The TV spots are a mere 60 seconds in length.
But, Peter D. Michael, AKA MSG Guy, is easily recognizable.
Take the Brooklyn Bridge away, and substitute Third or Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, the neighborhood that Michael – the star of the sports network’s 50 Greatest Days — has called home for the past six years, and he still stands out, with his macho manner, a bit of a swagger that is classic New York, classic Brooklyn, even if he hails, originally, from Ohio.
If Ridgites see him strolling along a neighborhood thoroughfare, on his way to the gym or to chow down on his favorite Middle Eastern fare, no wonder if they recognize him even if, as Michael says, he’s not as big or tall as he seems on TV, when the spots air during commercial breaks on MSG or MSG Plus.
“There’s not a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t come up to me – in the subway, in the gym, at a diner or on the street — and recognize me or comment on the MSG spots,” Michael confesses. “It really takes me by surprise. It’s overwhelming, and I’m so appreciative. It’s nice to know that people in the neighborhood are proud that I live in Bay Ridge. They feel, ‘This guy’s one of us.’ It’s nice to be accepted like that.”
A sportscaster in his earliest working days, and an actor and comedian for the past 15 years, the 43-year-old Michael was a natural for the MSG gig, which focuses on headline moments in local sports, from Joe Namath’s starring role in Super Bowl III toMike Tyson’s stirring defeat of Michael Spinks in just 91 seconds.
And, the same persona that has brought him renown and recognition, also brought him an Emmy in 2009, for on-camera talent, a triumph that is not lost on Michael.
“I wasn’t expecting to get the nomination,” he said, so when he got a call from someone at MSG with the news, “I thought he was joking. Just to be nominated for an Emmy was quite an honor. When I went and won, it was an overwhelming experience, really.
“I’m looking at it right now,” Michael continued. “It’s on my TV. She’s a great woman. She’s here every night when I come home. She never talks back, and she never asks any questions either.”
Michael snagged the role of MSG Guy by breaking away from the playbook, or, rather, by refashioning it in his own image. When given a script to ready for an audition, he rewrote it, Michael said. “I always want to stand out,” he told this paper. “I didn’t want to say what everyone else was going to be saying.”
And, he didn’t want to be seen with script in hand, like everyone else, either, so he memorized what he had written, Michael recounted. As things turned out, he flubbed the first take but asked for a second go. That time, he said, “I basically just hit it out of the park. I did it again, and I hit it out of the park again. I walked outside and called my agent and said I would be very surprised if I don’t hear back from them.”
He did. “By the time I got back to Bay Ridge, there was already a voice mail saying I was on first refusal, which meant it was between me and one or two other guys,” Michael went on. It took a week for the suspense to end, but, then, Michael learned he had snagged the role, and he didn’t look back.
Michael landed in Bay Ridge through serendipity. He had just lost an apartment in Manhattan, he recalled, when he learned that, “A buddy’s friend was selling his apartment here, so I came and looked at it. I’m very impulsive, and I made an executive decision to buy it.”
His instincts were right on target. Michael said he loves his Shore Road digs. “I love being across from the park. I love the view of the water.” He also enjoys watching cruise ships sail along the Narrows, in part because the sight brings back memories of the 10 years he spent as a comedian on cruise ships, Michael remarked.
The neighborhood, as a whole, enthralls him, Michael admitted, with its vast array of eateries. “I love the diversity of Bay Ridge,” he noted.
He also loves the neighborhood’s diners. “I’m a big diner guy,” he confessed. “I love being in a diner, having breakfast, drinking coffee and reading the paper. That’s a great thing about Bay Ridge. There are so many diners available.”
All of this adds up to a neighborhood that’s just itching to take a starring role on TV, in Michael’s opinion. While Bay Ridge has been on the entertainment map since John Travolta boogied to immortality at 2001 Odyssey in Saturday Night Fever, if Michael has his way, it will have a new claim to fame.
He told this paper that he had shot a situation comedy pilot called Meet Pete in the neighborhood, at two local apartments and at a now-shuttered watering hole on Third Avenue called the Level Café.
He and his partners, Michael recalled, had originally planned to shoot the pilot for the show in Manhattan, but shifted across the East River to Bay Ridge for the comedy about Internet dating, for “a different New York setting.” They are now “shopping” the pilot, Michael said.
So, just maybe, Michael’s famous New York Minute will give way, someday soon, to a Bay Ridge half-hour.