By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Sep 07, 2011 at 1:13 PM

For nearly five years, Mike Wickett has been helping Milwaukee sports fans start their day, co-hosting the morning drive show on Sportsradio 1250 WSSP-AM.

After graduating from the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, the Michigan native got his start in his hometown of Canton in March 2000, with WTKA-AM. He worked his way up at the station, filling a number of roles before finishing as assistant program director.

Since coming to Milwaukee, Wickett has endured his fair share of wrath from local fans, especially after allegedly "jinxing" the Brewers. Still, Wickett, laughs it off and despite what some may think, he does want the local teams, including the Brewers, to do well. sat down with Wickett recently to chat about his career, his passion for sports, his adopted home town and his secret agenda to curse any and all Wisconsin teams in the hopes of helping the teams back in Michigan. There's no secret here, you're not a local guy. Where's home for you and how did you end up here in Milwaukee?

Mike Wickett: I grew up in San Diego, spent 10 years there. Then I went to high school in a Detroit suburb; graduated in '99. I was on my high school radio station for four years and then went to a broadcasting school in Detroit. While I was there, I started interning at a sports station, 1050 WTKA in Ann Arbor.

Seven years later, I went from being an intern to night time producer to morning show producer to morning show co-host and finally, to assistant program director. After seven years in a market like Ann Arbor, you start to wonder if it's the time to move on. The obvious move was to go to Detroit, but that wasn't an option at the time. My boss at the time, Ryan Maguire, got the job here in Milwaukee running 1250 and six months later, he gave me a call and asked what I knew about Milwaukee.

OMC: Did you know anything about the city at the time?

MW: I knew it was a major market, I knew it would be a raise in pay, I knew it would be a pro town, which is always a bonus. I love college football, I'll always be a Michigan fan, but the chance to come to a pro town ... it was like "well, let's check it out." I came to town New Year's Eve eve of 2006. I did an interview and then kind of a sample show. It was me and another guy with Doug (Russell). Ryan met with Doug and picked me to be his co-host and, four and a half years later, here we are.

OMC: You mentioned starting out at your high school radio station. What drew you into the business?

MW: Unlike most people – you know, most people don't know what they want to do growing up, they figure it out in college or whatever – when I was in seventh grade, I used to listen to the morning show on B100 in San Diego. The Jeff and Jer Morning Show. I would wake up early before middle school just to listen to the show. That's when I fell in love with radio. I would listen to the show and I thought, that that's kind of what I wanted to do.

When I moved to Michigan, I was registering for my high school classes, and my counselor asked what I wanted to do. I told him that I liked radio, that it sounded kind of fun and that I liked sports. It just so happened that Plymouth Canton High School, where I went, had one of the best high school radio stations in the state. My counselor used to be the station manager there and he got me in contact with the station to set up an audition.

I tried out, filled out the packet, got called back and started out doing sports and news. By my sophomore year, I had a DJ shift and I was calling play-by-play for high school basketball games, football games, baseball and softball. I did hockey once and, well, that's not an easy one. I wasn't successful there.

I thought when I went to broadcast school, I thought I was going to be the next great rock DJ, I thought that was my calling. Then I started interning at a sports station and I started to realize, really early, that to do sports, you had to have an opinion. You can't just be a fan.

OMC: So, do you just kind of stumble into sports then?

MW: Honestly, I kind of stumbled into it, yeah. I didn't go into broadcasting school thinking I was going to do sports. I went in with an open mind. They didn't have a specific program for doing sports. They had a news program, which translates well for doing sports, but I didn't know what I wanted to do other than I wanted to be on radio.

Music seemed like the way to go, like the morning show I listened to in San Diego. I was doing promotions for a cluster in Ann Arbor and the opportunity to do sports presented itself. I think I'm the epitome of right place/right time. I really am. About six months into my part-time job, the afternoon producer left the business and I slipped right in.

Three years later, one of the morning show hosts left and when they promoted the producer, I slipped right into that spot. Another morning show host left and I moved into there. It's all about the right place at the right time.

OMC: Hosting a sports talk show, how many different roles do you have to fill. Is it one part instigator, one part fan, one part ... I dunno, therapist?

MW: People ask that a lot. Sometimes people think that we fake our fights or pick sides ahead of time. Listen, we know what we're going to talk about. You can kind of get a feel going into the show.

When the Packers lose, you know you're going to talk about it. When the Brewers lose, you're going to talk about it. Same with when they win. You have to make your points, for one thing. But the good thing about sports is, you're a place for fans to come together, whether it's to complain or cheer. Especially in our format. It's where people come together to be fans. You get an idea of what the show's going to be about before you go in, you plan a little ... it's like clay, you can't go in and just rigidly schedule stuff.

OMC: How do you prep for the show?

MW: After the third glass of wine ... OK, no, I'm kidding. Milwaukee is, like most Midwest towns, very local, very loyal. There are a lot of Milwaukee people in Milwaukee, if that makes sense. Just like in Chicago, Cleveland or Detroit, you go into a show knowing that you're going to spend most of your time talking about the local teams and what they did the night before.

My co-host and I will email and text each other back and forth, throughout the day or night and we'll come up with about 24 topics for roughly 12 segments. We know what most of the topics will be, but we can't just say "OK, we'll talk about the Brewers."

We've got to have a specific angle. We have to have opinion. We read the news sites, we read the blogs. We don't just walk in and turn on the microphone. A lot of people think that, but there's a lot of prep.

OMC: So the disagreements are real?

MW: Very much so. If I'm sitting here with (co-host) Chuck (Freimund) and we have different opinions, that's gold. We could be discussing the play of (UW running back) Monte Ball. I could say he's great, Chuck could say he stunk and we'll stop our conversation and say "let's save this for on the air." We'll get into disagreements on things when we're planning, we'll stop right there and bring it on the air. It's real. There's nothing scripted about it.

OMC: Let's talk about Chuck for a second. You guys span some generations there. How has it been working with him?

MW: He and I, yeah ... we're pretty different. He's 44 and I'm 30. He's married with kids and I'm none of the above. It really kind of adds to it because we do see things from very different perspectives sometimes. I've been really blessed to have worked with some amazing co-hosts.

Really, I couldn't have come into a market like Milwaukee without knowing as much of this history if I hadn't been paired up with some absolute professionals. I hadn't spent but a minute in Milwaukee, but I was lucky enough to get to work with Doug, who grew up here, who worked here, who knew the players and the teams and he knew the fans, too.

And now, with Chuck ... You know, Chuck covered the Brewers in '82. He helped start sports radio in this town. He's worked everywhere. He's a lot like me, in that he loves to sit and watch college football, have a couple of beers and talk sports.

He knows his Wisconsin sports, though. I've only been here four and a half years and if you're going to come, as an outsider, into a place like Milwaukee where it's "our team," "our guys," "our high schools," you need somebody like Chuck to work with. We work really well together.

OMC: How do you handle national stories? Does the local stuff usually override the national headlines?

MW: The bigger the story, obviously, the more attention is going to get. I don't think Chris Johnson's new $53 million contract is going to resonate too much with Joe from Cudahy. But if it's a story that's in the news, you have to hit on it. The trick is how can we make it a local story.

Take the Michael Vick contract. He's going to make $100 million, again, and he's won nothing. So you can turn that discussion into "when is Aaron Rodgers going to get paid?" You can put a local spin on it. And let's be honest, over the last year, Wisconsin sports stories have been national sports stories. The Brewers. The Packers. Wisconsin and Marquette. The Bucks in 2009. They've been in the national spotlight a lot.

When a national story comes up, though, we have to talk about it – we want to talk about what people are talking about. But more often than not, they want to talk about their teams.

OMC: It's a little different, I think, for guys on the radio side; you can still be fans, right?

MW: I'm still a fan. I have been my whole life, going to games at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego when I was a kid, Tiger Stadium when I moved to Detroit.

OMC: Between San Diego and Detroit, you were blessed with growing up listening to some really classic baseball announcers.

MW: Oh, no doubt. Hearing Jerry Coleman saying "you can hang a star on that one" then hearing Ernie Harwell call games for the Tigers ... I got lucky to be able to listen to two of the great voices in baseball history. I'm never going to say I'll be anywhere near their level, those guys are just legends. And now, I get to listen to Bob Uecker. I'm pretty lucky.

OMC: Have you become a fan of the local teams, or is that just "part of the show?"

MW: Listeners ask me all the time if I'm really a Badgers fan or really a Packers or Brewers fan and you know what? I want them to do well. I do. I really do. But at the same time, I'm still a fan of my teams back home. The only team I really didn't root for, I think, was the Lions. But that's what years of losing will do to you.

I never was really passionate about an NFL team so when I got here ... listen, the Packers are a real easy team to root for. No dominating owner. Consistent winning. All the history. Now, if the Bucks played the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, I'm pulling for Detroit. I don't apologize for that. If the Tigers and Brewers, which could happen, meet in the World Series, I'm pulling for the Tigers. I want both to do well. But I'm not going to fake it. Listeners can spot a fake really easy. Our listeners are smart enough to spot phonies. I like Marquette. I like Buzz Williams. But I didn't grow up idolizing the '77 champions or Al McGuire. I like the Brewers. I appreciate what they've done and I want to see them do well. You become fans, but you don't give up what you grew up with, if that makes sense.

OMC: Would you ever go back to Detroit and cover those teams, even if it meant you might have to put that loyalty aside? Or do you even have to do that on the radio side?

MW: I think so, sure. Let's go back to Chuck or some of the other radio guys in this town. I think they're fans of the teams they cover. You go to Chicago, those guys are mostly, if not all, Chicago guys. I think you can be both. You have to take a step back, though, and not want to scream your head off just because you want to cry when the touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone.

OMC: Who are some of the guys you particularly enjoy dealing with in this market?

MW: Jon Lucroy, who joins our show on Tuesdays, has been a really good interview. He's become a really great guy to talk to. He's incredibly nice. The small time I've spent talking to Brandon Jennings, he seems like a nice guy. Casey McGehee and Corey Hart, they've never said no to an interview. Some guys will deny you or blow you off ... I don't care for that, but that's their choice. But those guys are really easy to talk to. John Axford, too. When Tony Gwynn was here – I played Little League with him. He's in the majors and I'm talking about it – he was easy to talk to. Buzz Williams, too. He's a good guy.

OMC: You're pretty active in the Twitterverse, do you enjoy the interaction with your listeners?

MW: I enjoy talking with the listeners. You know, my dad tells me I have a dream job. I don't know if it's necessarily a dream job but I just have a job that I really, really enjoy. A lot of people don't. A lot of people don't love their jobs. I really, truly do. I was watching the Badgers game (Thursday) night and I just wanted to get on the air and talk about it. I couldn't, because it was 7 p.m., but I can go to Twitter instead and talk about the Badgers and engage the listeners. It's almost like an extension of the show. I enjoy it a lot.

Some people take it to an extreme, some people get offensive and hide behind their handle and I don't like that. You know my name. You know who I am. You know where to find me. You know when and where I work. But if you have a Twitter handle that's something made up, some innocuous name like "Andrew Wagner's Beer Bottle," and you're calling me out, ripping me left and right, then I'm not going to deal with you because I'm not going to do the same to you.

I'm not going to call you a bleeping moron or tell you that you're an idiot or that you're stupid and hide behind a fake identity. Call the show, call me whatever you want. But just own up to it.

OMC: It's kind of part of the job description, being the "bad guy" sometimes.

MW: Oh, it totally is. And that's fine by me. That's actually the beauty of it, I think. You're allowed to disagree. That's the best part of this job. When we're in the studio and yelling at each other, it's great because that's the same thing guys do when they go watch a game at a bar after work or whenever.

You're allowed to disagree. You don't have to agree. I don't want you to agree with everything I say. I want you to have an opinion. I just want you to stand behind it. Sports talk, to me, is a bunch of guys, sitting around, sharing their opinions and talking about what they saw. And going back to your last question again, that's another thing I like about Twitter. It's a chance to engage in the conversation from anywhere.

OMC: Earlier, you mentioned "Joe from Cudahy" and his 9-5 shift. You have an abnormal schedule, like many others for sure. But at the same time, your job description requires you to be watching TV from 7 to 10 or 11 p.m. or later, when most people who have to work early are sound asleep. How do you do it?

MW: (laughs) My life is a series of naps! I'll get up, usually, around 3:30 a.m., and go do the show. Some people think all we do is come in and do the show and go home. I wish that was the case! When we're done with the show, at 9 a.m., we have meetings, we have production work, it's making promos and commercials and sometimes sales calls and other special duties people need. I'm usually out of there between noon and 1.

I work my normal, eight-hour shift like anybody else. I'll catch a nap when I get home, usually by about 2 p.m., sleep a couple hours and get up so I can watch whatever game is on that night and then try to grab a couple more hours of sleep before I have to come in again and do the show.

OMC: Does it get tough on the weekends, do you need to adjust and then re-adjust again?

MW: I like to go out and have a beer or two on the weekends. Fridays are the toughest because it finally catches up to you. I've been doing mornings now for more than seven years. You never get used to it – my body is never fully awake in the middle of the afternoon – but you get used to tired being normal, if that makes sense. People think that I get to sleep all day on the weekends. If I get to 8 a.m., I'm thrilled! (laughs).

OMC: Is Milwaukee becoming home after nearly five years?

MW: Oh yes. Very much so. It's home now. I had a three-year contract when I first came here and I thought I'd do my three years and move on. I didn't know what market was next or where I would go, but I didn't see myself staying in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin. I have totally changed my tune. I really like it here. I tell everybody I meet how much I like it. My father comes to visit every year and he loves it, too.

OMC: What do you like about it?

MW: There's so much to like about it. Milwaukee is just great. When you walk down the street, people don't bury their head. Even if they don't like you, they'll say hello to you. They'll smile at you, acknowledge your presence. I knew nothing of Milwaukee coming in, other than "Laverne & Shirley."

But this city is one of the most interesting ever. You can go out at night, Downtown, feel safe and have so much to pick from to do. You can go outside of the city and find something to do. It's clean. It's safe. It's like a small version to Chicago for some people and that's fine because Chicago is too big for me. Coming from Detroit, you don't want to live in Downtown Detroit but here ... why wouldn't you want to live Downtown? The bars, the restaurants, the festivals ... the Lakefront.

Then, going back to being a sports guy, the passion of the fans in this city is second to none. Look at the waiting list for Lambeau. Look at the crowds at Miller Park? It's an incredibly passionate fan base.

OMC: When you think about it, there's a real overabundance of sports here, considering the market size.

MW: There really is. For those who look at Milwaukee as small or little, well look at the Packers, they're the Super Bowl champs and might do it again. Look at the Brewers, one of the best teams in baseball. The Badgers went to the Rose Bowl and the Sweet 16. Marquette went to the Sweet 16. UWM got hot at the end of the year.Then you have the Admirals and Wave, too. You have everything you could possibly want as a sports fan.

OMC: When you're not working, what do you like to do?

MW: I like to sleep. A lot. Besides that? In the summer, I love going to Bradford Beach and hanging out. I like going out. I'm pretty normal. I like to go out with my friends, have some beers, watch some games ... I like to tailgate at Miller Park. I lead a pretty normal life, my schedule aside. And I think that helps me connect with the listeners.

OMC: OK, the big one. How, and more importantly, why, did you "jinx" the Milwaukee Brewers? Is it true that you're trying to conspire against the team, to give the Tigers a better chance at a World Series championship?

MW: I said, before the Cardinals series, that I was worried about them peaking too early and that a losing streak wouldn't be the end of the world because the law of averages – and baseball is a game of numbers, you can ask Ron Roenicke – says that numbers will play out.

The Brewers had been playing .850 baseball. And you just don't see teams do that over the course of a season or half a season. I said that I wouldn't mind if they fell into a small cold spell, came back down to earth for a few days, and then made another hot run to the end of the season, just like the Giants last year who got hot at the end of September and rolled to a world title. That's what I wanted the Brewers to do.

If they were going to lose – and at some point, let's face it, they were going to – I wanted it to be sooner rather than later, so they didn't limp into the postseason like they did in 2008.

OMC: Alright, that seems fair. Let's put you on the spot, then: do the Brewers make the playoffs?

MW: Oh yeah. I think you posted on Twitter, if the Brewers finished the season 12-12, the Cardinals would have to go 21-4. (Editor's note: this interview was conducted just following the Cardinals' sweep of the Brewers at Miller Park). Both are possible, but neither is likely.

I think the Brewers have a real good shot and I think they will make the playoffs. Now hopefully, this doesn't go to print and they end up getting eliminated on the final day of the season!