Anytime someone gets fired, we tend to eulogize them as though they have passed away. They haven’t, so I am not going to mourn the temporary loss of Bernie Miklasz as a St. Louis sports media fixture.
Miklasz was relieved of his position at 101ESPN Radio Friday. That’s where I had the privilege of serving as his program director for two years from 2011-2013. I can’t say that I managed Miklasz because I don’t believe anyone actually manages him.
The thing about Miklasz – and from this point forward I’m going to call him Bernie because I’ve never called him “Miklasz” or heard anyone else do that – is that he is so withering in the demands he enforces on himself that managing him to do more at a higher level would be futile and cruel.
There are staff changes that can benefit both the business and the person who was gassed. This is not one of those changes. Radio stations do not improve because a talent like Bernie is taken off the schedule. His loss diminishes both 101ESPN and St. Louis as a sports town.
For Bernie, this change can be a very good thing. He might finally be forced to relax for a few days. For 40 years, Bernie has driven himself to think, write, and speak about sports. He brings a rare wisdom and diligence to his work that comes from the same relentlessness that drives the athletes and leaders he covers, and the time may have finally come where he allows himself a deep breath and moment or relaxation.
For two years, Bernie and I met once a week to talk about his show. My only goal was to establish trust so I could get Bernie to stop grinding so hard. I listened to Bernie more that I spoke to him because not only would I get more out of his words than my own, but I believed he would too.
We talked a lot about H.L. Mencken during those meetings. Mencken was “the sage of Baltimore” – Bernie’s hometown. His work inspired Bernie, and so I learned some things about Mencken so I could better understand Bernie.
There are two Mencken quotes that capture Bernie very nicely:
- “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”
- “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
Bernie isn’t normal, but he knows how to strip back the pretty paint and expose the raw truth. He has always been unafraid to avoid prevailing wisdom in favor of his own. Instead of concerning himself with being popular, Bernie captures unvarnished ethos. He cannot be won over with glad tidings from smiling baseball managers and football/basketball/hockey coaches. Bernie is very content to embrace Mencken’s legacy of exposing stupidity and cowardice regardless of who it offends.
We need truth tellers in our society, and that is the shame of 101ESPN deciding to move on this morning without Bernie. St. Louisans are poorer for his absence. Bernie will be richer for this pause where he can gather the energy needed to unleash his uncanny abilities for another employer.
I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to get to know Bernie, and for the lessons he shared during our conversations. St. Louis is a better city for having had Bernie to read and listen to for more than 30 years, and I’m a better man for having briefly worked with him.
Someone is going to call Bernie very soon so he can again do what he does better than most – spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.