By Bob Cooney
When I worked at the Daily News we had a going away gathering for a retiree. Kind words were thrown around, as expected, if not warranted. A co-worker whispered in my ear “it’s amazing how much better a person becomes when they either retire or die.”
Truer words were never spoken. I’m not going to travel that route now as I talk about Mike Missanelli’s departure from this station.
I first got to know Mike not through the newspaper business or the radio airwaves, but on the court of the Palestra on Wednesday afternoons when local media members gathered for some bad basketball. Both of us being competitive athletes, we eyed each other’s game and appreciated the challenge. His was a game of decent jump shooting, complaining about fouls – the type of game that gets on my nerves. Mine was more of a put your head down and barrel through, call a foul only if there’s blood or a broken bone. Mine was also a much better game than Mikes, which got on his nerves.
We never played on the same team in those games and usually matched up against each other. Again, we didn’t like each other’s game, but we both looked for each other each and every week, disappointed if the other didn’t show.
And that’s sort of how I view the radio career of Mike. Did you, or me, always love it? No. Did I want it on my radio each and every day? Damn straight. And as I said earlier, Mike isn’t better to me today because he’s no longer here. He was always been that good, at least to me.
The professional life of being a sports writer and then a radio personality is a difficult one in the sense that your words are scrutinized, and, more often criticized. Mike has dealt with that for close to 40 years in a way that has certainly taught me a lesson in following the same career paths that he did. Mike often said things that more than tweaked emotions, good and bad. He stood his ground when the heat came from readers and then listeners. It wasn’t always easy, but he was always listenable. For me, must listen.
I miss those battles that he and I had at the Palestra some years ago, as wanting to kick his ass on the court was something I cherished. I’ll miss his takes on this great station, whether I agreed or not, because his radio show elicited an energy in me much like our encounters on the Palestra floor. And I think it did for our listeners, too. And that’s what it’s all about in this industry.