A Q&A with ESPN's Trey Wingo
Posted August 21
ESPN's Mike & Mike (formerly Mike and Mike in the Morning) has been a radio fixture since 2000 and features the banter of former NFL player Mike Golic and journalist Mike Greenberg. It's been simulcast as a television show, effectively serving as ESPN's de facto radio and TV morning show, since 2004. But on November 17, 2017, that show officially comes to an end.
Greenberg will have his own morning TV show on ESPN (yet unnamed, with no premier date) while Golic will stay on and start a new version of the old show: Golic & Wingo, which starts on Nov. 27, 2017 and will air on 99.9 the Fan from 6-10 a.m. That slides ESPN's Trey Wingo, a veteran of nearly 20 years at ESPN and the current host of NFL Live, into the co-host's chair. Lauren Brownlow sat down with Wingo to ask him about his new venture in radio and how his role at the network will change, among other things.
LB: The new show starts Nov. 27. What can fans of Mike & Mike expect to hear that's the same, and what will be different?
TW: Well, the same is we're going to talk about sports. The difference is that I'll be talking about it instead of Mike Greenberg. I think that people can take this way too seriously. At the end of the day, it'll be two guys talking about sports and either you'll like the way we talk about sports or you won't. It's kind of that simple. I could lie to you and say, 'We're doing ALL these things that have NEVER been done before! We're going to revolutionize the industry!' Anybody that says that is a freaking liar. At the end of the day, we're going to talk about sports and you either going to like the way we talk about it or you're not going to like the way we talk about it.
What has the transition been like?
Honestly, not much has changed for me yet. People sometimes have the misconception that I only talk about football or I only know football. I did Sportscenter for years. I did the NBA Tonight. I did Baseball Tonight. I did all kinds of stuff. I did our U.S. Open and British Open golf for seven years. I've done Wimbledon for the last two years. I'm doing U.S. Open tennis this year. So, look, the transition has been thinking about like once the show starts, I told them I'm not going to give up on NFL Live in the middle of the season. So starting in November, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I'll do the radio, then I'll do NFL Live all the way through December and January. That'll be -- I'm doing special exercises for those two months, for lack of a better term. That's going to be some heavy lifting.
How will your role change on TV going forward?
After this year, I'll still do some NFL shows during the season. I will still do the NFL Draft. I'll still do the Hall of Fame and some free agency shows. But I won't be doing as much day-to-day as I am now. I need to breathe.
What's the biggest challenge of going from TV being your primary gig to the radio side?
Well, anybody that's followed me over the last 6-7 years knows that I'm slowly transitioning my body from television to radio, so that's working out really well for me. That seems to be natural. You can't fake it in radio. Radio is a really intimate, one-on-one experience. They'll know right away if you don't have a clue what you're talking about. So I think it's a much more personal experience. I think it's a much more one-on-one thing. But the other thing that's great about that is it allows you a lot more flexibility and a lot more creativity. The difference between talking about a picture and painting a picture with what you say, I think, is a huge difference. I love TV. I've always loved TV. I'll always be involved in TV. But the flexibility and the freedom and the creativity that comes with radio is really appealing.
People think about you in terms of football first. Is there anything you haven't tried at ESPN or in sports that you'd like to?
The only sporting event that I've never been to and covered that I would love to cover one day would be the Masters. I've done the PGA Championship. I've done the U.S. Open. I've done the British Open. I've done Wimbledon tennis. I'm going to do the U.S. Open tennis. I've done Super Bowls, NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Finals, World Series, all of it. At some point, I'd love to do the Masters. But if my one thing is I never get to the Masters, it's been a pretty good run. I've been to the Olympics a couple times. That was a lot of fun. So yeah. That's the only thing that's missing on the checklist is that.
I was going to ask if you have a favorite sport besides football, but that would be me assuming football is your favorite sport.
It is. Football is the ultimate team sport for me. I get why people have some issues with football. I understand it. But there's no other sport where everybody has to be on the same page for it to be successful. You get LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, great, you can win a championship in Cleveland. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? You can win a championship in the NBA. In hockey and in soccer, the goalie changes everything. You can be a dominant team but if the goalie isn't on, it doesn't matter. Baseball is pitcher vs. batter. It's a one-on-one confrontation. Football is the only sport where everybody on the side of the football has to be on the same page, otherwise you're screwed. Look at the Jets' preseason game. On Christian Hackenberg's first pass attempt, he totally didn't understand the pass pro and because he didn't understand where the blitz was coming from, he got destroyed. All he had to do is understand where it was coming from and it was an easy dump-off to the running back. He wasn't on the same page with his blockers, and it looks like the blockers didn't do their job. HE didn't do his job.
I love golf. That's my other favorite sport. Golf is the only spot that keeps you honest, because the ball doesn't go anywhere except where you hit it. That's what's so frustrating. You go play four holes and you feel like, 'You know, I could play on the Web.com tour.' Then you play four holes and it's like, 'I've never picked up a club before in my life. I want to hit something really hard, and I'm having trouble hitting the ball really hard.'
With everything that's going on in the NFL -- concussions, domestic violence, all of it -- what do you think about the league's future?
First of all, the domestic violence issue is not really to me in football. We see it in baseball and in other sports. But it's been a big problem in the biggest sport. There are other sports that have massive concussion problems. It's not talked about as much because people don't care about those sports as much. Hockey has a major -- soccer has a major concussion problem. That's why they're banning kids from heading the ball up until they get to a certain age. That being said, football has some reckoning they have to deal with. The game is going to change and it's going to continue to change. They have to recognize that. I feel like they have to do a better job -- the NFL specifically, I'm talking about now -- of understanding what these guys go through. It takes a certain amount of courage to step across that white line from the sidelines to the field, knowing that there are things on this side of the sidelines that you wouldn't even think about doing to yourself. But when you cross that line and go to the field, it's like you don't even think twice about it. It takes a special kind of mindset and a special kind of courage and bravery, quite frankly, to do that.
The NFL needs to embrace what it is and what it isn't. You'll never legislate hitting out of football. I know they try to tell a kid, 'You can hit the quarterback from the third nipple hair on his left to right above the second belt buckle.' Well, you know, if he moves one inch, you're not going to hit that strike zone. It's never going to happen. So there will be changes, and I believe there will be a time where there'll be sensors in the helmet and they'll tell right away if somebody has taken a hit that they need to take a look at and science will bring them out of the game. For godsakes, we have a laser-sighter in golf that can tell you from 373 yards away where you need to hit it onto the green, and we've got two 60-year-old bankers with a chain-link fence measuring whether or not there's a first down. I think we can get a little bit more into the technology side of the game. In tennis, you have a Cyclops that rules whether a serve is in or out, and no one complains at all. I think they can do a better job of embracing technology to make the game safer and more interesting and more accurate.
Locally, Cam Newton is a polarizing figure. You've sat down with him. What's your impression of him as the person and the player?
I like Cam a lot, but there are some times that Cam does things that don't help him. Like the Instagram video for his birthday. Can't somebody else celebrate the birthday for you, instead of you celebrating your own birthday? I love Cam to death, and I'll tell him this to his face -- rompers. Not a good idea. Not a good idea. Now, when people write angry letters about him dancing in the end zone, I find that hilarious. The one in Tennessee was my favorite in 2015 where this woman said, 'What am I supposed to do when I have my daughter watching his gyrations on the field?' as she sits behind the cheerleaders in scantily-clad outfits gyrating on the sidelines. I mean, come on. Can we not take this to the extreme that we're taking it to? I like Cam a lot. I think he's a very unique talent. I wish Cam would help himself a little more sometimes. Don't put the Instagram video out there. Don't do the model shoot in rompers. I don't want him to not be who he is, but sometimes 90% of someone is better than 100%. I can tell you, 50% of me is better than 90%. I can promise you that.
Do you get the sense he fights that battle, even within himself?
Maybe. I asked him once why he didn't name his kid Cam IV or whatever. And he said, 'Well, I didn't want to put pressure on him.' (He) named him Chosen! Now, I think that might put a little more pressure, maybe. I'm all for someone being who they are. But don't make trouble that you don't need.
There's a Bears QB battle going on between local products Mitchell Trubisky and Mike Glennon. What do you make of how that will play out?
Well, they're paying Mike Glennon $14 million so he's going to really have to be Osweilerian to lose that job right away. He's going to have to step into the Brocktogon. He's going to have to go full Brocky Top. But I think it would be really best served for Mitchell if he didn't play at all this year. I really mean that. Now, they always say that every year. They say it about Blake Bortles and three games in, he was playing. And it hasn't helped him. Trubisky would've been better served football-wise to stay at North Carolina for another year. However, if he had stayed at North Carolina for another year, I don't think he would've been a first-round draft pick. You have the Joshes, Allen and Rosen, Sam Darnold, plus another couple of quarterbacks. He might've been the fifth or sixth quarterback drafted, which means he probably wasn't going in the first round and maybe not even in the second round. So early financial ramifications, smart for him to come out this year. But long-term football development? Not so sure.
What sticks out to you in your 20 years at ESPN the most in terms of a moment or an athlete or story you covered?
There's a couple of things. Two of my favorite interviews I ever did happened before I got to ESPN. in fact, my favorite athlete I've ever interviewed was Arthur Ashe, the tennis player who died of complications from AIDS in the early 90's. He wasn't allowed to play tennis in Richmond because it was very segregated, so he played his high school tennis in St. Louis. So like six months after he was diagnosed, he came to St. Louis for an event at Forest Park, which is the big like Central Park of St. Louis. They had a big tennis facility there, so they said do you want to do an interview with him. Hell yeah, I want to do an interview with Arthur Ashe. So we sat down, just the two of us -- no other TV station was there, no other media outlet, no radio, no newspaper -- and we talked for like an hour and a half. It was the greatest -- to call Arthur Ashe an athlete is shorting him. He was just a world-class dude, a world-class human, an ambassador on so many levels. And he died like six months after that interview. That was really special.
In terms of people I've interviewed at ESPN, we had a Budweiser Hot Seat, which was a sponsored element thing with Charles Barkley. We were doing the regular questions, and I asked him, 'John Daly just said he lost about $50 million gambling. What about you?' He's like, 'Yeah, I've probably lost about ($100 million).' I was like, 'All right. Let's stay on that. Let's go with that for a little bit.' We went on and it became this big expose about the problems he had with gambling and all that kind of stuff. It came out of nowhere. It came out of -- I don't want to say a throwaway question, but I knew he played golf and I knew he gambled a little bit. To Charles' credit, he just opened up about the whole thing. That was interesting. I saw him a few weeks later actually at the V here and I said, 'Hey man, didn't mean for that to become an international incident,' and he said, 'Don't worry. I took it there. It's all good.' That's the thing about Charles -- he's always a straight shooter.
Who's your favorite quote in the NFL right now?
Well, you never know what's going to come out of Josh Norman's mouth. So he's fun. Peyton (Manning) was always good for a laugh. He would always play along. You'd get him once or twice a year for the DirecTV sponsorship or some other thing, Gatorade. He knows how to play the game. He made it interesting. You always like guys that are willing to play along. Larry Fitzgerald, I've interviewed a bunch of times and he's a lot of fun. But the best guys are the guys that understand hey, we're not trying to be, 'Hey, tell me about your third-down percentage,' and they'll open up a little bit more about something else about themselves. And I think those guys are always the more interesting guys to talk to.