By Mike Salk
I've never made a truly difficult decision in my life.
I knew I wanted to go to Pomona College from the moment I read about it. I knew I wanted to stay in LA afterwards and work in politics. Moving back to Boston a few years later to get into sports radio was fairly easy as well – I knew I wanted to love my job and that was the job I knew I would love.
Marrying Heather was the ultimate no-brainer. It took me some time to come around to having a baby, but I always knew I wanted children eventually.
Four years ago, when my station in Boston was dying and we were offered the chance to move to Seattle, that too was easy. Though I had never even visited the Northwest, it was a job offer in a field that doesn't provide endless opportunities. We were excited about the adventure and quickly fell in love with Seattle.
Though many will view my decision to return to Boston as another in a long series of obvious choices, it was not. And you are the primary reason.
Yes, I'm overwhelmingly excited about my new opportunity. I get to talk about the teams I grew up rooting for with the fan bases with which I most identified. I get to host afternoons during drive-time on the sports station I grew up listening to. It's a dream job and I couldn't say no. I can't wait to start.
But the only thing that gave me pause was Seattle.
I want to thank you for letting me into your community. Seattle is a wonderful, unique place. I often describe it as the perfect balance between San Francisco and Denver. The weather isn't great, but it almost never disrupts your life. The produce is the best I've ever tasted. The creative cuisine is cutting edge. The housing stock is solid; the neighborhoods are distinct.
And yes, the people can be slow to fully accept a newcomer.
I probably didn't help that when I suggested benching Ken Griffey Jr. I still think I was right, but it took me some time to understand the local mores and to say things accordingly. Thanks for teaching me and staying with me.
Bravo to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks for finding their quarterback. (AP)
I see a football team that is on the cusp of sustained greatness. As much as I stand by my Junior comments, I was 100 percent wrong about Pete Carroll. What he has accomplished in three short years is remarkable. I believed he was too soft to lead professional men and the opposite has been true. He (along with John Schneider and some well-chosen assistants) has shown a toughness that I never expected.
John Clayton said the Carroll era would be judged by his choice at quarterback and that's been a smashing success.
It was so much fun discussing that search. We debated Matt Hasselbeck, Tarvaris Jackson, Carson Palmer, David Garrard, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Michael Vick, Colt McCoy, Ryan Tannehill, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez, Charlie Whitehurst and many others.
I suffered through the absurd calls for Mike Teel and Josh Portis. Please, stop.
And I got to watch Russell Wilson play every day. I'll always be thankful for that. The kid is legit.
I wish the Mariners had achieved that kind of success in my time here.
I am baseball fan first and I wanted so badly to talk about a winner. I wanted to see Safeco buzzing. I wanted to feel the energy in SoDo. I wanted playoff baseball in Seattle.
Will it happen soon? I don't know. I honestly don't. Jack Zduriencik took over a moribund franchise. The organizational depth was embarrassing. And his future will depend on his scouting. If he hits on some combination of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino and/or the young pitchers, this team will win. If not, it'll be back to the drawing board. We can debate what we think will happen, but we'll all have to watch and see how that plays out.
I think a new arena will be built in SoDo in short order. While I wish I could be here to see basketball and hockey played there, I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed the battle. I have never been more proud of our listeners that last year as we came together to have positive, intelligent discussion about a complicated and occasionally dry issue.
You didn't rant and rave. You didn't make demands on the non-sports loving public. You simply asked everyone to look at the facts and that was phenomenal. I wish certain editorial boards had done the same.
Enjoy having the Sonics back (although I still think it would be cool to choose a new name and a new logo). Enjoy hockey; it has everything the American sports fan wants. You'll love it.
I think I have just described the potential for the golden age of Seattle sports. Amazing, considering the climate in which 710 ESPN Seattle was launched.
Remember, in 2008 the Mariners spent $100 million to lose 100 games, the Seahawks stunk, the Huskies went 0-12, the Cougs went 1-11 and the Sonics left town. The next year we showed up! Ha!
After suffering through those years, I hope you enjoy what is to come. I know you will be in good hands with Brock and the rest of the staff at 710 ESPN Seattle.
I hope you'll call the station more often than you do now. Sports radio should be interactive and too often I think this fan base is too passive. It's alright to criticize your team without turning on them. You can still love your team even when you're mad at it. It's acceptable to have an opinion on a player other than a quarterback. You don't need to blindly trust a coach or a GM just because you hope they've made the right decision. The more actively you demand success from your teams, the more likely they are to win. Seattle does not need to accept anything less than greatness.
I hope you enjoy the next few years. I'm sorry I won't be there to enjoy it with you.
All that being said, I lied a little in the opening of this post. Yes, you are a huge reason why it'll be hard to leave, but you aren't the only one.
Spending the last four years manacled to Brock Huard has been among the best things that has ever happened to me.
Our early spats and differences have been well-chronicled. We had some awkward fits and starts. It took Brock a little while to feel comfortable opining on everything. He wasn't often critical in the early days and I thought I was going to lose it the day he nodded on the air.
I was no picnic for Brock either. Some of my early rants were over the top, overly critical and probably frustrating to my mild-mannered co-host.
But we knew we had to make the show better and we knew we had to come together to make that happen. We are both competitive people and we knew we'd have to put aside some of our differences if we wanted to win. That wasn't too complicated.
Brock Huard, Mike Salk and Tom Wassell pose for a picture following a broadcast from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
We started really listening to each other. I know it sounds odd, but as we have argued, bantered and discussed for four years, we started agreeing on more things than we ever would have expected. I hope you have enjoyed hearing us each move towards the middle as much as we enjoyed finding ourselves there.
As it turns out, Brock is one of the smartest people I have ever met. I trust him with business or personal finance questions more than anyone I know. But that isn't his greatest strength.
He understands people better than anyone. I know everyone loves him because he is a local sports hero, but it goes so far beyond that. He gets to know people (even total strangers) so quickly. He asks them great questions because he genuinely cares about people. He actually wants to hear the answers. He is just curious and happy to get to know people.
I hope I have picked up just a little of that from him.
I have learned so much from others at the station and there are so many to thank.
Producer Tom Wassell had a vision to make this show more interactive and he succeeded. Our ratings took off when he joined our cast. He is also one of my best friends and my best sounding board.
Boy Howdy was a subtle force that could never be replaced. He has a unique ability to pipe in at the just the right time, even if what he said was almost always wrong. I gave him tons of grief (and he deserved all of it) but I secretly love the little guy.
You don't know our boss, Brian Long, but he created a working atmosphere that fostered success and taught me more about the importance of branding than you could imagine. His boss, Dave Pridemore, is exactly the kind of quirky leader that a station like 710 ESPN Seattle needed to thrive.
Brady Henderson, Colin Paisley, Jessamyn McIntyre, Matt Pitman, Kyle Brown, Shannon Drayer and the rest of the 710 sports-pit crew are such a creative and fun group to be around. That's important.
I've enjoyed working with each of the other 710 hosts, all of whom put aside their personal goals for the good of our station. Our working environment is as fun as it sounds.
And the various regular guests like Dave Cameron, Jeff Sullivan, Shannon Drayer, Jay Buhner, Pete Carroll, Eric Wedge, John Schneider, Jack Zduriencik, Danny O'Neil, Ray Roberts, Dave Wyman, and Robbie Tobeck have made these four years fly by.
But I'll end this the way I started it. By thanking each of you for listening, for emailing, for texting and for tweeting. Thanks for the conversation and the banter. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Seattle's sports community. I will cherish it forever.
The hay is really now in the barn. See ya everybody.
(Now get to the choppah!)