If you don’t know my 95.7 The Game coworker, he’s a one-time butcher shop owner who turned notoriety as a sports radio caller into a permanent gig on the air, and his aesthetic is raw passion. He bleeds orange and black and red and gold and blue (and gold again).
What you may not know is how that passion bleeds into an off-air life where he is one of the most generous people I have had the pleasure of knowing, a man who is deeply committed to his city and community.
His most recent action to that end is a Go Fund Me campaign seeking to raise enough to improve sports facilities at San Francisco’s George Washington High School, which he discussed with The Examiner.
What makes you so passionate about a seemingly random high school sports program? I’m a fifth-generation San Franciscan, a product of many different schools — I bounced around — but the one constant in my entire life has been sports and after-school programs. Whether it’s the Parks & Rec system in San Francisco, CYO, high school sports, that’s always been my backdrop. If it wasn’t for after-school programs, sports, family, God knows where I’d be right now, to be totally honest with you.
I don’t actually have a high school diploma; I have a GED. That still kind of haunts me in many ways. It’s one of the biggest insecurities in my life, and it has fueled my passion for a couple things: learning as much as I possibly can on my own, and coaching.
I want to keep other young men and women from repeating the same stupid mistakes that I made, and help them realize that you can use sports as an outlet to not only do really good things for your own life, but for others as well.
How did you get your start as a coach? I’ve coached baseball and basketball for over a decade. I started way back when, coaching my brother’s teams and my sister’s teams. About 11 or 12 years ago I had a nephew who was in school, and they were looking for a coach, and I kind of backed into it.
Looking back, I can honestly say it changed my life, because it made me look at everything in a different light. How young people are shaped and who is influencing them really does matter. I saw so many people, whether in my own experiences or watching from afar, doing it the wrong way or for the wrong reasons.
Do you see a natural connection between coaching and this sort of charitable effort? I’ve always said to myself if I ever get a platform or a voice, I have to use it for good.
Everybody wants to complain about how bad society is, or how dirty the street is in their neighborhood — well, grab a broom. If you love your neighborhood, what are you actually going to do to make a change? Sitting around complaining doesn’t get things done.
When you’re charitable in your own community, it’s self-serving in a good way. This is the next generation of people, and you want to put them on the right path. If it wasn’t for the coaches and other good influences in my life, going back 25 or 30 years, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
What led you to Washington High School specifically? My friend Dave Mertz reached out to me. His son is an incoming freshman there, and he just wanted me to come talk to the team.
He warned me in advance about the facilities — ‘If you’ve ever seen the movie Wildcats, it’s pretty much just like that. Graffiti everywhere, no equipment.’ I figured he was exaggerating, but when I got there, I realized he might have undersold it.
This could be a crown jewel — it’s sitting with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge — but you have kids who are ashamed to play sports because of how raggedy the facility is. I couldn’t believe how substandard everything was. I swear to you, it literally looks like 850 Bryant or San Bruno Jail.
I feel like there are moments where God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you need to do something here.” I talked to the coach about what one thing could have the greatest impact, and he told me about the lockers.
A bunch of the boys can’t even fit their backpacks in the lockers. They have no room for their pads. I started thinking back on my sporting life, and we had beautiful facilities. I took all that stuff for granted, but now the city and county have cut a lot of the funds that paid for it. I just want to do everything I can to drive up awareness and try to get as much money as possible for them, so I put up the Go Fund Me page.
Were you aware of the mural controversy? I started the fundraiser without knowing about the mural situation, but once I learned the details, I was even more awestruck by how backwards everything is.
Everyone is losing their minds over a mural, and they’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to block it or paint over it. I don’t want to debate the politics of it, but we are in an era when teachers can barely afford to live in the city, when the kids in their own sports programs have no adequate equipment. It just doesn’t add up to me.
There are so many benefits for kids who participate in sports and after-school programs — the teamwork, all the life lessons, they’re more likely to graduate, more likely to be contributing members of society.
I just want to do this for these kids and for future generations of kids. It’s not just going to serve a small niche, this can help a lot of people and put them on a positive path for our community.
Have you considered making this something more permanent? Perhaps a non-profit that raises money for school sports facilities? I have, I just don’t know exactly how to go about it. I would love to put together something that could deal with issues like this. Washington High School is not unique. Balboa, Galileo, Lincoln and — I guarantee you — other nooks and crannies of the Bay Area have similar issues.
I love my city, and I want to see this done for these kids. I would love for this to turn into something more, but right now I just want to follow through on this one. Then we can tackle all the other ones.
We’re barely scratching the surface, and I would love to coordinate with anyone and everyone who has a better fundamental understanding of how non-profits work.
You heard him, folks — if you have the non-profit expertise to help enrich some lives, give Joe Shasky a shout. He’ll bring the passion.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives in Berkeley with his wife, son and an aging Shih-Tzu/Schnauzer mix. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 2p-6p every weekday evening alongside Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.