WLS TV’s Mark Giangreco was the Ring Lardner Award recipient for Excellence in Sports Journalism at the Union League Club of Chicago. The Lardner awards are like the Heisman Trophy for journalists; as Giangreco put it.
Giangreco has been with ABC 7 since 1994. From 1982-94, he was with NBC 5 WMAQ. Giangreco has won three Emmys, two Lisagor Awards, two AP awards and also Father of the Year from the Chicago Father’s Day Council.
“I want to thank you so much for elevating my tv puppet show for one night,” Giangreco said in self-effacing humor.
“I’m very serious about not taking sports seriously; and I work really hard in trying to make it easy, look easy. And in today’s day and age you cannot compete with the internet, social media, so we have to make people come into the tent and tune in to see what we’re going to do with a video everyone has already seen, or how we’re going to handle a story everyone has already read,” he said.
“That’s a serious challenge now, and I think with leagues and teams controlling their product to a point where they have their own television studios, their own cameras, their own reporters, their own websites, pumping out video, a lot of it is propaganda. I think it’s our duty to take a few shots across the bow just to keep ‘em honest.”
“And I’ve added a good time doing it,” he added.
Mark also told a great story about how many sports media professionals are failed athletes.
A native of Buffalo, Giangreco headed to the University of Dayton upon graduating from high school. Where he was cut from the football team by former Arizona Cardinals, coach Dennis Green. Yes, the “CHICAGO BEARS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!” guy.
Giangreco told this story during his speech, joking that Green said to him: Now I’m paying for that crack because I’ve got nothing but 5’11″ 180 pound slow white guys.
This was when Green was starting out at Northwestern, going 0-11 his first season at the helm. Green never had a season better than 3-8 at NU. Green and Giangreco became, and remain, good friends to this day.
“I just wanted to thank you for recognizing my dedication to sophomoric immaturity,” is how Mark closed his acceptance speech.
Classic! On to the exclusive:
PAUL M. BANKS: So a little bit about receiving the award
MARK GIANGRECO: I’ve been on the committee for a number of years, I’m great at picking recipients and presenting. I feel a little awkward and humbled as a recipient myself. I look around the room with Don Pierson, Rick Telander, Phil Rogers, Fred Mitchell and being honored with Frank Deford, who’s one of the most iconic writers of all time, I really don’t know how I fit in. I think maybe they ran out of people.
I’m really honored and it’s kind of a surprise. I went to a Jesuit Prep school for high school, and the Jesuits taught you two things: how to write, and how to rebel. And that’s where I learned how to write. And that’s what this is all about so I appreciate that recognition.
PAUL M. BANKS: Nice. Who are your biggest influences in sports media?
MARK GIANGRECO: I think two of the greatest sportscaster machines I’ve ever met are Mike Tirico and Bob Costas. They’re absolutely perfect all the time; they’re able to crystallize their thoughts with everything. I just kind of fell into this. My ultimate goal as a kid was to be a rock n roll dj. I listened to all the big powerhouse radio stations on my little transistor radio, and I wanted to be Larry Lujack and John “Records” Landecker. Cars, girls and sports, just like every other guy- that was my goal.
Then you know being a frustrated athlete and playing sports growing up, it kind of melded together and radio turned into television and 45 years later, here I am.
PAUL M. BANKS: Cars, girls and sports. I’m all about that too! So what was your big break?
MARK GIANGRECO: After college I went to Louisville, Kentucky for my first television job. And that’s where I really learned how to write for television, shoot video and put shows together. Kentucky was not really me. I’m a northeastern ethnic kid.
(During his acceptance speech Giangreco mentioned that he actually had a viewer call him and ask “what are you, some kind of Puerto Rican or something?”)
Chicago was always my dream, because going to school in high school we used to drive up here every weekend. Party on Rush Street. I knew where everything was, where I wanted to live if I ever got a job here. In 1982, I got the call from WMAQ and that was my huge break. I was able to parlay it into a number one job for 30 years. I was working for Chet Coppock, and I learned a lot.
MARK GIANGRECO: I did not. I’m sure Tim Doyle is looking for me, but Kendall is a great guy. I always shoot from the hip before thinking and Tim, he’s kind of loud and in your face. And I can kind of see how that came about, and it was ill-advised.
But heck, I’ve said so many inappropriate things in my life. So he hasn’t hunt me down yet.
Most of it was positive, but I’m sure Tim will have a few words for me if I see him.
MARK GIANGRECO: Well, I think a suspension for an entire season is a little harsh. I hope it’s with pay, and a raise, like I said. I don’t know what exactly happened, I wasn’t there. But you can’t physically lay your hands on another co-worker, so I get it from that standpoint. I haven’t talked to Kendall about it. I know Tim went on The Score to tell his side of it. I know Kendall was going to go on ESPN Radio to tell his side, I don’t know if that ever happened.
I should have stayed out of it, but I couldn’t resist.
As far as Derrick Rose goes, it’s gotten really crazy, to the point where people are really questioning his courage and his toughness. He’s very much influenced by his brother, who is essentially his father, I get that. There are too many people in play, his agent B.J. Armstrong and the other side, Bulls management. I think it was poorly handled by both sides.
I think in February they should have just come out and said he’s not playing the rest of the year, end of story.
And to perpetuate this, and Adidas accused of orchestrating this, it just got so out of hand. Now we’re at the point of don’t even think of coming back, don’t even entertain coming back against the Heat. What does it get you?
They’re not going to beat the Heat with him.
I don’t think he should come back at this point. And it’s really crazy that a hometown kid from Englewood who was so revered and appreciated, he’s still a very naive kid. And for him to now be called a coward, and not tough, and here’s Kirk, and there’s Joakim out on one leg, it’s really gotten away from him. And I blame both camps.
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