Welcome to part 2, of the Mike Schopp interview! You can read part 1, here.
Katebits: How much responsibility do you feel for setting the tone of the sports dialog in Buffalo? Take the Sabres free agency fiasco from last summer for example. Obviously, there was a lot of anger and frustration in the community. How much obligation do you feel to allow that frustration to be voiced? How much responsibility do you feel for helping to facilitate a levelheaded conversation?
Mike Schopp: I suppose I have this responsibility to some extent, but I don’t think about it in that context. Rather, I take pride in helping to set the tone. I think the tone of the calls should match that of the fans in general. But when considering that only a certain small percentage of fans ever feel so strongly about an issue to call in, it can be difficult to accomplish that.
Last summer’s Sabres news is a great example of how this can be challenging. Anytime a rich owner and seemingly distant executives let good, popular players leave, thousands of fans come out of the woodwork to call these men cheap, incompetent, arrogant, etc. But many, many other fans, while not necessarily approving of the moves or the methods behind them, understand the process and accept that these moves were not made in an attempt to sabotage the organization. These people won’t call in to make that point often as they lack the impetus of outrage to do so.
I think that the serious effort we make to represent this more level-headed fan is a huge factor in our success. Our show does not sound like idiotic runaway madness like many, if not most, sports-radio shows do.
Katebits: Do you listen to This American Life? Howard Stern?
Mike Schopp: No, and not anymore. Was a big Stern fan about 10-12 years ago. Learned a lot from that show. My favorite radio show ever to listen to was The Phil Hendrie Show. He’d dream up ridiculous scenarios and proceed to conduct an interview with himself — Hendrie, the host, and some imaginary expert that he would play. Then he would take calls from irate listeners. I’m not sure this makes sense, let me give you an example:
He made up some story about a priest who claimed that God told him to spend church collection money on a hot tub. So he “interviewed” the priest, who was really just him in a different voice. And people would call in just furious that anyone would do that. Genius, and executed beautifully.
Katebits: I seem to recall you metioning having a journalism degree in the discussion after Tim Russert’s death. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that. When you started out as a fresh faced 18-year-old what did you envision doing with your degree? Was sports talk radio always the plan?
Mike Schopp: I graduated from St. John Fisher College in 1993 with a Communications/Journalism degree. Had this job that I have now been prevalent in 1993, I think I would have wanted it exactly. But it wasn’t; there were sports radio shows but not more than one or two stations in the country. And the shows were usually very dry and informational. Back then I wanted to do play-by-play. But this is better for me. Talk offers much more variety and intimacy. I think it’s more challenging than PBP. Announcers put touches on the artwork that is the game they’re calling, while talk-show hosts get blank canvases to work with. Don’t tell anyone, but I think play-by-play is easy.
Katebits: Hold on. Did you just call Rick Jeanneret “easy”? YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, PEOPLE!
Katebits: Are you superstitious? The Sabres are, like, 1-883 with me in the building. This makes me feel sad. Do you think I’m bad luck?
Mike Schopp: 884 games and no overtime losses? Come on, Kate. I bet your record is more like 1-572-235-176-2-40-1. It’s the NHL, after all.
When I was a kid I used to think that if I concentrated really hard on the TV or radio announcer calling a goal for the other team that it wouldn’t happen. Inevitably, I would lose focus and that’s when the Sabres would allow goals. The worst example of this was, with the score tied 5-5 late in the decisive Game 5 of the Sabres’ first-round series with Quebec in 1985, I looked away from the TV and Brent Ashton scored to break the tie and win the series for Quebec. I still blame myself for that one.
No, I’m not superstitious.
Katebits: For me personally, I have a limit to how much sports angst I can deal with before I lose interest. At a certain point I just think, “Eh, I guess Marshawn Lynch is just a big dumb jerk. Whatevs.” I’m curious if this happens to you, and how you deal with your job when it does.
Mike Schopp: My first producer in Buffalo, Steve Cichon, once told me after three hours spent wallowing in Doug Flutie-vs.-Rob Johnson blabbering, that just because I’m sick of talking about the subject doesn’t mean some guy just leaving work is. Steve was right. It’s important to remind yourself that most people don’t listen for the whole four hours a day.
We like variety on our show, but we have to be mindful of the fact that if people tune in for a short while when there’s a big sports story and don’t hear it discussed, they might become annoyed.
But, do I ever hit the wall with topics? All the time.
Katebits: Do you read sports blogs? Which ones? Do you read BfloBlog?
Mike Schopp: Yours is the first one I’ve visited more than twice. I’m sure I’m missing a lot out there, I’m just a creature of habit. I couldn’t even name another blog. Seriously.
Katebits: Well, I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty pleased that TWC is your introduction to the world of hockey blogs. That is…..hilarious. But, Mike, you really HAVE to read BfloBlog. I’m going to hold my breath in protest until you do. I could DIE, Schopp. I could die.
Katebits: This might sound weird, but bear with me for a second. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing a character on The Willful Caboose. “Katebits” is a much more outspoken, obnoxious, and outrageous version of me. Do you ever feel like that on the radio? Do you ever ramp up the drama for the sake of entertainment, or is it the opposite, where the goal is to be as genuine as possible?
Mike Schopp: I feel the same way you do. I wouldn’t say I “ramp up the drama” though. Basically, some of the sports topics we discuss mean a lot to me, and some mean less. I don’t much care for or about the Buffalo Bills. I used to, but their management style and the attitude of players and staff have over the last few years annoyed or offended me in just about every way. So pretty much anytime you hear me talking about the Bills I’m having a conversation that I wouldn’t be having with friends.
Katebits: What’s up with the Panther? Just so you know, I LOVE the Panther. I’m not complaining about him at all, I just want to know where he came from. I also want to commend you for being so consistently polite to the Panther. “Thank you, Panther” is pretty much always funny to me.
Mike Schopp: I was watching some game — Florida Panthers, Carolina Panthers, I don’t know — and I thought, we should do what they do and just drop in a panther noise every once in a while. Quality entertainment.
Katebits: Agreed. The Panther is quality. Perhaps I should start lobbying for some random panthery growls during BPO concerts.
Well, dear readers, thanks for tuning in to the Mike Schopp interview. This is pretty far outside the normal TWC fare, so let me know if you think it worked.
I owe a special thanks, of course, to Mike Schopp for playing along. Thanks, Schopp!