Q&A: Mike Salk, Co-Host of WEEI’s Afternoon Sports Radio Show “Salk and Holley”

Sports talk station WEEI was once Boston’s top-rated radio station of any kind. But since falling behind the upstart 98.5 The Sports Hub in 2011, WEEI has been trying to shake things up, most prominently with its afternoon drive-time show. In February, the station let go of its longtime star Glenn Ordway, replacing him with Mike Salk—a Sudbury native who’d been working in Seattle and is now paired with Ordway’s former cohost, Michael Holley.

By | Boston Magazine |
mike salk

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

How’s the transition going with Holley? I imagine he’s pretty different than your cohost in Seattle, Brock Huard.

He’s definitely different from Brock Huard. He’s shorter.

Probably not as good an arm, either. Huard was a QB.

Brock’s got a cannon. Have you ever caught a ball from a pro quarterback? It hurts like a son of a bitch. I tried, and it’s almost impossible. He ripped a man’s finger off. Literally.

Wow.

Anyway, to answer your actual question, it has been different, but that’s part of the fun of this. Michael has every quality that you would want in a cohost. It’s like an arranged marriage. It’s gotta work, and we both know that. We spent a ton of time together leading up to this—phone calls, a trip together. You have to genuinely like each other, like being around each other, and trust each other. I think Michael and I had that pretty instantly.

So the big news is that you’re replacing Glenn Ordway. 

I don’t view it that way, I really don’t. Glenn’s a legend. I don’t view myself as replacing him, I view myself as doing a show from 2 to 6 with Michael Holley, and that’s all I think about.

Hey, that’s an athlete answer—you’re like the guy saying, “I’m not replacing Pedro Martinez.”

Well, you can’t, you know? Did Pedro Martinez think he was replacing Roger Clemens? He’s Pedro Martinez. I wouldn’t compare myself to him, but it’s not like I’m on the air thinking about the past 20 years.

WEEI’s gotten a reputation over the past few years as a little bit older, crankier, more stodgy. Is that something that you guys are aware of?

I don’t know—I wasn’t here for the past few years listening. I don’t think our show is any of those things. I don’t think our show is old. It’s not stodgy, it’s not cranky. I think our show is fun. I’m just trying to do a great radio show with Michael, and the fact that we’re both younger may coincide with that.

You mentioned “fun.” How do you find that balance between people’s passion—and sometimes anger—and the fact that it’s merely sports? People aren’t turning on the radio to hate themselves, right?

I think there’s a small group of people that are.

They call in.

But I think, for the most part, people think sports are fun. It’s both more and less fun in Boston than it is anywhere else, because it’s such serious business here—and it should be. Sports means more here than anywhere else, and it’s more a part of the daily fabric of life, walking down the street. I was in the North End for dinner on Saturday night. There is nothing like a nice restaurant in Boston that has the Red Sox game on every single channel. It just doesn’t exist anywhere else, and I love that.

So much sports talk now is “hot takes” for the sake of being controversial. Can you be entertaining without falling into the trap? Is there room for smarter sports talk?

I think my opinions—and Michael’s opinions, for that matter—usually are enough. I don’t typically have the same opinion as the majority of people. I don’t view myself as a contrarian, and I never take a position just to argue it, but I think it just kind of happens. You don’t need to take a false position just to generate controversy. I don’t like that. You’re trying to relate to listeners and have a conversation with them that is something that you might have with your buddies at a bar. Adding an intellectual take on it is what I think makes it fun. Hopefully you say, “Oh, I never really thought about it that way.”

I was listening yesterday, and I heard Curt Schilling call in and call you an idiot, so I guess that means you’re official now.

I’ve waited a long time to have Curt Schilling call me an idiot. Finally! My time has come.

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