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What’s It Like To...Be a Sports Talk Radio Host

"What’s It Like To…" is a series that looks inside the worlds of extreme sports, professional athletics, and sports careers.

"What's It Like To…" is a series that looks inside the worlds of extreme sports, professional athletics, and sports careers.

Most women don't listen to sports talk radio, and I was one of them. As I became more obsessed with the athletics of football, however, I wanted to understand the game better. Why would the defense still make a defenseless receiver hit, when the penalties are now so high? Why would Brady deflate footballs when his team really doesn't need the advantage gained by cheating? When Marcus Mariota still hadn't signed with the Titans, was that a glimmer of hope that he might come to Philly?

None of my friends and colleague wanted to talk about these finer points of football, so I started looking elsewhere. When I found the afternoon show on 97.5 The Fanatic, I was hooked. The host Mike Missanelli obviously knows sports. What's more unusual is that his show isn't one guy yelling at some other guy. He's respectful to those who call in, quickly zeroes in on the point of their call, and insists that callers support their view or he will point out the errors in their thinking.

In addition to sports talk, what I love about the show is Mike's discussions about other subjects - for example, race, and relationships between men and women. Callers seek advice, ("Can I give my girlfriend just one gift if her birthday is near Valentine's Day?") and ask for rulings on potential "violations", ("Is it still ok to wear a Shady McCoy jersey?").  And my most favorite part is the banter between Mike and his producer - it can be like the best Seinfeld episode, ("What's the best scent for your bathroom's hand soap?").

Mike Missanelli began his sports talk radio career in 1992, and has hosted both locally and at ESPN in New York City. He's been the host of the Mike Missanelli Show, 97.5 FM The Fanatic, since 2008. He's analyzed sports in many TV positions, and prior to radio and TV, worked in newspapers for 15 years, including 10 years with the Philadelphia Inquirer. He got his Journalism degree from Penn State, and is a graduate of Widener Law School, admitted to the PA Bar in 1986.

Q:  Best thing about being a sports talk host?

The freshness of daily conversation. Philadelphia is the best sports talk town in the nation. And being able to engage fans live and interactive each day is a wonderful experience. There is always a fresh take and a fresh angle evident in a sports crazed town like Philadelphia.

Q:  Most difficult thing about being a sports talk host?

There's nothing really difficult about being a sports talk host except when there is a dearth of conversation about sports. We just went through perhaps the most barren period in my sports talk career following the Eagles season. The Sixers and Flyers had non exciting seasons, and we were left without ANY baseball talk for an entire summer because of the poor state of the Phillies. That really tests the limits of the host's creativity to talk about other subjects.

Q:  Besides understanding sports, what top 3 qualities make a successful sports talk host?

The ability to handle both sides of an argument is the most important aspect. Bringing both sides into an argument makes it a much better and more interesting conversation. My law school training was essential for that. Also, I believe that some athletic experience gives you an edge when talking about the game. You can relate to certain aspects of sports better than someone who has never played. I was a three sport high school athlete and a varsity baseball player at Penn State, which means I was tutored in the finer arts of the game by some really good coaches. You also have to have a bit of ham in you. After all, you are trying to entertain people for four hours as well as educate them.

Q:  How do you prepare for shows?

My preparation begins in the morning. I still read the newspaper, but I have a series of websites that I will consult in order to formulate talking points for the show. Watching ESPN sports center and CSN are essential. I will try to develop a hub, a main topic of the day, then spin off into various other topics, which may include aspects of modern culture or current events that have nothing to do with sports. By the time I go to the office, I have done all my preparation. I read a show sheet prepared by my producer Jason Myrtetus, and consult with him on various other ideas we can implement on the show.

Q:  If you were to have a show about any other topic, what would it be?

I'm a huge proponent of social discussion, especially racial issues. I treat my show sometimes as a town hall show where all opinions are welcome. I am flabbergasted by small-minded ideas on racial progress and I feel it is my duty to try to broaden some listeners' horizons in those matters.

Thanks to Mike for sharing a picture of what being a sports talk host is like. Do you do an ultra sport or have a sports-related career?  Want to share your experience?  Contact Dr. Whitman at

Dr. Sarah Whitman practices sports psychiatry in Philadelphia. She is a guest contributor on Sports Doc.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.