One year later…

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For the first time in nearly a decade, I was on the move.

In a field that breeds instability and volatility, I had managed to carve out a fairly routine existence. Watch the Yankees and Mets nightly, venture over to the Garden for almost every Knicks game, spend plenty of Sundays at the Meadowlands watching the Jets and Giants. Annual golf trips to Myrtle with the boys, excursions to Atlantic City. Upper West Side restaurants and bars.

Not a bad life.

Professionally, I was relatively happy. Thrilled with my business relationship with the good people at SNY and St. John’s and despite plenty of roster turnover, for the most part, happy at 1050 ESPN Radio. I was entrenched as an important cog at the station, or so I thought. Along with Kay and LaGreca, a key player in the foundation. I flew solo and worked with different partners, all of whom I truly liked, most notably, Stephen A. Smith and Jody Mac.

I took immense pride in being the voice of the fans. It was my badge and I earned it, and tried so hard to protect it.

You may not always agree with me, but you always know where I stand. I would like to think that if you had the opportunity, you would enjoy sitting down and having a beer with me.

Regardless of the shifting winds at the station and despite working for four different Program Directors in nine years,  I felt oddly…safe. My co-workers trusted my on-air instincts and appreciated my work ethic. I was self-driven, focused and climbing.

I had an important voice in the city I grew up in, but I wanted more. In my heart, I always felt there was a bigger stage waiting, professionally.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, my number was called, and I was battling the shifting winds. After 9 years and thousands of shows, I was told I was no longer needed at the station.

It’s tough to describe, but I really wasn’t angry. Sure, I felt as if I was unjustly singled out, but truthfully, it was just time. Doesn’t make it right, or wrong, good or bad. It was just time, and in my heart, I accepted that.

I exited with my head held high, emotions for the most part in check, and agreed to play out the final few weeks of my contract. At a younger age, I would have foolishly lashed out in some capacity, but I was 37, and I was in control and quite frankly, exited about what was out there.

I wanted to know what the rest of my industry thought about me, how they viewed my mic skills. Not an ego-driven validation, mind you. I just wanted to truly know if I was the broadcaster I believed I worked so hard to become.

Would the phone ring? Thankfully it did, which eventually led me to beautiful San Francisco.

July 24, 2011: I was so silent during the ride to JFK, I could actually hear the tire hitting the Belt Parkway pavement the entire time. Over and over I played everything out in my mind: was I really leaving New York? Did I actually quit a TV show I cared so much about to work at a start-up sports station with zero track record 3000 miles away? Was I capable of reprogramming myself to focus solely on the teams in the Bay Area? The Giants and A’s? The 49ers and Raiders? The Warriors and Sharks? Cal and Stanford?

Was this what I really wanted? At this point in my life? Less than one year into my marriage?

As I stared blankly out the window, I rewound several decades of memories in my head, from holidays in Brooklyn with my family, to CYO games and dunk contests in my yard to house parties with the Beastie Boys on blast in the background. I held my wife’s hand, squeezed it, and just kept staring.

When we finally landed at SFO a little past 9 PM that evening and checked into corporate housing, the symbolic journey was complete. Tears were replaced by fire, flames to return to my craft and begin the long, arduous process of trying to win over a completely new fan base, something I am still trying to do.

A completely different history coupled with different traditions and interests. In so many ways, such a different approach to life.

Negativity that so often permeates the airwaves in New York, replaced by patience and optimism in the Bay.

It’s a different look, and a totally different vibe.

In exactly one year’s time, we’ve already been to wine country on four separate occasions, spent weekends in Monterey and Carmel, ventured into Huntington Beach.

Years ago, I saw Billy Joel at the Meadowlands and more recently, for his “Final Play at Shea.” In May, we sat in awe as Roger Waters delivered “The Wall” at AT&T Park. I have to tell you, it was a push.

Basically, in one year, I no longer view the Coliseum as a dump. Sure, it’s pretty wretched, but rather than harp on the negatives, I appreciate the history and try to envision Catfish and Vida and Bando and Tennace and a young Reggie and the Bash Brothers and Eck and Smoke. The Giants are no longer just a team that bolted New York in the 50’s. Instead, I see a classy, thriving fan base and ballpark, with outstanding history of its own, most notably, 2010 World Series Champs.

Before a city can embrace an individual, its incumbent upon the individual to embrace the city. I can honestly look in the mirror, exactly one year later, and know I have done just that.

Quite frankly, it’s easier than I thought it would be during that long, bumpy taxi ride to JFK.

It’s now July 24, 2012, exactly one year later, and I have not a single regret.

At the end of the day, a microphone is just a microphone. An inanimate object, until it comes to life. Without a great city on the other end of the speaker, it’s just not as fun.

So far, it’s been fun.

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5 Comments

  1. Vinnie

     /  07/25/2012

    Have to agree with you on one thing BT, whether or not I agree with your points, you are very clear on where you stand and I appreciate that.

  2. Paul

     /  07/25/2012

    You Rock! We are lucky to have you.

  3. DJM

     /  07/25/2012

    Thanks for sharing BT. We miss you here in NY. I barley turn on 1050 anymore since you left. Glad you are doing so well on the left coast but hopefully one day you will be back home hosting on WFAN where you belong.

  4. tbk201

     /  07/25/2012

    I moved out to NY from the Bay and started listening to 1050 around the same time you started. Glad you landed on your feet out there. I listen in when I go back to SF and see family. Competition is a good thing. Best of luck.

  5. Tom

     /  07/25/2012

    BT, while it sucks that you lost your job and replaced by a weasel and a screaming mad man, I can’t help but find the irony in your post.

    As one of the 2 outsiders hosting a sports radio show in the Bay Area market why haven’t you been more accepting to the fans and embraced them? You’ve belittled the A’s and their fanbase since day 1 (I thought only NY radio had negativity?).

    You also claim to talk about all teams and I am going to venture many of your listeners would agree that you don’t.

    Your NY listeners constantly claim they miss you and enjoy your voice, but why not check your NY attitude for once and embrace the side of the Bay that has been tired of KNBR pissing all over their teams for years? Don’t be Skip Bayless just to be different.

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