When I was a freshman in high school, I had a friend, Stephen, whose older brother would frequently give me a ride home after class. Every afternoon, without fail, Stephen’s brother had the AM dial tuned to 950 KJR. And every afternoon, as the three of us rode home, we listened to Dave Grosby and Mike Gastineau talk about sports.
Prior to that point in my life, I hadn’t really been exposed to much sports talk radio. Sure, I listened to games and postgame shows and the like. But the rest of the time, I lent my ears to music. R&B, hip-hop, and goofy soft rock that years later would somehow work its way onto my iPod and become a novelty of sorts. Sports radio, back in those days, just wasn’t my thing. Until those rides home my freshman year.
Groz with Gas, as it was called, was an odd show to me. Here were two middle-aged men dissecting the local and national sports scene, all while joking around about nearly every subject they touched on. It was different, unlike anything I’d really experienced before. These two knuckleheads would banter and giggle, and we would do the same. They entertained us with jabs at a Godawful Sonics bench, a floundering Mariners bullpen, a perennially mediocre Seahawks squad. They managed, somehow, to make failure funny. And here we were, as teenagers, enjoying the humor.
As I went through high school and college, I continued to listen. Not just to Groz or Gas, but to everyone. Under the wrong circumstances, sports radio can be a breeding ground for idiots to voice uninformed opinions. But in this town, at least, it didn’t feel like that at all.
Time went by. I graduated college. I got a job. I ended up here, now. In my spare time, I have this website. And a Twitter account. And thankfully, a handful of people who engage with both of my creative outlets. I’ve been pretty lucky with all of that. Lucky enough to get a little publicity here and there, some airtime on the radio now and then.
As things have turned out, I’ve been fortunate enough to actually get to know some of the people I’ve grown up watching on television, reading in the newspaper, and listening to on the radio. People who are more or less in the public eye, who seem far removed from those of us who are definitely not in the public eye, but turn out to be real, genuine individuals once you sit down and start talking over beverages.
In recent years, as I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of people that I’d known of, but never really known, I’ve encountered a mixed bag of personalities. For the most part, however, the majority of those (for lack of a better term, we’ll call them “public figures”) public figures have been pretty cool. Nice, forthcoming, gracious, and likable. When you meet people like that, you can’t help but believe in the greater good of everyone around you. And when you believe like that, when you truly convince yourself that people are generally well-intentioned, life just seems to get better every day. So many of those people who I’ve met, who I’ve gotten to know, who I’ve become friends with as I’ve moonlit as a writer, have made my life better. They just have. To say it any other way wouldn’t do the feeling justice. Their presence, their hospitality, the kindness they’ve shown me — some wise-ass kid who started up a rinky-dink blog — has meant more than the world. I cannot overstate my appreciation for how they’ve treated me. It’s been awesome.
Of course, as time has passed, things have changed. They always change. It’s inevitable. One minute you’re watching season two of Boy Meets World and Cory actually sounds like a boy; the next minute you’re watching season three of Boy Meets World and Cory still sounds like a boy, albeit a boy with a slightly deeper voice. So yeah. Can’t avoid change. It’s always there.
Things have changed. And as they’ve done so, a lot of those things I grew up with have disappeared. Take a look at my hometown, for one. Back in my day (only old people get to use that expression), Bellevue was a McDonald’s, then an Arby’s, then some other stuff, then a Safeway, a Baskin-Robbins, and a few banks. Then change hit. Now it’s luxury apartments, an empty building where Safeway used to be, and Lincoln Effing Square. Change shit all over my memories as a kid. I don’t even get to see the water fountain outside Bellevue Square anymore because they turned it into a rock arrangement. Who the hell does that? That water fountain was a gem. And they nuked it. Jerks.
Not surprisingly, change has taken its toll in other realms, as well. Notably, in media. Where a newspaper means next-to-nothing to today’s high schoolers. Where a breaking story can be crammed into a 140-character text box and called good. Where, thanks to social networking, we’ve all become reporters in a certain sense. Change isn’t bad by any means. I mean, I can speak firsthand to its benefits. I’ve been impacted directly by many of these changes. Without them, my opinions would be completely irrelevant (in many cases, my opinions continue to be irrelevant, I realize that. But at least now they’re a little less irrelevant than they would have been without social media). But at the same time, even the most beneficial changes have negative consequences. And today, I sit here reminded of that.
I don’t know what may have occurred behind the scenes. I don’t know why this guy I had the pleasure of getting to know a little bit decided to leave the only job he’s had for more than two decades. But I do know that I will miss hearing his voice on my car radio in the afternoons. I will miss hearing his opinions on a daily basis. I will miss knowing that, whether I’ve had a good day or a bad one, he will be there to distract me as the sun sets on my drive home.
The first time I formally met Mike Gastineau, he looked me in the eye and said, “Alex, I don’t believe we’ve met yet.” The guy addressed me by name before we even knew each other. Which is just flat-out cool. You do that to anyone and you’re guaranteed to be on their good side for life. We shook hands and we met and we’ve crossed paths a few times since. He’s a good dude. I can tell you that. And not just because every single person I trust who knows him has led me to believe it, though they have. You won’t hear any media member in this town speak ill of Mike Gastineau’s character. He is one of a rare breed. The talking head full of snark and wit who, somehow, has managed not to piss everyone off. Remarkable, really.
I don’t know how it is in other cities across America, but here in Seattle there are all these media types who genuinely like each other. It’s crazy to witness. It’s crazy to be a part of. We’re friends, we hang out, we’ll drink together, we’ll play ball together. We enjoy each other’s company. And I get to be involved in that. Because of these good people who appreciate the stupid shit I occasionally come up with. I don’t really understand it. I just go with it.
It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t start listening to sports radio at some point along the way. That is what got me interested in doing all of this. And the first voice I heard, that year I was riding in a car with my friend and his older brother, belonged to Mike Gastineau. The same guy who would one day greet me by name before we even met. That guy.
Everyone will have their stories. There are always stories when you’re an icon. But this is my story about a guy who is moving on from having impacted so many people in this town, including myself. I wish him all the best, thank him for his kindness, and look forward to our next beer together. On to the next adventure, Gas.