Sportscaster Jessie Garcia, host of WTMJ’s “The Mike McCarthy Show,” and author of the new book "My Life with the Green & Gold: Tales of 20 Years of Sportscasting," was the special guest at a Wisconsin Book Festival event in the community room of the new Central Library Oct. 18.
“It's so nice to be back in Madison where I have so many memories,” said Garcia, who is a graduate of Madison East High School. “All the way from pre-school to high school, Madison has so many great memories for me. I try to come back as much as I can.”
Garcia, one of the first female sportscasters in the Midwest, offered behind-the-microphone insights into the Green Bay Packers and other Wisconsin teams to an eager crowd at Central Library. In “My Life with the Green & Gold: Tales from 20 Years of Sportscasting,” a Wisconsin Historical Society Press book, Garcia provides her personal insight on her career reporting on the Green Bay Packers from her perspective as a fan, journalist, and working mom.
“I've been a lot of places with the Green Bay Packers. I've been to 3 Super Bowls with the Packers — two that they won and one that they lost,” Garcia said. “I have to tell you that covering the losing team is much more difficult than covering the winning team because none of [the Packer players] wanted to come out and do any interviews at that point after they lost.
“I've been to Tokyo, Japan with the Packers and I've been to the White House after they won Super Bowl XXXI,” she added.
Garcia's presentation was part of the Wisconsin Book Festival, who from Oct. 17-20 hosted more than 75 authors, artists, and literary performers in 50 events over four days in Madison.
In her book, the veteran sportscaster brings fans to the sidelines at Lambeau Field, inside the locker room, aboard the Packers bus, and into the host’s chair at The Mike McCarthy Show. The book also features stories about other teams and athletes she’s covered from the Badgers and Brewers, to Wisconsin Olympians.
“I just wanted to show people what it is like behind the scenes because so many funny things happen behind the scenes,” Garcia says. “A good portion of this book was also me trying to balance work and kids.”
On top of his distinguished broadcast journalism career, Garcia is also mom to Jake and Charlie, ages 14 and 10. “I had to record something at Lambeau [Field] when Jake was one month old and I didn't have a babysitter .... so he came with,” Garcia remembered. “He slept a lot, as babies do, but I had to change his diaper in the tunnel at Lambeau Field which is a picture that was featured in the book. It's been a constant juggle of family and career and keeping all of the balls in the air for all of these years. That's what part of the book is about.”
Garcia has hosted both The Mike Holmgren Show and The Mike McCarthy Show — both Super Bowl-winning coaches for the Green Bay Packers. Garcia said that she was one of the first female sportscasters in the state of Wisconsin and in the country. “I graduated from college in 1992 and I knew that I wanted to be a sportscaster but I also knew that there weren't many female role models at the time,” she said. “We had a few – we had Robin Roberts and Leslie Visser and Linda Cohn and that was about it for role models. So, I had to forge my own path a bit and that I have detailed in the book.”
Some men were not very excited to have a woman covering sports, so Garcia had to work extra-hard to prove herself. “I had a man call in the station who was upset and said that I was a chick and that chicks don't understand sports,” Garcia said. “I just told him that I hope I can change his mind some day. And then I hung up on him! I can tell you that I thought about saying something else and decided that that wouldn't be wise.”
Garcia, who is currently writing a second book with the family of Olympic speedskater Casey FitzRandolph that deals with his rise to gold followed by a cancer diagnosis for Casey’s sister, took some questions from the crowd at the community center. People wanted to know about the interview process and who her favorite people were to interview.
“Interviewing can be a fine art – to get the answers out of people that you want,” Garcia said. “I'm teaching a broadcast journalism class at a local college and I'm teaching them a lot about interviewing and interviewing techniques, so you start athletes off with some warm-up questions and then you kind of hit them with the hard-hitting questions that you really want to know and then end it with a laugh.”
Garcia went on to say that her favorite interviewer is NBC sportscaster Bob Costas. “I think he's so wonderful. He's such a great interviewer. He's so thoughtful. So, that would be somebody that I strive to be more like,” she said.
Garcia said her favorite interviewee was former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre. “I know that his name is tainted around here and he brought a lot of that on himself... I fully understand that,” Garcia says. “But in the years that I covered him with the Packers he was really enjoyable to be around and he was a great interview and very thoughtful and a smarter-than-you-think guy. It was really hard to see his incredible fall from grace.”