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Michael Jenkins Interview: “Sportscasting’s Ron Burgundy” discusses Capitals frustration

Jenkins injects a refreshing take into his work
CSN-Mid Atlantic

CSN sports anchor Michael Jenkins gives hope to aspiring sports broadcasters that when you reach the top of the mountain, it is still possible to be yourself and create unconventional fun on the air. When the Washington Capitals bowed out of the playoffs last year, Jenkins had a stiff drink on the air as he discussed the latest futility of the Alexander Ovechkin led squad.

This past week, Jenkins read self-written scripture that evoked the essence of Game of Thrones as he detailed the sorrow of Washington sports teams. He does the normal job differently, and viewers benefit.

You see, I like guys like Jenkins who don’t just sit behind the desk and read a teleprompter like a robot. Where’s the fun in that? With ESPN cutting as much integrity as payroll and renegade sports voices like Jenkins falling by the wayside, I felt the need to reach out to the “proud Longhorn” and “bourbon lover” about his job, his teams, and how he goes about it. Here’s what “sportscasting’s Ron Burgundy” had to say.

Q:The Nashville Predators, who have been in existence as long as frappuccinos at Starbucks, are in the Stanley Cup Finals. As a Washington Caps fan, does this bother the shit out of you?

Jenkins: It’s frustrating for sure, but then, I see all of the fans in Nashville supporting the Preds, and I’m actually happy for them. Plus, as a sports fan in general, I just love seeing P.K. Subban in the Cup finals. He’s such a good human being, and it’s hard to root against guys like that.

Q: Blues fans have delved into the structural problems of their team for decades and found nothing. What is the yearly aftermath of a playoff failure like for a Washington Caps fan or news personality?

Jenkins: It’s brutal. A lot of people ask me if my frustration is real, and it is. I grew up in Texas, but I didn’t grow up with hockey because we didn’t get the Stars until 1992, I think. So I really didn’t discover the sport until I moved to D.C. in 2004, and this city has become my home. I live in the heart of the District, I met my wife here, I bought my first house here and I love the fans here. They deserve success.

So when we see these repeated failures, oh man, it’s just a killer. We’ll all probably mope about it for a few more weeks and then start to get our hopes up again in the fall. It’s like this girlfriend who keeps breaking your heart, but you can’t let her go.

Q: You recently made a quip about Bryce Harper reaching into the goblet of athletic success. Tell me. Are the Washington Nationals relevant in that town? And will Harper stay or go when free agency barks?

Jenkins: The Nationals are definitely relevant, but compared to the other teams, they aren’t quite as popular simply because they haven’t been around as long. Still, there’s a long baseball history here, the stadium is beautiful and the Nats are loaded with talent. As far as Bryce is concerned, I think the Nats will make a legitimate effort to keep him, but something tells me Bryce wants to be in NYC. He does have better hair than I do, which is tough to accept. Maybe I’ll feel better about myself when he’s gone. So that’s a positive.

Q: Dan Patrick called you The Ron Burgundy of Sports broadcasting. Is that the kind of thing you put on your resume, or question Dan about your ability to read whatever is put on a teleprompter?

Jenkins: That will always go on the top of my resume. Being compared to the great Ron Burgundy is one of the finest compliments I have ever received. He owns a lot of leather-bound books, you know. (Also, I grew up admiring and watching Dan. Talking to him was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.)

Q: Being that you are a Caps, Wizards, and Nationals fan, what is your hard liquor preference? Scotch, whiskey, or dreary dry red wine?

Jenkins: Whiskey all day, my friend. Now, will I turn down a scotch, wine or abnormally strong mouthwash? Absolutely not.

Q: Is it true that Alexander Ovechkin can't tie a Windsor knot for his life or am I over-exaggerating?

Jenkins: I think Ovi probably gets halfway into the knot and thinks, “I’ve Alexander Ovechkin. I don’t need to finish this.”

Q: Furthermore on Ovie, what is his legacy if his Caps fail to win a Cup and his goal totals drop? Entering his 13th season, is he going to be the lesser version of Dan Marino?

Jenkins: He’ll be a Hall of Famer no matter what, but we have to be honest. To be considered among the greatest of all time, you have to win championships. Still, he’s been wonderful for this city, and we’ve been incredibly blessed to have him. I also think he ends up being saddled with too much of the blame because he’s the face of the franchise. When the Caps come out and don’t match another team’s intensity or they allow soft goals, that’s not really on him individually, but sports fans will always want to assign blame.

Q: The Caps did take T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk in recent years. Have you heard any belligerent fans scream, "Those damn Blues have cursed us!"

Jenkins: I haven’t! One of my good buddies is a huge Blues fan, so it’s been nice to commiserate with him over the years. Oshie, in particular, is LOVED by Caps fans. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but T.J. Oshie is a great American.

Q: Let me slip into Barbara Walters mode minus the lipstick. What got you into sports broadcasting?

Jenkins: It’s weird. I was always sort of born to do it. Even when I was a kid and involved in church plays, I would always be assigned the part of “narrator.” Then I was hired as a disc jockey when I was in 8th grade to host a Sunday morning gospel show, and I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When I got to high school, I was class president, so one of my responsibilities was to broadcast the school announcements every morning--we had a TV in each classroom.

One day, at the end of “Drug Free Week,” I pretended to sniff Liquid Paper on the air, and I thought it was hilarious. Plus, I’m from a really small town, and everyone knew I wouldn’t seriously ever do such a thing. I was pretty straight-laced. My principal, however, did not share my enthusiasm. Anyway, I didn’t get to do the announcements after that, but I loved the idea of entertaining through broadcasting. And if I could so while talking about something I loved—sports—then all the better.

Q: CSN lets your unconventional freak flag fly often? Is that the key to a successful sports show(point a finger towards a British Columbia factory)--Letting your talent have some space?

Jenkins: Ha! Yeah, CSN deserves a lot of credit for trusting me to go on the air and be myself. On the outside, the stuff I do may seem “unconventional,” but I suppose I don’t look at it that way because it’s just a reflection of who I am. Still, I concede that a lot of people likely look at the content I create and think, “This guy’s a moron!!” I suppose I’ve never taken sports too seriously, and now my style is more acceptable because of social media and how rapidly the industry has changed.

The formula for me is pretty simple, actually: “Hey, I like to have fun. Let’s give this a shot and try and entertain our viewers for a while. It’s just sports.” Maybe the real key is just creating a platform where anchors and reporters can be themselves. I think viewers respond to that, and CSN has supported me every step of the way.

Q: Finally, whose beard game is worse? Jim Carrey or David Letterman?

Jenkins: Jim Carrey, for sure. Letterman is retired. I hope he never cuts that thing.

Michael Jenkins is required these days. He shakes things up, does things other would have to get clearance from two people for, and makes broadcasting fun in the process. Seeing him stand on the air live and speak honestly with Capitals fans about their team’s collapse instead of merely read the stats was refreshing. That’s what Jenkins is going for; a refreshing format to deliver the news.

Find his daily hits on Twitter and Facebook. Trust me, he’s a good follow. And he won’t give a Panda Watch update or compare an erection to the way his pants were made. He will not turn down a scotch, but prefers whiskey.

We both will advise Blues and Capitals fans to buy more bourbon though.