One day, as Fredericks hosted their show alone from Eagles training camp, a devastated Missanelli showed up unannounced — not to work, just to talk about the crushing weight of losing both parents and a marriage in short succession. The pair sat in the grandstands of Lehigh University until the summertime heat drove them into Fredericks’s air-conditioned sedan to continue their heart-to-heart. “What I did was listen,” says Fredericks. “He’s a very sensitive guy. He doesn’t like that side of him to come out. Where I grew up in West Philly, you never allowed anyone to see your vulnerability. My guess is that as a blue-collar, working-class town, Bristol is the same.”
Missanelli downplays the impact of his parents’ deaths and his divorce on his anger, but friends say his private turmoil and the pressures of sports radio made for a combustible mix. “You’ve got [personal] problems, but you try to put them off,” says friend and WIP host Anthony Gargano. “You’ve got to argue on the air, and then you have some joker [in public] calling you out. You’re supposed to be in a good mood?”
Missanelli’s private unhappiness turned public in 2003. He’d recently walked out on WIP for an ill-fated rock-and-jock experiment at WMMR, and was enjoying a few beers with friends at Chickie’s & Pete’s when a boozed-up chucklehead got in his face. Punches were exchanged, and as bouncers separated the two, Missanelli reportedly kept swinging. The buzzed-about brawl didn’t help his dismal ratings. Still, when the rock station cut Missanelli loose after 14 months, WIP agreed to take him back.
That’s when he really started to lose it. Security had to pry him away from an instigator at the Wing Bowl after Missanelli issued the old “Why don’t you come down here and say that to my face” challenge. Then that interview with David Akers turned nasty when Missanelli called the Eagles kicker a “girl” and attacked him for not being “a real athlete.” Another day, during the transition between Missanelli’s show and Cataldi’s, listeners heard the pair trading barbs — Missanelli said WIP shouldn’t give Eagles mouthpiece Dave Spadaro a platform from which to spew team propaganda, and Cataldi said he wished the station hadn’t rehired Missanelli. When they broke for commercials, Missanelli grabbed Cataldi by the collar, and chaos ensued until Gargano pulled his partner away. “Thankfully, Anthony was there,” says Cataldi. “Mike would have kicked my ass.”
Three months later, Gargano would again help separate his pal from a fellow employee, this time at their St. Patrick’s Day show at Brownies. What began as a discussion about technical difficulties escalated when Missanelli’s producer cursed him out. The host would claim that pushing and shoving was the extent of the fracas; others reported that Missanelli threw punches. After watching the incident on the bar’s security tapes, WIP general manager Marc Rayfield couldn’t satisfy his bosses at CBS Radio with a suspension. Missanelli went home that Friday, and by Monday, his on-again, off-again relationship with WIP was off for good. The smart guy in the 700 level had essentially been kicked out of the stadium.