Joe Kane talks about life in Boston and what it takes to build an empire.
The Well Done Man – Mike Giardi
Only from WDB, The Well Done Man is a biographical interview with a Bostonian who is doing exceptional things. It is meant to give our readers insight and knowledge regarding each interviewee’s vision of success and how, beyond their obvious talents, they have reached this point in their lives and careers.
Mike Giardi is the New England Patriots beat reporter at Comcast SportsNet New England as well as the host of Monday Night Patriots. He has been part of the fabric of Boston Sports for more than twenty years as an athlete, in local newspaper and his current position in broadcast TV for local powerhouse CSNNE. As a lifelong and die-hard Boston Sports fan, I couldn’t wait to talk with Mike about his life, his career and what it takes to keep your finger on the pulse of title town.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Hooksett, NH. Parents are both New Hampshire born and bred. My dad was a phenomenal athlete, played football at Syracuse, the whole nine yards. When I was about 9 we moved to Falmouth, MA where my dad has been the high school football coach forever. I went to Trinity College in Hartford and majored in Literature.
Did you always want to be a reporter?
Actually I wanted to coach college football at first. When I got out of school I was looking for assistant coaching positions while also doing a little bartending. One night I ran into the guy that did the sports section for the local paper in Falmouth. We got to talking and I told him that I wanted to work in sports and he offered me a part time job. I was only doing like 10 hours a week for him but after about 4 months he told me he was moving to Costa Rica. Then he said that he was going to recommend me for his position. That was my first real break and I did that for like 3 years. It was a great experience and a really cool job. I controlled my own content, was responsible for everything including headlines and editing. I think about it now and if they could have paid me a little more to do that job, ok maybe a lot more, I really could have done that for the rest of my life.
How did you get your start in TV?
I always knew I wanted to try TV so when I was 26 I applied to Emerson and BU. I got into the program at BU and made so many great contacts there. I interned at Channel 7 when Gene Levanchy was the sports director and also at NECN, which actually ended up being the best thing I ever did. There was a guy there named Morry Levine that I really connected with and after about a year and a half into my first TV job in Binghamton NY, he called and said they had an opening. Steve Buckley, who was the sports anchor at NECN at the time, was leaving to concentrate on newspaper and Morry said send me a tape. That was crazy because Binghamton was market 152 and Boston is like number 6. You just don’t make that jump. 24 hours later he told me to come to Boston because they wanted to interview me. Long story short, I got the job and I’ve been there ever since. About 6 years ago Comcast bought out Hearst and we became CSNNE. I wasn’t always sure it was all going to work but here we are.
Was there a moment or tipping point when things clicked or you really felt confident in what you were doing?
It’s funny because I’ve always kind of doubted myself but the athlete in me has always found motivation in the doubt. To this day it’s how I do it. There were points like in Binghamton where I could see the progression and I remember what I was like when I started and 15 months later I could see the difference. That gives you confidence but in this business there aren’t a lot of pats on the back. It’s a constant progression and there are still things I want to get better at. Sometimes I know I’ve tried to be someone else like a Kenny Mayne or Criag Kilborn, but I would always realize that’s not me. You can’t do this job how someone else would do it, it has to be you and you find that through repetition.
Did you have a mentor?
From a sports perspective it was my Dad and also my brother, who was an amazing athlete. I was immersed in it and when my dad would coach, I’d always be on the sidelines. There’s definitely a few stories about me losing my cool on the Falmouth sidelines. In my family football was a big deal and we took it very seriously.
From a professional standpoint I’d say Morry Levine, he was huge for me. He really gave me that confidence. At NECN he put his trust in me, he knew I was going to make good decisions and do the work and he allowed me to learn on the job. He was always in my corner. There’s been so many people who have helped me out from Kevin Miller, John Zannis, Gary Gillis and Gene Levanchy. I learned from all of them.
Does it make your job harder or easier that the Patriots have been on top of the football world for such a long time?
I think it’s harder because there are a lot more eyes on you. When I first came here I was doing all four of the major sports teams, like when the Celtics were really bad and no one cared what you did. Also, right now there is so much competition for information especially at Gillette. Someone associated with the team might want to give their information to a national guy like Adam Schefter instead of me for political reasons. There’s a lot of back scratching in sports reporting.
I feel like Boston is very unique in how closely we follow our sports teams, is there any other city in America that consumes as much sports coverage as we do here?
Having traveled as much as I have and been to as many places covering different sports, I’d say maybe some of the Canadian markets like Toronto or Montreal, they can’t get enough of their hockey but American cities…maybe Chicago. There really is so few markets that eat it up like we do.
As a fan, what is your favorite town to visit?
I’ve been to so many great places. I love Montreal and Toronto for hockey because it’s just in their blood. They stop what they’re doing for a game. You can’t help but get caught up in it. If you’re a sports fan you gotta go. I also love going to Buffalo. The Bills fan are great. Rich stadium is old and they are probably going to replace it soon but when they’ve given the Patriots games, it’s one of the loudest places I’ve ever been. The building literally shakes.
So Patriots fans want to know…what was it like with Brady or around Gillette when all that Deflategate stuff was going on?
Yeah it’s really still impacting what’s going on now. The stuff about Brady not being open with the press is legitimate. He knows some guys were on his side but he feels like he got attacked by the press and he just hasn’t been as open as he’s been in the past. It’s unfortunate because he’s a good guy and I think he does like to talk and interact with people but it’s changed things. He doesn’t spend as much time in the locker room. We get 45 minutes in there and we really don’t see him anymore.
Seen McNally or Jastremski around at all?
Nope, haven’t seen them at all.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or been a part of working at CSNNE?
Well there’s a lot but probably 2004 when the Sox won the series. I covered that whole thing and I literally lost 20 pounds during that run. I remember after Ortiz won it in Game 5 we went back to the station and slept on chairs for a couple hours and then drove to NYC. I was driving with one of my best friends and our videographer, Glen Gleason. We could both barely keep our eyes open at that point and he looks at me and says “we’re gonna do this aren’t we?” And I got chills, we just had a feeling after those two games in Boston. When they finally won it all we were in St. Louis and all of the media people were behind the wall in right field and we couldn’t see the field. Wendy Nix and I were standing on a pickle barrel or something and we were just barely able to see over the wall. When we saw the final out we all ran out on the field and the Fox people were trying to keep us off because they had exclusive rights to the field for 15 minutes. We all stopped and looked at each other for like a second and then we ran right by them. We all wanted to get pictures and interviews immediately. It was so cool to be in the middle of it, to be down on the field with the players and to be part of that unbridled joy. You think about people like my father who’s been a fan his entire life, no one ever thought that it would happen.
Also, the Bruins winning the Cup, being on ice with David Krejci or watching Chara hoist the cup over his head. Even this last Superbowl, I was there with Dan Koppan in Arizona and he was so emotional because he was on that 2007 team that lost there. When Butler made that interception Dan just started screaming and punching in the air. It was just so surreal no one could believe what happened on that last play. It’s one of those things, you’re not on the team, you didn’t contribute to them winning or losing but when you’re down there in the moment, I’ve always thought wow it’s pretty cool that I get to do this.
What inspires you about living in about Boston?
What I really like about Boston is that it’s a big city but it feels like a small town. When I’m downtown I always see people I know. I like the little neighborhoods. I could easily root myself in the North End and never leave. Sometimse people ask me if I’d go someplace else but I’ve never had a desire to leave. Also, there’s so many inspiring people here working in Boston at our hospitals and schools. Most people who come here stay here.
Any advice for aspiring journalists out there?
Anybody who ever asks me that, I tell them it’s all about repetition. If you have a natural talent for it that will show pretty quickly but the only thing that will improve you is repetition. You just have to do it over and over again. So many people come through, they get a break here and there but if you want to do this for 35 years you have to work at it.