It's possible that you've never heard of Brian Mikolajek, but if you've ever watched a Milwaukee sports broadcast on TV, then you are familiar with his work.
Mikolajek is the associate producer and graphics coordinator for Brewers and Bucks games, as well as several other teams, and he's the guy keeping viewers up to date with the visual elements that complement the play-by-play broadcasters who call the games. It's an occasionally grueling job, with long hours behind the scenes and in the TV truck. But as Mikolajek, who started out working for beer money will attest, it's beats working behind a desk.
We caught up with Mikolajek recently in the home dugout at Miller Park before a Brewers game. Here's his story in this latest Milwaukee Talks.
OMC: What do you do for Milwaukee sports TV broadcasts?
Mikolajek: My official title is associate producer. I work directly with the producer in coming up with story lines. I back up the information on the broadcasts with visuals and graphics.
OMC: Do you work every Brewers game?
BM: I work all home and road games for the Brewers, Bucks and Badgers hockey and women's basketball. I do high school football state championships, too.
OMC: Are you employed by Fox Sports?
BM: No, I'm technically a freelancer, but all my eggs are in one basket.
OMC: How long have you been working in TV?
BM: I started doing this for beer money in college. It turned into a career. I've been traveling with the teams full-time since 2001.
OMC: Specifically, what work of yours might we see during a broadcast?
BM: I'll come up with trivia questions, for example. So if today is "Roberto Clemente Day," I come up something on that. I'll go to my producer to get video to back up the graphics. Same thing with Craig Biggio in the 3,000 hit club. I'll ask for video of Robin Yount or Paul Molitor to back up what I'm coming up with graphically. I don't work too much on the video side, though. I guess that would be the next position up.
OMC: How has technology changed your job?
BM: It's so Internet-driven these days. I remember one of the first games I worked in college and not having Internet access in the TV trucks. We used to rely so heavily on the PR staffs and press notes they'd put out. Now I barely read that stuff. I have my own Web sites that I go to. I have my own stats database. There's more information out there. Even with our live stuff, we almost don't type up information because it's all there.
OMC: How many people are in there with you?
BM: There are three of us who travel: a producer, John Walsh, the director and myself. Not to mention Craig Coshun, and a pre- and post-game producer. We're the core group. On top of that, there are three or four videotape operators, multiple audio people and engineers. At any given moment, there are 15 or 20 people in the truck.
OMC: What are the best and worst parts of your job?
BM: The best part is probably not sitting behind a desk for eight hours. I get to go to the ballpark every day or the Bradley Center. The worst part is the day games. Your body is on a second-shift clock. Today, for a 7 p.m. game, I was here at 12:30. For a day game, I get here as early as 5 a.m. Usually after a long home stand, that day game is hard to wake up for.
OMC: Do you get a rush from working in live TV, or does it become just a job after a while?
BM: It's a job. I don't get overly emotional during wins or losses, because I have to be prepared for that last out. I can't be jumping up and down celebrating. Deep down, I want the team to win. Does it help us come up with storylines? Absolutely. I've been a part of 90-loss seasons for many years, and a 100-loss campaign on top of that, so I'd like to see the guys win.
OMC: Are you still a fan?
BM: I don't look at the games from a fan's perspective. I've talked to different media guys that tell the players to go out and get a win today. But I want a quick game! After the game, I'm like, "Damn, I wish they would've won today." But during the game, I'm not a fan. It's a job.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.