Mike Pesca

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent  for NPR based in New York City.

Pesca enjoys training his microphone on anything that occurs at a track, arena, stadium, park, fronton, velodrome or air strip (i.e. the plane drag during the World's Strongest Man competition). He has reported from Los Angeles, Cleveland and Gary. He has also interviewed former Los Angeles Ram Cleveland Gary. Pesca is a panelist on the weekly Slate podcast “Hang up and Listen”.

In 1997, Pesca began his work in radio as a producer at WNYC. He worked on the NPR and WNYC program On The Media. Later he became the New York correspondent for NPR's midday newsmagazine Day to Day, a job that has brought him to the campaign trail, political conventions, hurricane zones and the Manolo Blahnik shoe sale. Pesca was the first NPR reporter to have his own podcast, a weekly look at gambling cleverly titled “On Gambling with Mike Pesca.”

Pesca, whose writing has appeared in Slate and The Washington Post, is the winner of two Edward R. Murrow awards for radio reporting and, in1993, was named Emory University Softball Official of the Year.

He lives in Manhattan with his wife Robin, sons Milo and Emmett and their dog Rumsfeld. A believer in full disclosure, Pesca rates his favorite teams as the Jets, Mets, St. Johns Red Storm and Knicks, teams he has covered fairly and without favor despite the fact that they have given him a combined one championship during his lifetime as a fully cognizant human.

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The Two-Way
3:30 am
Sun February 2, 2014

5 Points To Help Simplify Sunday's Super Bowl

Fans gather on the Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square on Friday in New York. The Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos on Sunday in NFL football's Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Sun February 2, 2014 6:31 am

The chatter, hype and jargon in the weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII is more impenetrable than the Seahawk's secondary.

Perhaps you've heard the Seattle Seahawks have a running back who enters "Beast Mode." Maybe you've heard that the Denver Broncos' counter to Beast Mode is a defensive lineman nicknamed "Pot Roast."

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Sports
2:48 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Cold Super Bowl Could Lead To More Turnovers

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 5:24 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This Sunday's Super Bowl features the number one defense, the Seattle Seahawks, against the number one offense, the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. That is a surprisingly rare matchup, number one defense against number one offense. It's only happened a few times in all the Super Bowls to date. But of course that means there is a defense and an offense in the game that are not number one. NPR's Mike Pesca looks at what having greatness in one phase of the game does to the rest of the team.

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Sports
4:53 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Two Long-Time Braves And A Slugger Go To The Hall Of Fame

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 8:29 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were Atlanta Braves teammates, Cy Young Award winners and, as of this afternoon, they are the newest members of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. Also making the hall was the slugger known as the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas.

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Sports
3:03 am
Wed December 4, 2013

NFL Thursday Matchup: 2 Losing Teams Will Still Get Ratings

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 5:14 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It must be said the NFL game between the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars tomorrow night, is not a marquee matchup. The Texans are two-and-10, the Jaguars look a little better, having won three of their last four games, but that was only after losing the first eight games of the season. In fact, these teams combine for the lowest-winning percentage in the history of the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" games.

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Book Reviews
3:14 pm
Sat November 23, 2013

An Inside Look That Strips The Face Paint Off The NFL

New York Jets tight end Josh Baker celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter in the game against the New York Giants in 2011.
Julio Cortez AP

Originally published on Sat November 23, 2013 6:44 pm

Nicholas Dawidoff's Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football may be the best book I've ever read about football. It is certainly the most detailed account of the players inside the helmets and the coaches obscured from an enthralled public by large, laminated playsheets.

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Sports
3:10 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Reversed Call Gives Sox Opening To Win World Series Game One

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 4:25 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The St. Louis Cardinals hope to come back against the Boston Red Sox in game two of the World Series tonight. In game one, well, just about nothing went right with the Cardinals. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us. He's covering these games from Boston. Hey there, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi.

CORNISH: So, in the first inning, there was this big mistaken call by the umpire at second base and then a reversal of that call. What happened?

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NPR Story
3:01 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Red Sox Take One-Game Lead In World Series

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 6:07 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Boston Red Sox have taken a one game to none lead over St. Louis in the World Series, beating the Cardinals eight to one last night at Fenway Park. The evening started off badly for the visitors and didn't improve from there. NPR's Mike Pesca was there and has this report.

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NPR Story
3:19 am
Wed October 23, 2013

What To Watch For In The World Series

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 4:47 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

For the first time since 1999, the two teams with the best record in baseball will meet in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox host the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park tonight.

Enough said, let's bring in NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi.

GREENE: You're going to be at the game.

PESCA: Yes.

GREENE: So we have the two teams with the two best records. That has to tell us something about his World Series. Or maybe in this crazy world of sports it tells us nothing.

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Code Switch
3:22 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

'Fetch Clay, Make Man': Ali, Fetchit And The 'Anchor Punch'

In 1965, Muhammad Ali and Lincoln Perry (Stepin Fetchit) teamed up in pursuit of a legendary boxing technique: the anchor punch.
Courtesy of New York Theatre Workshop

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 4:38 pm

---

Muhammad Ali's first title defense, a first-round TKO of Sonny Liston in 1965, propelled Ali to the status of icon. In Ali's training camp before the fight was an icon from an earlier era: Lincoln Perry. He was the first African-American movie star, who went by the stage name Stepin Fetchi. The relationship between the two men is the subject of an off-Broadway play called Fetch Clay, Make Man.

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Sports
2:34 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Yankees Say Goodbye To Rivera And His Cut Fastball

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 5:44 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, the baseball post-season is not quite settled. The Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays will fight for the final playoff spot in a game tonight. The post-season of the New York Yankees is settled: There is not one. The Yankees failed to make it into the playoffs for only the second time in the last 19 years. And that means one of the most successful careers in baseball history has ended. Mariano Rivera has officially pitched his last game. And with that exit, NPR's Mike Pesca has this remembrance of his signature pitch: the cut fastball.

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Sports
4:25 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Qatar's Heat May Force World Cup Schedule Changes

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The global governing body of soccer, or football as the rest of the world calls it, has a big decision to make next week. Some in that group, known as FIFA, are rethinking their plan to hold the 2022 World Cup in the desert nation of Qatar in the middle of summer.

NPR's Mike Pesca reports on what he calls the Confluence of Football and Fahrenheit.

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Sports
3:37 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

What To Make Of Tiger Woods' Major-less Year

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of The Barclays golf tournament on Thursday.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 7:12 pm

By the standard of normal golfing mortals, Tiger Woods has had an incredible summer. He's won multiple tournaments and millions of dollars in prize money. What he didn't do was win any of golf's four major championships, and that has led some to write off Woods' 2013 as a failure.

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Space
2:52 am
Fri June 21, 2013

Miami Wins Back-To-Back NBA Championships, James MVP

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 4:11 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

By now, you might have heard, for the second straight year the Miami Heat are NBA champions.

INSKEEP: They defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-to-88 in Game 7 in Miami. The Heat's LeBron James scored 37 points on his way to a second consecutive MVP award.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Pesca was at the game and he has this report.

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Sports
3:14 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Miami Heat Force Game 7 In NBA Finals

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 7:40 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It sure looked like the NBA season was coming to an end last night. World champions San Antonio Spurs - no, not so fast. The Miami Heat were not ready to give in. After a thrilling, improbable comeback, the Heat are still alive, pushing their NBA final series with the Spurs to the brink; a decisive Game 7 tomorrow.

Last night, the Heat were down by five points with just over 20 seconds remaining. They came back, forced overtime - and won. Final score: 103-to-100. One of the people in the crowd was NPR's Mike Pesca.

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Sports
2:24 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Wrestlers Grapple To Save Sport From Olympic Chopping Block

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 12:11 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

How often do you find Iran, Russia and the United States united behind a single message? Well, representatives from all three countries were in New York City yesterday rallying support for the sport of wrestling, which could be excluded from the upcoming Olympic Games. It was quite a show of sportsmanship and diplomacy. Of course, there was time for some conflict among the wrestlers. It took place at New York's Grand Central Terminal, that's why they called it the Rumble on the Rails.

Here's NPR's Mike Pesca.

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Sports
3:45 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Not Even Instant Replay Could Prevent These Bad Calls

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 5:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Major League Baseball has admitted that umpires have made some big mistakes in the last few days. On Wednesday, umpires ruled even after looking at television replays that Adam Rosales of the Oakland A's hit a double. The ball clearly left the park with the game on the line. And last night in Houston, umps botched a fairly simple rule about pitchers. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us now to second-guess the men in black. And, Mike, everyone makes mistakes, right, even umpires. Why are they getting picked on?

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Sports
9:46 am
Sat April 6, 2013

Always In The Zone, Syracuse Is Hard To Beat

Syracuse celebrates after the team's 55-39 win over Marquette, in Washington last Saturday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 9:08 am

Any recreational league basketball team, any police athletic league squad and every group of 8-year-olds who wear the same uniform are, on the first or second day of practice, introduced to the 2-3 zone defense.

The coach will say, "On defense, you two short guys stay near the foul line, and you three bigger kids, you go down near the basket. Put your hands up, and you're now playing the 2-3."

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Sports
4:40 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Why College Basketball So Celebrates The Semifinalists

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 10:33 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The NCAA men's basketball tournament resumes tomorrow. Louisville plays Wichita State and Syracuse faces Michigan. On the women's side, it's Louisville again. They're playing California. Notre Dame is playing Connecticut. These quartets of teams, of course, are known as the Final Four, and this stage in the tournament is a resume booster for teams and coaches. NPR's Mike Pesca ponders the question of why college basketball, unique among major team sports, celebrates the semi finalists.

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Sports
1:44 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Deflections: The Unofficial Stat That Measures Success

Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals is adamant about recording his team's deflections. It seems to be paying off: The Cardinals have been doing well during the NCAA tournament.
Andy Lyons Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 10:08 am

The Louisville Cardinals are among the teams dominating at this year's men's Division 1 NCAA basketball tournament, which resumes Thursday night. The team credits harassing, active defense for its wins.

But there's something else at work, too: deflections. The team puts a lot of stock in them, though deflections aren't an officially tracked statistic.

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Commentary
3:28 am
Sun February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Cheat Sheet: Key Phrases To Keep You In The Game

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) and his brother, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Friday.
Jim Young Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 6:22 am

Sure, you can go to a Super Bowl party and be That Guy. The one who gleefully lectures the crowd on the merits of running the inverted veer out of the pistol in order to freeze the weak-side backer.

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Sports
4:28 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Ravens Are Super Bowl Underdogs, But Are Stats On Their Side?

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 11:09 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Baltimore Ravens are the underdogs in this Sunday's Super Bowl, going up against the San Francisco 49ers. Now, there have been bigger underdogs. And yes, the Ravens are not the lowest-seeded team to make it to the Super Bowl. But the Ravens have beaten the odds in another way. NPR's Mike Pesca talked to some football numbers guys and has this report.

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Sports
1:17 am
Thu January 31, 2013

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Colin Kaepernick?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws before the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 20.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 5:55 pm

There's always a question surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Years ago, people wondered whether the talented athlete would be good enough to start in college.

Then there was the question of what role he would play in the NFL. And after the 49ers took him, fans questioned whether he could throw enough to be more than a backup.

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Business
3:37 am
Wed January 16, 2013

Who Is The Real Victims Of The NHL Lockout?

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 3:59 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The lockout is over and the much delayed National Hockey League's season is now set to begin on Saturday. The regular season will run 48 games instead of the usual 82.

So what's the economic effect of missing almost half the season? NPR's Mike Pesca finds, not as bad as you might think.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: We've all seen the reports during the lockout, the empty bar near the arena should be brimming with Bruins backers or a Washington Avalanche acolytes. Or maybe it's not a bar. Maybe it's pizza in Pittsburgh.

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Around the Nation
3:39 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Sandy Didn't Sack High School Football Team

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 4:43 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When Sandy brought high winds and a massive storm surge, the city of Long Beach on Long Island was among the hardest hit. The loss of the city's high school locker and equipment rooms may not have been the most tragic event, though it did make it unlikely that the school's football team would finish its season. But this weekend, the Long Beach Marines did manage to field a team. NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

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Sports
2:29 pm
Sun August 12, 2012

Hard Lessons At the Olympics, Like The Metric System

Turkey's Nevin Yanit (from left) United States' Kellie Wells and Russia's Tatyana Dektyareva compete in a women's 100-meter hurdles semifinal. Exactly how many yards is that?
Anja Niedringhaus AP

Originally published on Sun August 12, 2012 2:59 pm

Olympic winners like gold medalist Claressa Shields have said the games were a learning experience, but what were they learning? Hard work? Sure. Sportsmanship? Maybe. The metric system? Certainly not.

U.S. judo competitor Kyle Vashkulat competes at 100 kg, which he knows means he weighs 220 lbs. But does he know height?

"We were in a sauna, and the guy's telling us the height of the boxers, and he's like, 'Yeah, this guy's like, 1.7 meters' — and we're like, 'How tall is that?'" Vashkulat says, laughing.

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The Torch
9:16 am
Fri August 10, 2012

Boxing Maths and Aftermaths: Why Similar Scores Are A Mean System

Shiming Zou of China is declared the winner over Paddy Barnes of Ireland during their men's light flyweight boxing semifinal in London. The match was scored a 15-15 tie; Zou won on the number of punches landed.
Scott Heavey Getty Images

Four years ago, Irish boxer Paddy Barnes lost to China's Zou Shiming by a score of 15-0 in Beijing. Today in London, Barnes fought his way back into their match to tie Zou at 15-15 — but he still lost. Barnes accepted the decision, but the result might confuse anyone who isn't familiar with boxing's scoring system.

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The Torch
10:04 am
Wed August 8, 2012

The Olympic Art Of Shushing: Who Decides When Fans Can Be Noisy?

Fans make some noise as they watch Olympic women's beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade in London. There seems to be little consistency in which sports require quiet from spectators.
Julian Finney Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 12:25 pm

There seems to be a vague logic that dictates which Olympic sports are conducted against a backdrop of noise, and which operate in a cone of silence.

For the most part, the more a sport depends on a fine motor skill, the quieter the spectators are meant to be. Shooters squeeze triggers before mostly hushed crowds. But in many shooting disciplines, the competitors line up in a group and can shoot at any point during their time allotment. So not only is gunfire ringing in their ears, crowds often become noisy, depending on the results.

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The Torch
7:19 am
Sun August 5, 2012

Britain's Wiggins Starts A Row By Arguing For Bike Helmets

Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain before a road race on Day 1 of the Olympics.
Bryn Lennon Getty Images

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 2:00 pm

On the same day cyclist Bradley Wiggins became Great Britain's most-decorated Olympian, Daniel Harris, a 28-year-old cycling enthusiast, was killed when he was struck by a bus at an intersection outside Olympic Park.

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The Torch
12:20 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Women's Sabre Teams: No Medal For You

Russia's Sofya Velikaya (left) fences against South Korea's Kim Ji Yeon in their sabre gold medal bout Wednesday. Because of a limit on medals, there is no women's team sabre title at the London 2012 Games.
Toshifumi Kitamura AFP/Getty Images

It's hard to find a discipline that Team USA has dominated more than the women's sabre. The team is anchored by two-time medalist Mariel Zagunis. And before Zagunis was upset in the bronze medal match Wednesday, five of the six medals that had been awarded since 2004 went to Americans.

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The Torch
8:24 am
Wed August 1, 2012

Badminton's 'Detrimental' Conduct Rule, And Losing On Purpose

The Badminton Eight: That's the media's new nickname for the Olympic athletes disqualified Wednesday in a match-fixing scandal at the London Games. They are, from top left: South Korea's Kim Ha Na, Ha Jung-Eun, Kim Min-Jung and Jung Kyung-Eun. Bottom: Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari, and China's Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 1, 2012 11:08 am

Eight Olympic badminton athletes have been thrown out of the London Games after being charged by the Badminton World Federation with "not using one's best efforts to win a match" — which is against the rules of the sport. Because even some journalists may have forgotten badminton's rules, it seemed time to take a fresh look.

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