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Wow! This Guy's Just All Over the Place!
Michael Barkann is on TV so much, you might think he doesn't have the time to order his own lunch. But you'd be wrong.
"Yo. It's Michael B. Let me get a hot pastrami - I'm talking' smokin' hot … with a bag of chips … no check that, cheese curls," he rattled off in one recent afternoon, calling in an order from Comcast SportsNet at the Wachovia Center.
Barkann can be seen all over CSN, hosting "Post-Game Live" after Eagles, Sixers and Flyers games; debating the sports issues of the day on "Daily News Live"; and, from time to time, he even anchors the daily highlight show "Sports Night."
Maybe the hot pastrami is what gives him energy to withstand such a hefty daily grind.
"Some days, it's just crazy and some days, it just rolls along like anyone else's gig," said the 45-year-old Barkann, who lives in Newtown Square with his wife and two children.
Barkann has been an increasingly recognizable face in Philadelphia since he started working at the all- sports network in 1997.
"I think I've been very fortunate; I've tried hard," said Barkann, between taking bites of that pastrami sandwich. "You've got to stay connected with the people that are in the Philadelphia sports scene."
The East Brunswick, N.J., native, who makes his living talking in front of strangers, said that back on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, he wasn't so relaxed.
"That was about as nervous as I'd ever been in my life," he recalled. "People always ask me, 'Are you nervous when you go on TV?' Believe me, I was never more nervous than waiting to go up for my Bar Mitzvah!"
As a kid, Barkann loved New York sports teams and thought Joe Namath was "the epitome of cool." He got involved in every sports activity he could - basketball, baseball, cross-country, even a little pond hockey. But by the time he enrolled at Syracuse University, he knew he would have to break into the sports world in a non-athletic way.
"You kind of know in the back of your head whether or not you have it. I knew that I was never going to make my living at [sports]," he acknowledged.
After earning a B.S. in communications and gaining experience in broadcasting, Barkann became the local sports analyst for KYW-3 in Philadelphia from 1987-1991, then moved to WLVI-TV in Boston until 1997, when he joined CSN. Nationally, he covered three Winter Olympics for CBS Sports, and has reported on the U.S. Open tennis tournament for the USA network for the past 15 years.
After working his way within the industry, he seems content with his many jobs at CSN, perhaps because of the passion of Philadelphia fans for sports.
"These are the most heartfelt fans in the country," he said.
Since he did not follow Philly teams growing up, the man knew he needed to research the vast history of sports in the city before attempting to talk about it in front of an audience.
"Philadelphia fans will spot a fraud," he said, "and you're a fraud if you don't make any attempt to learn the history."
Barkann belongs to Temple Sholom in Broomall, and sends his son to Hebrew school at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley. Although he did work on Rosh Hashanah, he refuses to go on the air on Yom Kippur.
"Yom Kippur is a different story. On Yom Kippur, I fast, I go to synagogue."
Like Dick Schaap, Chris Berman, and Stan Hochman, Barkann is just one of a long line of Jewish sports reporters.
What's his take on that?
"[Perhaps] they were not always good enough to succeed at that level, but they still had the love for it" - for sports, he said. "They wanted to stay around it, just like this Jewish boy."