Saturday, October 18, 2008

Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman is the co-host of "Waddle & Silvy" every weekday morning from 9 to noon on ESPN Radio, AM 1000

Rick: You're a local Chicago boy. Who did you listen to on the radio when you were growing up?

Marc: Easy. Chet Coppock. Every single night. I would sit at home not doing my homework, and sneak the phone into my room and try to call the Coppock show. It was considered a toll call in those days and my parents would ask me what all these calls to this 591 number were.

I loved Coppock. We had Bulls season tickets, and I would shush my grandparents on the way home from the game so I could listen to what Chet had to say about the game. He did the only really sports show in town those days, before Sports talk started as a format. The Score started just as I was going to Southern, and it was a big thrill for me to have guys from the Score on my show in Carbondale. I had Dangerous Dan McNeil as a guest, who I idolized from his days with the Coppock show. I also had George Offman on the show. I used any excuse to talk to these guys.

Rick: That was at WIDB, right? There are quite a few Chicago radio people who got their start at that radio station.

Marc: Yup. Lots of 'em. I don't know them all, but I know David Schuster did, and so Peggy Kusinski and George Offman. I think Mike Murphy worked there too, although I'm not sure. I know he went to SIU.

Rick: Your Chicago career started at WGN, as a sports reporter. That must have been quite a thrill to be working at the number one station in Chicago as a youngster.

Marc: Oh yeah. I was in Northwest Iowa before that, in a little town paying my dues. I was sports director at KILR Radio, but that just meant that I directed myself, because I was a one-man sports department. When you're at a small market station like that you do everything. I DJed an oldies show, went to the state fair, all of those stereotypical things, but I really wanted to get into radio in Chicago. Dan Falato was at WGN at the time, and I bugged him every other week, asking for ways to break in there. At the time they had this paid internship program, and I finally scored one of those. This was in the days after Chuck Swirsky left but before David Kaplan was there, and they didn't really have anyone who was willing to go to the locker rooms and do all the legwork.

The first story they sent me out to cover was the day it was rumored Jordan was coming back. It was the first time I had ever been to the Berto Center, and there I was, amongst this crowd of reporters—-all these guys that I had seen and heard, all looking for the same story. Jordan didn't show up, but guys like BJ Armstrong and Bill Wennington were interviewed. I made a bit out of it when I got back to the radio station. I used the mission impossible theme, and I knew how to splice reel-to-reel tape, so I created this bit about the intern out to get the impossible story. I played it for Joe Bartosch (photo) who was Punnett's producer, and he loved it. They played it on the air, and after that they trusted me to cover these stories more often. When my internship ended, Tisa Lasorte, who was the program director at the time, offered me a job. It really was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Rick: The years you were there (95-98) happened to have coincided with the last three Chicago Bulls championships. Do you have any favorite stories from those years?

Marc: I was a huge Bulls fan growing up. My family had season tickets. Honestly, the chance to cover Jordan on a day to day basis was definitely the biggest thrill. I was there 3 ½ years, asking him questions in the pack of reporters every day. Well, one day, when the Bulls were down in a series, I asked a question that he didn't like—it ticked him off, and it was like he was seeing me for the first time. He asked "Hey, who is this guy?" I wanted to say, "Hey, it's the same guy who has been asking you questions every single day for the past 3 ½ years."

Rick: You moved to ESPN (WMVP) in 1998 and have been there ever since, in various different roles. You've been in this midday time slot now with three different co-hosts; Jay Mariotti, Carmen DeFalco and now, Tom Waddle. Compare and contrast the experience of working with each of those guys.

Marc: My experience with Mariotti was totally positive. I know a lot of people who have worked with him or against him have had bad things to say, but I never felt that way about him. We only had one minor disagreement on the air. I still consider him a friend of mine and I thought he was very good at what he did. I was bummed when the situation with the station didn't work out (during the renegotiation of the White Sox/Bulls contract), and I still miss reading his column every day.

But when you're working with Jay, you always know you're going to be #2, and the show is going to be hardcore sports. With Carmen, it was totally different. I will always believe that we had a big following and we would have had a bigger following if we had been allowed to continue together. We were both young and raw, but we had a great time doing that show and it was really developing. I still consider Carmen to be one of my best friends in the world. And he still sounds great when he's filling in for Mac. He's more opinionated than ever and he knows how to have a good time on the air.

That's actually something I've always tried to keep in mind too. Danny Mac taught me that. The most important thing is to entertain the audience. At the end of the day they care about that more than they care if you were right about some sports story. The best e-mails I get are the ones that say "you guys crack me up."

That's what Waddle and I try to do. He's great to work with too. He always shows up prepared and he's thoroughly professional in everything he does, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. That makes it fun every single day. We like to poke fun at each other, and I think that makes it fun for the listeners too. He says I nag him like a wife—which I suppose is true. We're true partners. We're also lucky that we have one of the best producers in the business, Randy Merkin. Without him the show wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. If anyone would know how important it is to have a great producer it's you...and we've got one.

Rick: There have obviously been some highs and lows during your ten years at ESPN. What was your highest high, and what was your lowest low?

Marc: The highest high was probably this most recent spring book. We were #3 men 25-54, with a 4.6, which is something we were really proud of. The show has really come a long way. Waddle and I had a 3.0 in our first book together.

The lowest low was probably the day Jeff Schwartz (ESPN Radio PD at the time) told us that Carmen and I were moving to nights. I was really down. Really pissed. But again, it could have been much worse. We could have lost our jobs completely. The other lowest low was probably at the beginning of my time here. We never knew if this station was going to make it in those first two years and that was pretty stressful, just wondering if was going to work out.

Rick: I listen to your show quite often and I've heard a few awkward moments. I mean that in a good way. When I worked with Steve and Garry they always used to say, if it can't be funny, let it be awkward. Sometimes those are the most memorable moments from a listener's point of view. Do you have any favorite examples of that?

Marc: Yes, but it doesn't exactly make me look good. One time I had just gotten back from a Police concert and had been drinking for about six hours. Waddle called me up and said "Hey, I'm town. Let's go out." Well, that doesn't happen often. When Waddle's in town, you go. I was pretty gone already by then, but I went. We were having a great time and I was talking to this 23 year old girl. Obviously there was a big age difference there, I'm 36, she's 23, so I said, "I may be 36 years old, but I have the body of an Adonis." Waddle told that story on the air, and it made me look like a loser and an idiot. People still mention that story to me. I guess it's funny to everyone else, but it was pretty embarrassing for me.

Rick: I really look forward to the Mark Giangreco segments on your show (every Tuesday). I've done a few shows with him over the years, and he is an absolute natural behind the mic. You've known him for a long time—all the way back to the days you served as his intern.

Marc: Actually, I knew him before then. When I was in 7th grade, in Junior High, they had us call people up to ask if we could shadow them for a day. I called all these sports guys in town, Jack Brickhouse, Johnny Morris, you name it. They all said no way. So I called the new guy at Channel 5, Mark Giangreco, and he said "Sure, no problem."

Rick: Anyone who listens to your show knows what a big Cubs fan you are. I'm a big fan too, obviously. I recently wrote about my second thoughts about bringing up my children to be Cubs fans. I know you don't have any kids yet, but if you do, will you bring them up to be Cubs fans too, or will you end this cycle of abuse with the next generation of Silvermans?

Marc: You mean "when" I do have kids, not "if". Let's make that clear. If my mom reads this and it says "if" instead of "when" there will be trouble. The answer is yes, absolutely, yes. I will raise them to be Cubs fans. In fact, I can't wait to do it. Some of my fondest memories are my childhood Cubs memories. I was 13 years old in 1984 and taking the Skokie swift to the games, and I loved every second of it. As much as I'm a pessimistic Cubs fan, I'll still make my kids Cubs fans, and I really look forward to that day. Granted, by then it will be 120 years since their last World Series championship...