When the regular traffic reporter at The Ticket went on maternity leave in 2016, Crystal Vasquez was tabbed to fill in for a few months during the afternoon drive-time show, The Hardline.
She still remembers vividly the first day she walked into the studio and sat across from Mike Rhyner, the patriarch of Dallas sports talk radio, who had amassed legions of devoted listeners over almost a quarter century and was known for his somewhat testy on-air persona.
“The first time I met him, he was staring at me. There was kind of a stone-cold personality he portrayed. He was quite intimidating, so I observed him from afar,” Vasquez said of Rhyner. “But I felt there was a lot that hadn’t been told. There was something more that he wasn’t sharing.”
That thought remained with Vasquez until last summer, when she summoned the courage to email him about a documentary on his life and career.
To her surprise, Rhyner was receptive to the idea. So in March, she started filming The Old Grey Wolf, a title derived from Rhyner’s nickname from his “P1” followers.
After all, Rhyner had more free time on his hands since his abrupt retirement in January, so it became easier to arrange some extended interviews discussing his extensive radio career, his leap of faith in co-founding The Ticket, his affinity for music, and his legacy.
“Mike was a little skeptical at first, until he saw the pieces of it coming together,” Vasquez said. “We kind of built this camaraderie. He’s been really enthusiastic about it.”
Rhyner also opened up about Dallas history, such as living through the JFK assassination and school desegregation — Rhyner graduated from Kimball High School and didn’t have a single Black classmate — and how he was enamored by the rise of FM radio.
The film will include interviews with several longtime sports media personalities in Dallas, such as Dale Hansen and Randy Galloway, along with some Ticket colleagues. Vasquez also talked with Ken Rundel, who first hired Rhyner at KZEW-FM in the late 1970s.
“It’s not a documentary on the Ticket,” Vasquez said. “That’s his identity to a certain extent, but it’s a story about Mike’s life.”
Vasquez attended the University of North Texas and worked as a sports reporter for Fox 4 News among other gigs. She expects to finish editing the hourlong documentary later this summer.
“I’ve always wanted to make a documentary. TV news limits what you can do. It’s hard to tell a story in 60 seconds,” she said. “It’s been fulfilling and challenging.”