On the end of Mac & Spiegs

From August, 2014.

“Opportunity…..came to my door…when I was do-own on my luck….in the shape…of an old friend…with a planned guarantee.”
A Joan Armatrading lyric, sung best by Bobby McFerrin on Spontaneous Inventions. Find it.
I was down on my luck. It was early spring of 2009. I’d just been let go by Sporting News radio. I didn’t take it personally. That network was in an active downsizing decay from the moment I signed on in 2004, through to this very day in its incarnation as Yahoo Sports Radio.
Dan McNeil, my friend and former boss of sorts, heard about my exodus, reached out, and was supportive.
“Boss of sorts” is about right, because a host is to a producer as a boxer is to a trainer. The fighter makes more, gets the glory, and has to show up to do the heavy lifting. But the trainer enables him. And the trainer learns.
I learned so much from Mac. I learned what it is to be loose and joyful on the radio. How to share your passions; they matter so much more than what you hate. How to hit the post and never talk over a lyric if you can help it. How to play the best section of a sound byte or interview….not all of it, but the parts that truly matter. How to bond with the listener by being real whenever possible, warts and all. How to gleefully take abuse when you can, and keep yourself from feeling things too seriously. How to not carry one bad segment into the next one. Surface, scratched.
So there I was, down on my luck. Marriage crumbling, jobless, but I was blogging, podcasting, ready to return home and live in my brother’s basement. I was gonna make a suit out of White Sox fan’s skin, remember?
Then Mac got fired. I was supportive. I texted him that it was “the best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere.”
We talked, I offered, he planned, we schemed. And there I was, attached to every show he pitched, to every station.
I’m forever grateful. He knows that. He told me a long time ago that I didn’t need to say it any more.
One more time doesn’t hurt.
I told him I was going to come on strong as hell…that I knew no other way, and that he could always tell me to back off, to shut up and let him talk. He never did.
I loved our five years together. I’ll never forget how lucky I was to be on the ice in Philly when the Hawks won in 2010. I spent a lot of time watching my friend Mac; a perfectly joyful fan.
The Danny Mac Show became Mac & Spiegs. And I know that we got damn good.
At our best, when we were as he would call it “Frazier and Monroe,” we felt a tie to the great Chicago talk shows of the 80’s and 90’s; guys with different perspectives giving each other shit, me peppering him when he deserved it, and he never batting an eye…continuing to fire away. Me getting too sensitive when it got real sometimes, learning to thicken the skin. Producer voices became integral parts of the gaggle. Music, sports, women, food, movies, sports, and dick jokes and sports. A show trying to tie the locker room of the station together, for better or for worse.
Sometimes a segment would end, and the self proclaimed heavyweight champ would head for the door and a smoke, beaming at how good a segment was. I’ll miss that.
His openness about addiction, depression, smoking, eating, and humanity is beautiful and rare. It’s so valuable. It’s what has bonded him to you for decades, and what sometimes got him in trouble too.
Mac was in a near constant battle to stay engaged. It manifested in lots of ways, all of which we’d discuss on the show. Gambling to keep himself interested. Masking or letting loose the disdain for sports he didn’t feel like working on.
I think this time, this leave of absence, has been about the real deal. Does he want to be the dancing monkey every day? Does he want to do this shift anymore? 5:30 in his driveway comes early. It makes for an odd life; a break in the afternoon, games to watch at night. If you do it right, it’s work. Unique, extremely fortunate work…but work.
I’m sad we’re done. But I’m glad for him that he doesn’t have to face something he doesn’t want to every morning. I hope he writes that book on Patrick, and the blessing autism can be.
I love that complicated man, and always will. I could write a book on his psychological profile. Would you read it?
It’s been an interesting summer. Making sibling relationships work as the youngest of five came in handy, as I worked with 10 co-hosts in 9 weeks. I can truly say that I enjoyed them all. I wish there had been a week with one more person, who we could not get into the building.
Thank you for being with us this summer. I’m sorry I could not share more along the way. It was not my decision to make.
We’ll have a new show announced very soon, with a new partner. And the fall will be amazing. Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks fans can all claim legitimate, logical aspirations to be champions.
Jay Zawaski and Nick Nick Shepkowski are kings of men. I can’t wait to move forward with them.
We love being a part of your day, and we think you’ll really like what we’re going to do.

Written by Matt Spiegel