Mark Patrick quietly quit his afternoon sports-talk show on WNDE-AM (1260) late last month. After a couple of years doing a nationally syndicated show from 5-8 a.m. for Fox Sports Radio and the local program from 3-6 p.m., Patrick told management, "Sirs, I gotta go," and ceded what he called "the Big Chair" to his co-host, John Michael. JMV steers 'The Drive' on WNDE-AM.
JMV, as he's known, changed the name of the show to The Drive (somehow, Mark Patrick on Sports didn't fit) and altered the direction. Gone are the kitschy tunes Patrick used to bump into and out of commercials. Out to pasture are the funny sound bites (the Pacers' Jamison Brewer abruptly ending an interview by saying, "Sir, I gotta go" - SIGG for short - became the show's signature in-joke). As for the relaxed pace and the sarcasm, sayonara.
The Drive is upbeat, with hard-driving music and an intense host.
"My shows are caller- and opinion-intensive," Michael, 34, says. "And they're quick-paced. I want to get in and out of stories. I can't go at a slower pace. I think I'm doing people a disservice if I'm not fired up about stuff, and that's how I try to stay in that frame of mind."
Michael, a sports and pop-culture fanatic who can be found playing basketball most mornings at Perry Meridian High School, grew up in the tiny Greene County town of Owensburg (population 350). He started in radio in 1995, playing contemporary hits at Bloomington station B97. He and his then-fiancee, now wife, moved to Greenwood in 1999, and he sent a resume tape to WNDE. That October, he joined the station, doing local sports breaks during ESPN shows and answering phones.
He used the name John Michael, his first and middle names. (He asked that his real name not be used in this article.) Conrad Brunner, then an occasional co-host of the 'NDE afternoon show, tagged him "John Michael Vincent," after the '70s actor Jan Michael Vincent. Hence the initials JMV.
In March 2000, with the Final Four in Indianapolis, Michael wrangled guests for Tim Bragg and Bill Benner, then hosts of the afternoon show. Six months later, when Patrick took over in the afternoons, JMV became part of the show.
Like all sports-talk hosts in Indianapolis (and Indianapolis radio personalities in general, for that matter), Michael is ultimately a nice guy. Shredding an athlete or a team is possible but not likely. Michael will be constructively critical.
"I'm not the type of guy who wants to rip on everybody, yet I still think it's my job as a host to point out the shortcomings," he says. "I like [the Colts'] Rob Morris, I like Mike Doss, I like Jason David. But if these guys mess up, as a talk-show host, you have to bring it up."
If that approach works, great. If not, "I'm picking up and I'm going back to G.C. I'll put up hay or something. I just wanted one opportunity to see if what I do can work. I hope it can."