In radio talk, there is one trait needed above all others – and that is the ability to create the conversation.
Steve Haywood had that, and the sports knowledge to back it up. It’s what made him a popular show host on WAUK-AM 540 ESPN. He knew how to stir the pot, and his passion for Milwaukee and its teams was well known in sports circles.
Haywood passed away from heart failure early Sunday morning. He was 49.
"Have known Haywood for 20 years. Passionate Bucks fan," Chuck Freimund of WSSP-FM 105.7 The Fan posted on Facebook. "I'll miss my sports debates with him at games!!!"
Many in the community shared their condolences online after hearing the news. That included a good number of those in the media.
"Hard to hear that Steve Haywood passed away," Bill Michaels, of the state-wide "Bill Michaels Show," wrote on Sunday. "We had so many good times covering the Bucks and just chatting life in general. I'll miss the laugh the most."
Haywood was a graduate of Milwaukee Tech High School and went to UW-Whitewater. Lately, he had been an outspoken member of the crowd to keep the Bucks in the city.
"Sorry to hear about the passing of my friend Steve Haywood, a well-known Milwaukee sports personality," former OnMilwaukee.com writer Eugene Kane posted on Facebook. "For many years, Steve was my go-to guy for sports information concerning the Black community. He will be missed as a professional and a friend."
"Steve Haywood. A real class act. Tremendous loss," wrote Andy Olivares, who does play-by-play for the Chicago Bears and worked with Haywood while at ESPN Deportes 1510 AM. "Very sad time indeed ..."
"Every time I saw Steve Haywood, he made me smile," wrote Kevin Holden of WDJT-TV CBS 58. "Steve brought a passion and energy to every press conference, every work day. Even the physical troubles he faced never changed the fact that Steve was a champion of spirit. We've learned a lot from you, Steve Haywood."
ESPN 540 posted news of Haywood's passing on Facebook and its website.
"It is with great sadness that we report the death of our teammate, mentor and friend, Steve Haywood, who passed away this morning," the radio station posted Sunday.
Drew Olson, a former OnMilwaukee.com staffer and sports radio colleague, wrote that Haywood faced a number of health ailments including diabetes and kidney problems. Haywood had both legs amputated.
"He had every right to be bitter, but instead he handled all of his issues with grace and laughter," Bill Johnson, who co-hosted "The Game" with Haywood, told Olson for the station’s story.
"I think he was in a lot more pain than he ever let on to any of us. He went through it with a smile and with laughter. I hope nobody has to go through what Steve did the last 15 years of his life. If you do, and you can do it the way Steve did, I’ll tip my cap to you."
I had the opportunity to meet Haywood when I worked with Scott Wisniewski on Friday night high school football game broadcasts on 540 ESPN. Haywood and former Packers player Mark Chmura came out to one of our first broadcasts. Haywood stayed in the press box and spotted for us.
Later, like many others in media, we’d stay in touch through social media. Haywood always had a positive attitude despite the negative turns his health seemed to take. He will be missed.
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.