On March 12th, 2014, Michael Landsberg spoke at the annual Sports Industry Conference, hosted by UTSB. This is a semi-recap of his keynote. A review of the panels can be found here.
Love him or hate him, Michael Landsberg is one of the most well-known sports broadcasters on Canadian television. Captivating audiences for 17 years, his show, Off the Record, has become the longest-running sports talk show in Canada.
However, it wasn’t an easy road. Born and raised in Toronto to a Jewish family, Landsberg felt an immense amount of pressure to go the same route that the rest of his family did: to become a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant, even though none of those things spoke to him. The pressure wasn’t directly from his family, though. Instead, it was really pressure that he put on himself – he didn’t know anything else, and it was what everyone else was doing.
Landsberg first attended the University of Toronto in 1977, but you won’t see him on any alumni lists. In his third year, while parking his mother’s power blue Mustang before an exam, he came to a realization that what he was about to do was insane. “I’m going to fail this exam, so why should I go inside to get told by someone that I’m a failure?”
It was at that moment when Landsberg made the decision to join UofT radio. Without much of a choice, Landsberg decided to chase his impossible dream of becoming a sports broadcaster.
It’s always a profound moment when you first do something that you love. In Landsberg’s case, it was the simple action of pressing a button.
The red light turned on. And he spoke. An exhilarating feeling that he’d never felt before crashed across his body. He wanted more.
With that, his impossible dream became possible. The next day, he applied to Ryerson’s Radio and Television program and was accepted.
When you’re passionate about something, you never feel like it’s work. You do it because you love it, not because you feel like you have to. Landsberg had bundles of passion waiting to explode, and turned it into a very successful career.
When Michael Landsberg first shared his depression, it wasn’t just so that people would know about it; it was so that he could help others who were suffering from the same thing that he was going through.
But by all rights, just admitting that you are sick doesn’t mean the world stops. While it may mean the world to you, to the rest of the world, your illness may just be trivia. That’s why Landsberg made it his mission to let people know that mental health awareness was a legitimate concern.
He doesn’t want you to call him brave for speaking about his experiences, though. For him, it’s the easiest thing to do. He knows that by speaking, he can change lives – even if only one life is changed for the better.
Depression is a serious illness that millions of people around the world suffer from, and yet there is still a stigma that is glued onto it.It’s a mental illness rather than a physical one. It’s rare that you’d ever get someone so blatantly open about it that it’s as obvious as most physical illnesses.
But depression doesn’t necessarily equate to being suicidal. Instead, it’s an illness where you just don’t want to be anything, when you feel a general lifelessness. And some people are incredibly good at hiding this and putting on a “mask.”
Michael Landsberg is a great example of this. Great entertainers can do this – Freddie Mercury, one of the greatest frontmen in rock history, was known to be quiet and reserved when he was off the stage. But it delves deeper than this. It’s not just on stage when Landsberg had to put on this mask, but for most of his days too. Nobody notices that you’re sick, and nobody will unless you tell them. On these days, Landsberg didn’t want to be social, and only kept his thoughts to himself.
But he put on the mask and trucked on.
For someone without mental illnesses, it’s difficult to understand what a person suffering from depression is going through. They’re two completely different worlds, and though a “healthy” mind might not be all rainbows and butterflies, it is a radically different universe than the one that someone suffering from depression is living in. Some people without depression may just speak from their perspective: they may tell their friend to “get out of bed” or “go outside,” but it’s really not that simple for someone with depression. As Landsberg says, “It makes just as much sense as telling someone with pneumonia to get out of bed or go outside.”
Landsberg has wise words for people suffering from mental illnesses: “Educate yourself about your illness, because knowledge is power… You need to accept that it’s not a weakness, it’s an illness.”
To help Landsberg’s cause, use the hashtag #sicknotweak.