LMQC welcomes guest blogger, Bill Michaels, veteran radio personality best known for the “Dwyer and Michaels” show on 97X. In addition to his popular radio presence, Bill and his family are avid water skiers with the QC’s Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show Team, as well as advocates for education regarding scoliosis, a spinal condition that has affected his family. We asked Bill to not only talk about his family’s love for skiing, but their passion to support and educate others about scoliosis. 2019 has also been a particularly trying year with a late-season start after flooding on the Rock River.
Waterskiing is Why We Move
By Bill Michaels
I started skiing as a kid during summer vacations in northern Wisconsin. The same family friend who taught me also taught my kids to ski using the exact same 17 foot 1972 Larson boat!
We’ve been skiing with the Backwater Gamblers for 7 seasons. It’s been fun watching my kids embrace the sport and surpass me (by a LOT).
All three of my kids (Mallory, 20; Megan, 19; and Zachary, 15) can barefoot. We’ve been working together building higher and higher pyramids and my ultimate dream is to build a pyramid with me and all three of my kids skiing on it. My son Zach is currently working on the fundamentals that leads to pyramids but he’s making great strides! We have also been skiing with more pyramids at once by building five of them on the dock, and then the boat pulls us all into the water!
The flood(s) this season have had a major impact on BWG. We lost probably 30% of our season and had three post-flood site clean-ups. That meant NO pre-season practice on the water. Our first show this year was the first time a lot of us had been on skis since the end of last season.
In a way, it forced us to pull together as a team because we had exactly 19 days from that first show until we were scheduled to compete in the MidWest Regional tournament. With such a minuscule amount of time to get ready, we went into the tournament not knowing how we’d perform. I guess we may have had low expectations but we certainly had no pressure either. It lead to the ballet line coming in first and a second place team finish overall.
With my daughters being in college, they’ve had to divide their time between skiing and studying. The flood helped a little in that regard but ultimately my oldest daughter, Mallory, had to focus on her classes and ended up skipping the regional tournament. After that, she was driving back and forth from Iowa City to the QC for practice and shows so that she’d be ready for Nationals.
Waterskiing Health Benefits
I hadn’t given much thought to the health benefits until about 5 years ago. It was in March when I went for my annual physical that my doctor noticed some of the numbers from my blood work were “elevated.” He told me it wasn’t anything to be too concerned about, but he wanted to keep an eye on things and scheduled me for a follow up visit later in the summer.
I should point out that my eating habits could only be considered “atrocious” or “awful” at best.
Honestly, I eat like a 10-year-old kid. Fast food, potato chips, fried food, Spaghetti O’s, mac n cheese…those are building blocks of my daily food pyramid!
So, it really wasn’t a surprise that my blood pressure reading, cholesterol and sugar levels would be “elevated.”
At that 6-month appointment he commented that all my numbers were right back in the “optimal” range and asked if I’d been working out or running. Nope…I drive past a gym on my way to work, but that’s about it. He added that these readings don’t just fall for any reason so I must be doing SOMETHING. Then I told him about our schedule with the ski team. That was the explanation!
Daughters’ Spine Surgeries
It’s a special thrill to ski with my daughters now because both of them were diagnosed with severe cases of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) requiring spinal fusion surgery. It’s about 6-7-hour surgery with a highly restrictive 6-month recovery–no bending, stretching, running or lifting. Our initial fear was paralysis potentially resulting from the surgery.
But the overwhelming concern was “Will they be able to lead normal physically active lives?” What we learned was that if they followed the prescribed recovery program, there would be no reason to think they could resume all their favorite activities.
Our surgeon was hesitant to endorse participation in any type of high-risk physical activity. But secretly, I think he likes using our two daughters’ recoveries as illustrations to current patients of the potential that exists after spinal fusion surgery. Risky activity or not, his advice was “live your life, but use your head.”
The Backwater Gamblers has been a Quad City tradition for 35 years and we’re happy to be a part of the team. While physically different from my job on 97X, water skiing and radio ultimately are performance-based forms of entertainment. And, both are free!
Days Begin at 4:30 A.M.
I grew up north of Chicago and came to the QC in 1990 following a short run in Peoria. This year, my morning radio show with Greg Dwyer will mark 25 years on the air in the Quad Cities.
My day begins at about 4:30 in the morning and I’m usually back home by noon. That gives me a few hours to set up the next day’s show, transition to dad/husband mode and finally, round up the family to head down to the Rock River to practice with the Backwater Gamblers. Then, it’s pretty much rinse, lather, repeat. In my spare time, I enjoy trying to find some spare time so I can slow down and do nothing!
Both Dwyer and I are grateful for the chance to enjoy our careers and raise our families in the Quad Cities. It’s a GREAT place to call home!
Editor’s Note: Bill’s daughter, Mallory, wrote a book about her experiences with scoliosis called, “Magnificent Mallory: Scoliosis Survivor.” Mallory wanted to help and inspire others by sharing her own scoliosis journey. Proceeds from the book benefit the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.