“I thought you showed a lack of heart in the game,” Missanelli says. “How do you explain that?”
“Well, I’m actually a little bit offended by the ‘lack of heart’ comment,” Stevens says in his usual monotone. “I think maybe our spirit was broken.”
The coach never so much as raises his voice, and the interview soon ends just as civilly as it began, with Missanelli crediting Stevens for a “great job” this year, a “wonderful season.” Later in the show, he’ll hype the interview by saying Stevens got upset, but really, there wasn’t much to it. Missanelli threw a jab, but he isn’t looking for a fight anymore.
“I don’t hear the edge,” says one WIP host who listens to Missanelli’s new show and enjoys it (and prefers to remain nameless, so as not to piss off the station by endorsing its competition). “When he criticizes teams, you don’t hear the anger.”
Looking back on his punch-outs, Missanelli says there was no road-to-Damascus moment that led to his current state of bliss. “I think it’s just a natural progression,” he says. “Sports talk radio is a competitive field. You compete every single day, and maybe that leads you to compete every minute of your life. I got tired of battling and always having to defend my turf.”
Maybe Mikey Miss has changed, but sports talk is still fueled by testosterone and conflict, and he’s never faced a bigger ratings battle than the one he’s in with Eskin. Back at Starbucks on that dreary April evening, Missanelli insists he’s not worried about breaking under the pressure. “I’ll get angry at a caller,” he says. “But most of the time, I laugh at ’em now.” Minutes later, he’s back in his 1980 Fiat Spider convertible and heading home in the rain, looking forward to sunnier days when he can roll the top down, and hoping the road ahead will be smoother than the one in his rearview mirror.