Sportscaster Mike Greenberg on his NU past and ESPN present

    Mike Greenberg (Medill ‘89) spoke at Norris University Center Saturday morning as a part of an alumni event, A Day with Northwestern in Evanston. Photo by Katherine Tang / North by Northwestern.

    It’s early in the morning and you’re still awake from the night before, furiously trying to finish the rest of your work. Putting your pencil down, you rub the sleep out of your eyes and realize that it’s already 5 a.m. While many students might groan and crawl into bed, bemoaning how little sleep they’re going to get, a sports fan like me might react in a completely different way — by excitedly turning on NUTV. Who needs sleep when Mike and Mike in the Morning is on?

    Mike and Mike is a four-hour sports radio show that is simulcast on ESPN Radio and ESPN2 five days a week. Despite beginning its broadcast at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. CST, it is the most popular sports radio show in the United States, boasting a daily audience of almost 4 million. One of the “Mikes” is former NFL player Mike Golic.┬áThe other is none other than Northwestern alum Mike Greenberg (Medill ‘89) who, in addition to his work on Mike and Mike, is a SportsCenter anchor, host of former ABC game show The Duel, and author of the best-selling book Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot.

    On April 18th, Greenberg was one of the featured lecturers at Northwestern’s annual “A Day with Northwestern in Evanston” seminar at Norris University Center. The seminar, organized by the Northwestern Alumni Association, features speeches from distinguished NU alumni and staff from a range of fields and professions. This year, in addition to Greenberg, speakers included New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer, economist Brian Wesbury and plastic surgeon Gregory A. Dumanian.

    Greenberg was the first speaker of the day, beginning his lecture at 9 a.m. in the Northwestern Room at Norris University Center, which was filled to near capacity by alumni, current students and Evanston residents. Although his presentation focused mainly on the effects of sports on the various aspects of his life, he digressed to cover a lot of different points as well, including his time at Northwestern.

    During his presentation, Greenberg fondly reminisced about his membership in the Theta Chi fraternity, his classes in Fisk Hall and Northwestern’s tendency to “over-celebrate big wins” in sports. When the focus unsurprisingly turned to sports, he shared humorous and sometimes awe-inspiring stories from his experience in the sports world, including one about a game of pick-up basketball played with Michael Jordan. Still, though Greenberg spoke much about his experiences with the world of sports, it was his familial stories that were the most earnest.

    Discussing the difference in the importance of sports vs. the importance of family, Greenberg said, “There is nothing in the world better than investing everything into something that means absolutely nothing.”

    North by Northwestern caught up with Greenberg after his presentation to discuss Northwestern memories, career highlights and sports preferences.

    During your lecture, you discussed some of your best memories from your time at Northwestern. What were some of your least favorite experiences?

    When you’ve had a good experience, you know, all experiences have down sides. But when something unbalanced has been a really good experience, and then enough time passes, you forget the bad stuff.

    I’m sure I had terrible moments at Northwestern, especially the academic part of it. My recollection of that is to be in Medill, which I was, they made me take a lot of various subjects, the philosophy being that a good journalist needs to know at least a little about everything. They made me take math, they made me take science, and I hated all of that stuff. I just wasn’t interested and I knew it would have nothing to do with what I was doing.

    So I found myself sometimes a little overwhelmed by the academics because I just wasn’t that interested, and I’m the type of person who, if I’m not interested in something, I just won’t get into it. So that probably is what I remember that would be on the downside, but it’s minimal.

    If you could play a professional sport, which would it be and why?

    Golf. If you’re asking me which one I would like to play, it would be golf. If you’re asking me which one I’m closest to being good enough to play in, I would suggest that there are no options.

    But certainly I like golf the best, and I admire golfers more than any other athletes because it’s all mental — it’s about your mental toughness and all of that. If you’re big, fast and strong you can be a good athlete, but if you’re not mentally tough, you can’t be a good golfer, and that’s what I admire about the sport.

    Who are some athletes you were most excited to meet?

    Well certainly [Michael] Jordan was great, and many others. I’ve had the pleasure to meet pretty much every prominent athlete of this era, but the ones I get excited about are the ones I grew up with. You know, the guys who are older now and long since retired, but that I liked a lot when I was a kid. So when I met Joe Namath I was really excited, when I met Walt Frazier I was really excited. You sort of always remember the guys you grew up with more than anyone else, so I remember those guys.

    What are some of the athletes you find the most exciting to watch today?

    Well, it starts with Tiger [Woods]. My brother-in-law and I watched the Masters on Sunday together, and if you would have told me the Super Bowl was on another channel, I would not have let him change the channel. When Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] were going back and forth, it was incredible. I was so endlessly entertained that I wanted it to go on forever.

    So it would start with Tiger, and then, I mean, Chris Paul is exciting to watch, Adrian Peterson is exciting to watch. I would say those two guys jump to mind and, you know, LeBron James, guys like that. Probably guys most people would think of.

    On that note, Kobe or LeBron?

    Well, I mean, you know, it’s almost impossible to say. My gut feeling is that when it’s all said and done, LeBron’s gonna be the best that ever played. He’s just so big.

    Better than Jordan?

    I think he’s got a chance, because the one thing Jordan didn’t have, none of these guys weighed 260 pounds. He’s a beast, and he’s only [going to] get bigger and better. So I would say right now probably Kobe, but eventually LeBron.


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