Missanelli is cooking up new ventures, but says he has no plans to retire
By Jeff Blumenthal – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal
Jan 12, 2022 Updated Jan 12, 2022, 2:30pm EST
After 30 years in sports talk radio, 97.5 The Fanatic afternoon drive host Mike Missanelli has no plans to abandon his microphone any time soon.
He is, however, looking to explore other interests. Hence, the launch of Mike Miss Ventures, a collection of side projects with a focus on his passion for cooking.
“Everyone’s got their own podcast, focused on creating their own brand,” Missanelli said in an interview Wednesday as he prepared for his show, which is also televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“We talk a lot about a lot of non-sports stuff on the air. We actually tried to do something with cooking on the air but it’s hard because we are half on television and half on radio and the radio listeners can’t see what we’re doing.”
Missanelli said his latest venture, “The Every Day Cook” show, will kick off with a live airing on Jan. 18 on celebrity video-sharing platform Cameo, with hopes that it can morph into a regular show. Sports talk radio has a largely male audience and Missanelli believes many men are reluctant to cook.
“So I want to show them they can make a nice meal for themselves,” Missanelli said. “They have all the ingredients they need at home.”
Missanelli said his interest in cooking began as a child growing up in Bristol, where he learned at the feet of his Italian grandmothers, often serving as a helper. The passion stayed with him his entire life.
A few years back, Missanelli spent a week in Tuscany enrolled in a cooking school run by a celebrity chef from Manhattan. He said he went by himself and was in a class with 12 Americans, most being women. He learned the art of making fresh pastas, kneading it for a half hour to prepare. Back home, a food processor helps speed up that process, but the results are the same.
“You can do so much with it,” Missanelli said. “Red sauce, white wine sauce, brown butter.”
On the upcoming “The Every Day Cook” show, Missanelli will show viewers how to make a chili dish for the coming weekend’s football games. There is also a complementary cooking blog.
Mike Miss Ventures includes an avenue to book Missanelli for appearances, motivational speaking and personal marketing spots through Cameo.
There is also the hopeful relaunch of “PhillyPheud” game show, a take on “Family Feud” that includes Missanelli as the host and local celebrities and sports fans as contestants. The show, which aired on NBC Sports Philadelphia, has been put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans to relaunch it in the first quarter of this year were stalled by the recent emergence of the omicron variant of the virus.
Missanelli just signed a contract extension — he wouldn’t say for how long — at Beasley Broadcast Group’s (NASDAQ: BBGI) 97.5 The Fanatic (WPEN-FM), where he has hosted his popular afternoon drive show for the past 12 years. So the formal launch of Mike Miss Ventures is not a signal that he is planning to retire.
“I expect to stay for a good long time,” Missanelli said. “As long as I still enjoy it and the show is doing well, I don’t see a reason to stop.”
Missanelli graduated from Penn State University (1977) and the Delaware Law School of Widener University (1986) — the latter while working as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His original plan was to become a lawyer representing media outlets in First Amendment cases. He said the Inquirer was thinking about setting up an in-house legal team to fend off libel and related lawsuits, but management instead farmed that work out to some of Philadelphia’s largest law firms.
After he passed the bar in 1987, Missanelli was pondering his professional future when his editors asked him to cover college basketball.
“My first assignment was in Maui covering the Maui Classic and that was good enough for me,” Missanelli said. “Back then, newspapers had budgets and they flew me all over the country. It was the year Temple was No. 1 so it was a lot of fun. I stayed for a few more years.”
He eventually moved on to WIP in 1992. He was part of a wave of sportswriters plucked from the Inquirer and other newspapers by Tom Bigby, then the station manager of WIP, to create the first 24/7 sports talk station in Philadelphia. Along with fellow Inquirer alums Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano, he teamed with radio lifers Howard Eskin, Jody McDonald and the late Steve Fredericks and legendary sportscaster Bill Campbell to create a popular lineup of hosts.
“Tom Bigby taught us that radio involved knowledge but with entertainment,” Missanelli said. “It was all about how you presented it. We talked sports but we talked about other things that might appeal to the audience as well.”
Today, though, program directors get most of their talent from within the industry, often younger professionals who don’t have a hardcore journalism background but are well-versed at communication and using technology and social media to create and grow a personal brand.
“Newspapers are almost non-existent,” Missanelli said. “That used to be a feeder system. I think they realized back then that we had the personalities to talk about what we covered. The younger people today come right out of college. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just different.”
Sports talk radio content has increasingly relied on so-called “hot takes,” where hosts, often playing heightened versions of themselves, try to drive listeners and callers with bold opinions, manufactured controversies, and heated arguments between co-hosts. Missanelli said he tries to avoid the hot takes, though he certainly has a reputation for getting heated on air.
“I just try and be myself,” Missanelli said. “I’m honest and sometimes that can get me in trouble.”
In 2018, NBC Sports Philadelphia began simulcasting Missanelli’s show, which airs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. After fending off several combinations of hosts from rival WIP, Missanelli’s show was dethroned in the ratings by the team of Jon Marks and Ike Reese a few years ago. But Missanelli said those ratings are a bit deceiving.
“We have so many people who watch us on TV now as opposed to listening on the radio,” Missanelli said. “That goes up to State College and Lancaster. So that does eat into our radio ratings. I don’t worry about what the other guys are doing. I just worry about what we’re doing and we’re doing well.”