As you may know, I was just in Salisbury, North Carolina for the annual convention of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA).  Not only do they recognize statewide winners, but they also acknowledge a National Sportscaster and Sportswriter of the year, too.  Peter King, of Sports Illustrated who writes the “Monday Morning Quarterback” was there.  Peter is an avid Red Sox fan, and I have invited him to be my guest at a PawSox game when he has the time.  He seemed genuinely pleased.  Mike Tirico of ABC and ESPN was also there.  Mike has traceable ties to the PawSox radio duo of Hyder and Hoard.  His talent has always been undeniable.  Mike worked as the weekend sports anchor at the CBS affiliate (WTVH) in Syracuse while he was a student at Syracuse University.

     Tirico was humbled by the nod, his first.  “It means a lot, because it’s from your peers.  It’s an accomplishment for all the people of all the teams that I’m on.  People like Ron Jaworski of my Monday Night Football team.  Jon Gruden, too.  All the people that are on my “tennis” team, my “World Cup” team.  I’m just the “front” man for all those people.  I’m on some darn good teams and I’m very lucky.  That’s what it means, more than anything else.”  Jaworski made the trip from Philadelphia.  Tiricos’ golf analyst, Curtis Strange was there to present Mike with his award.  “Jaws” has a tremendous amount of respect for Mike.  “Besides his great intelligence, and his ability to communicate, Mike is a wonderful person.  We’ve been together for 20 years now in the broadcast profession.  We started on an NFL show together in 1990 and Mike has been my broadcasting mentor.  I always tell people that Dick Vermeil was my mentor on the football field.  Any success I’ve had in broadcasting is directly attributable to Mike Tirico.” 

     Tirico knows he is living the “American Dream”.  He has reached the pinnacle that we all strive for.  “We don’t pay to get into games.  Most people have to.  People look to escape the realities of their life through sports.  This is the reality of our lives.  We are fortunate to follow the best athletes in the world, and describe what they do.  It really is a dream.  For me, working at ESPN, it’s taken me all over the world to cover all kinds of sporting events, it’s what I always dreamed about and I’m able to live it, which is pretty rare.”

     Believe it or not, the National Sportscaster of the Year is quick to credit Dan Hoard with getting him started.  That is something that Mike and I share.  Dan was very instrumental in my getting going in broadcasting, back in the 80’s.  Tirico explained.  “True story.  My first year at Syracuse (University) we were assigned to help the sportscasters who were on the air.  Dan was a senior, I was a freshman.  I helped Dan with his morning sportscasts.  He taught me how to write, how to work with audio, he taught me all the basics.  Without Dan teaching me these things the way he did, he made it fun and exciting…without that, I don’t know if I would have fallen in love with this business the way I did.  I give Dan a ton of credit.  He’s been a special guy to a lot of people.”  Tirico adds that he looks forward to seeing Dan on the NFL trail as he begins with the Bengals in the Fall.  “All the things that are happening to Dan right now are beyond well-deserved.”

     Ultimately, Mike hired Dan to work with him at Channel 5, shortly after Dan had hired me to work with him at WSYR radio.   It was a long time ago, but it was great to see Tirico and his lovely wife Debbie and catch up with them.  Despite all his success, he hasn’t changed a bit.  I was honored to have him present me my state award.


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