West Bend, Wisconsin native Mike Falkner has the job any sports fan would love to have. He has the pleasure of sitting in the TV booth next to Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder for the Brewers, and Jim Paschke for the Bucks, and provides them with on the spot statistics. He also worked with the Packers and Marquette basketball for a period of time. He has been with the Brewers for about 12 years now and has been covering the Bucks for about 30 years. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the state when it comes to past and present Wisconsin sports.
From a child on, sports statistics has always been a part of Mike’s life. Mike describes as a child, “I grew up on a farm and I’d play games by myself hitting balls against the barn and keeping track of stats and keeping a scorebook of every player as your playing games by yourself” He would also listen to Badger basketball games on the radio and keep a stat sheet for those games as a hobby. His passion for sports combined with his enjoyment of math helped him to really develop into his current role. When a friend mentioned to him that there was a shot chart position opening up with Marquette basketball, Mike was given the opportunity to work that position. Since the same guys who work for Marquette also worked for the Bucks, Mike eventually moved into doing stats for the opposing teams of the Bucks. Once the Bucks started televising all of the home games, Jim Paschke asked if Mike would want to work with him full time providing the stats used on TV broadcasts.
Technology, as we have seen throughout the years, has been constantly evolving both in and out of sports. Today anybody can go onto Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus and find anything they want, whereas if you wanted to know something about a player decades ago, you had to search down his baseball card or look it up in the newspaper. What Mike said has changed the most in terms of technology in sports is just how much more can be done inside the production truck. His job used to be about 50% with the announcers and 50% with the TV production truck, but today much of what he used to help with inside the production truck is now automated with programs. What Mike does now, up with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, is sort through that information to find the relevant statistics
and have it ready to use when the situation in the game arises. By observing Brian Anderson all these seasons, he notes how impressive he is at multi-tasking. “Brian is the king of multi-tasking. He’s got his phone going, his Ipad going, and people in his ears talking.”
In baseball, there is a push to educate the common baseball viewer about Sabermetric stats. In Miller Park for instance, no longer is batting average displayed next to the batter’s name, but instead, it gives OPS. Baseball is trying to draw a fine line between keeping the old school fans happy with traditional stats and those fans who are transitioning into more Sabermetrics. In this next paragraph, Mirk describes how this difference plays out in both Buck’s broadcasts and Brewer’s broadcasts.
For the Bucks, there is a difference in how the announcers broadcast the game. Jon McGlocklin is more old school, Mike said, while Marques Johnson is more new age when it comes to the latest NBA stats. He said that the same is similar for the Brewers where Brian Anderson is more into the newer stats whereas Bill Schroeder is not so much. As for Mike, when it comes to the types of stats he presents to the TV broadcasters, not too much has changed. “I think a lot of the things [Sabermetric stats] are interesting, but I also think for the average fan that it’s almost too much”. He goes on to say that for the average fan, knowing the stat is one thing, but to interpret it is another. It takes work to learn what the numbers indicate about a certain player.
For those of you who regularly watch the Brewers on TV, the dynamic in the booth with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder seems so natural as if they are both genuine friends just discussing a baseball game. The chemistry has always appeared to be spot on between those two. When asked what it is like sitting next to them Mike said,
“It’s one of the blessings of my job working with the people I do. The chemistry they have is not fake. They really do enjoy working with each other. They are the perfect combination for partners. Bill is just easy to work with and a good guy and Brian is so good at what he does. They feed off of each other very very well. They are both elites in what they do and I feel blessed to be able to work with them every night and you become such good friends.”
He continued by describing that one of the best parts of his job is getting to not just work with, but be friends with some of his favorite players that he watched as a kid. He genuinely enjoys the people he works with and feels very blessed to be in that situation.
When it comes to the teams winning or losing, Mike says he loves his job either way. Given many years of losing between both the Bucks and Brewers, “the times where the teams make a run”, Mike says, “are incredible”. He described the Brewer’s run last season as being so fun with so much energy and anticipation.
Regarding the Bucks, “It’s the perfect storm this year between the new building, new coaching staff, and
a couple of new players.” He describes this as being the optimal situation and that the season is something special. He describes the Bucks depth as being their strength. “They have a good balance between bigs, and wings.” Between the head coach and the depth of the team, the Bucks are set up well for the post-season. As for his prediction, “I see them [Milwaukee] and Toronto in the Conference Finals”.
Mike’s job is a dream come true, but when asked what the best moments are, he names one from the Bucks and one from the Brewers. For the Bucks, he enjoyed the year 2001 when they almost made it to the Finals with Ray Allen and Glen Robinson where Robinson missed the final shot that would have put them into the Finals. That series also included Scott Williams getting suspended for a game. As for the Brewers, he really enjoyed the 2008 playoff run when it came down to the end of the season. The crowd stuck around after the game (where Braun hit a big home run to beat the Cubs) to watch the Mets lose which ended up clinching the Brewers a playoff spot for the first time since the 1982 World Series appearance. Mike was able to go down to the field and celebrate with everyone.
Mike truly appreciates his job and feels blessed every day he goes to work. From a child on, Mike’s love of sports and math has combined to create the great work that he does each night. It was a pleasure to get to talk with him, and even after the recording of our conversation we continued to talk for another ten minutes about sports. I believe we could have recorded nearly an hour or more long conversation given the knowledge and experience he has of Wisconsin sports. Next time you watch the Bucks or Brewers and hear an interesting statistic based on the given situation of the game, now you know the man behind it.
You can listen to our full conversation here!