The hideous yellow jacket Michael Grady purchased online two years ago remains, at least for the time being, stashed away in the deepest recesses of its owner’s closet.
For Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs, Grady, the public address announcer at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, modeled the new threads in celebration of the Indiana Pacers’ first home playoff game in five years.
The blinding wardrobe switch earned him equal amounts of praise and good-humored ridicule, much of the latter by Grady himself.
Then Chicago beat the Pacers 88-84. Hoping for a reversal of fortune, Grady wore the jacket during Game 1 of last April’s first-round postseason series against Orlando, only to see the Magic pull out an 81-77 win.
Old yeller is 0-2. Or is it 0-and-two-ahhhh? Whatever the case, it’s relevant only because Grady, who for nearly a decade has possessed a most golden touch in an Indianapolis radio market known for change, finally chucked up an airball.
Only 29, the Indianapolis native has been executive producer at WFNI-1070 AM The Fan since its 2007 inception. Grady also is co-host of 1070’s “Grady & Big Joe Show” alongside former Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Joe Staysniak.
It’s quite the pairing, really, the 6-foot-5, somewhere-around-300-pounds Staysniak and the 5-9 Grady, who on a particularly heavy day might weigh 160 pounds. But it works. Every weekday from 10 a.m. to noon, the men talk Indiana, Purdue, Colts, Pacers, Notre Dame and more while still making time to take calls from listeners.
Opinionated sports radio types tend to fall into one of two categories — the hated and merely disliked. It’s here the personable, ever-smiling Grady plays square peg to the round hole within the industry he loves.
“Michael’s best attribute is to say ‘yes’ to everything, and then do everything well,” said former WIBC/1070 The Fan program director Kent Sterling, who now serves the same role at WXOS-101.1 FM in St. Louis. “When we started 1070 The Fan, making him executive producer was the easiest decision I had. And Michael was, what, 24 at the time?
“He’s just talented in a lot of different areas. I just loved working with Michael and am really proud of him. He doesn’t get angry about things and at no point does he make himself a menace to his career. He makes the person who hires him look smart.”
Strong family background
Raised on Indianapolis’ eastside, Grady’s upbringing featured his mother, Mavis, as well as two strong male role models in maternal grandfather Irving Washington and maternal great-grandfather James Parks (now deceased).
Michael’s father, Donald Grady, left home following his and Mavis’ divorce when Michael was 5. The elder Grady moved to Maui and played no role whatsoever in the development of Grady and younger sister, Nichol, now 27. Only recently did Donald Grady, now living in San Diego, reach out to congratulate his son on his success.
Nonetheless, Michael’s childhood was good. His mother, sister and a whole lot of cousins who Grady claims “are like my brothers and sisters” saw to it.
“That’s where I really have to credit my family. When I was young my parents and great-grandparents were always around, and my mom has always been a hard worker,” he said. “I still remember as a little kid crying after she beat me in HORSE.
“I hated losing. That was part of the drive.”
Two life-defining events took place for Grady during the 1999-2000 school year. As a junior at Warren Central High School he discovered a passion for radio and began dating the young lady he had first become familiar with a year earlier during driver’s education classes.
He and the former Deandra Thompson were married in July 2009.
Grady majored in broadcasting at Vincennes University before getting his associate’s degree in 2003. He then continued his education at IUPUI.
By this time Grady already was a familiar face inside the Emmis Communications building on Monument Circle.
“When I left Vincennes and sent out resumes, I told (WIBC) that I wanted to work there in any capacity,” Grady said. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Ability is nothing without opportunity,’ and I feel I’ve put in a lot of hard work.”
This includes working the board for a pet doctoring show as well as a cooking show on Saturdays for WIBC. But it was a start, a foot in the door, and that’s all he had asked for.
Even as a VU student, Grady would make the two-hour drive to Indianapolis on Friday and Saturday evenings to produce Indiana Sports Talk, which is hosted by former Franklin College men’s basketball coach and Franklin resident Bob Lovell.
“Michael started back on my show when he was 19 or 20 years old. He was the show’s studio producer, and it just evolved,” Lovell said. “I said it from the first time I met him that he’s the most talented guy in the building. I always believed Michael was destined for greatness, and I still believe that.
“At this point I’m not sure there is anything he can’t do well.”
Two-ahhhh with a twist
Grady is far too young to have achieved legend’s status. However, he does know what it’s like to succeed one.
Reb Porter, the Pacers’ backup P.A. announcer from 1968-75 who became full-time in 1976, decided to step aside after completion of the 2009-10 season. The man who announced “Basket by Buse” in Market Square Arena and growled the “R” in Danny Granger’s name between the walls of Bankers Life Fieldhouse would need a replacement.
But who? Grady, who had been doing P.A. work for Pacers home games during timeouts and other breaks in the action, was the logical choice.
He’s embraced the role, made it his own — all the while making certain not to step on one Pacers tradition born during the Porter era.
At some point during the 1980s, Porter and other NBA public address announcers were instructed to inform those in attendance when there were two minutes remaining in each quarter. Thus, Porter created, “Two minutes, two-ahhhh.” Transforming a one-syllable word to two became part of the franchise’s fabric, particularly during the mid- to late-1990s when Reggie Miller, Rik Smiths and the Davises — Dale and Antonio — were rocking MSA like never before.
Grady still voices no fewer than four “two minutes” per Pacers home game. The big difference follows with those in attendance handling the rest with a resounding, “Two-ahhh.”
“One thing I always heard was to be prepared for folks to say, ‘He’s not Reb.’ More than anything it was just because Reb had done it so long,” Grady said. “A lot of people who go to Pacers games go to hear that.”
It’s certainly not to see Grady’s yellow jacket. That is, if the team’s P.A. voice ever harnesses the courage to wear it again in public.