzz started to heighten a bit. It was cool to watch the transformation. Although I enjoyed every minute of my experience, I did start to realize that a four-hour radio show is a long time. I have a lot of respect for Golic and Greeney going out there Monday through Friday and talking to millions of people for 20 hours.
When the show ended, the Monday After the Masters longest drive event commenced. Darius Rucker performed the National Anthem and teed off first. After him I watched up close as folks such as Larry the Cable Guy, Rick Barry, Josh Kelley, and Golden Tate took whacks with the club. It was as if each celebrity put on a show himself as he stepped up. They all told jokes and they all connected with the audience in a different way. After the longest drive contest it was time for the actual golf competition to begin. Although I would have loved to stay I had to get back to the office.
I had a wonderful experience watching Mike & Mike. As with College Gameday, it is so special to watch the actual show in person after watching/listening to it religiously on television/radio for so long. Mike Golic is the real deal and I am now a big fan of Ryan Ruocco; I hope he becomes a prominent player at ESPN. I was very proud of how our dance team, pep band, and Chauncey represented Coastal. Several times during the show they were recognized on-air, just another example of invaluable exposure. I am thankful for what I experienced today and can’t wait for the next awesome adventure I get to go on for work. Don’t Blink.