For someone so used to saying hello, it’s not easy saying goodbye.
Mike Lynch, the gracious and good-humored Channel 5 sports anchor known as “Lynchie’’ to just about anyone familiar with the Boston sports scene over the last thirty-something years, will anchor his final sportscast on the 11 p.m. news Thursday before transitioning into a correspondent role.
Lynch and the station announced the move in May. But now that the day is here, it’s not easy to follow through.
“I would say starting last week there was a lot of anxiety and mixed emotions,’’ said Lynch. “Sadness. Anticipation. When you’re heading down a road you’ve never been down before, you don’t know what to expect.
“I thought I’d be better with it. I thought that this would be the right time. But I still feel energized and engaged every day in my job, and that’s going to be hard to flip the switch. This isn’t going to be a gradual transition. It’s going to be sudden.
“When I walk out the door at 11:45, like Mary Tyler Moore, shut the lights off and that’s it.”
Lynch, a 16-time Massachusetts Sportscaster of the Year, will still have something of an emeritus role at the station. A star athlete at Swampscott High who went on to play football and baseball at Harvard, he has championed high school athletes on his sportscasts since becoming the lead anchor in 1985. (He joined the station in ’82.)
He will continue his popular “High 5” high school sports segments, the “High 5: Salute to Thanksgiving Heroes’’ on the football-filled holiday, and also will have special assignments and contribute to major event coverage.
But it won’t be the same as anchoring five nights a week, and he knows it. Lynch never comes close to suggesting the decision was out of his hands. But there’s also room to wonder whether there would be a need for salutations or a sendoff if it were entirely up to him.
“I chose to do this,” he said. “My contract is up Friday and I thought that I could scale back. And they’re going to let me do as much as I want.
“But I’m going to miss . . . I was just sitting there in the office Tuesday night, I was thinking, ‘Damn, I’m going to miss this.’
“Just interacting with the news people. When [the Indians’ Francisco] Lindor hit the tying double in the Red Sox game, you could hear this collective groan from all the news people. They’re all tuned into the Red Sox game. I thought, ‘I’m going to miss this.’ ’’
He laughed and added, “I’m going to be sitting there Monday groaning to myself.”
Lynch turns 66 in September, but he doesn’t look much different than he did in those memorable “We Like Mike” promos Channel 5 ran in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
And his energy and enthusiasm never waned. He’s not a back-in-my-day lamenter, longing for the heyday of local news when Bob Lobel was at Channel 4, John Dennis at Channel 7, and they all got eight or nine minutes per night (sometimes with a commercial break) for the sportscast.
Those were heady times, sure. But for Lynch, they’ve always been good times.
“That was fun when there were three stations in town and it was a nightly competition, and a good friendly competition, but we wanted to outdo each other every single night,’’ he said. “But I got as much enjoyment out of covering the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run this year as I did, you know, the Celtics’ playoff run in ’84.
“There’s a lot more of us now. The pie is cut into 25 pieces instead of three pieces, for the TV people anyway. That’s a good thing, I think. More jobs for people, more opportunities for young kids. That’s a good thing. More at-bats for everyone.
“But the gist of the job stayed the same. There’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline, when a Stanley Cup game ends at 10:55 and, bang, throw your earpiece in and get on camera for the top of the 11 o’clock news.
“I love that. I thrived on that pressure. It drove me, it fueled me, and I think I’m going to miss that.”
Viewers have made it clear in abundance that they will miss him.
When the announcement came in May, this email and Twitter address was inundated with Boston fans sharing an anecdote of an interaction with Lynchie, often one in which he went out of his way to be kind or thoughtful. Many have been telling him in person.
“I almost feel like I’ve been attending my own wake and funeral,’’ he said with a chuckle. “It’s weird. Every place I go, people have been so nice. The ushers and concessionaires and security people at the Garden and Fenway and all the people I run into.
“I’m blown away. I really just had no idea that many people cared.”
Lynch’s legacy beyond the he’s-one-of-us approachability is probably those “High 5” segments. His father, Dick Lynch, was a legendary coach at Swampscott High, and Mike’s passion for sports began at a young age.
“I was exposed to it from when I was probably 5 years old as a water boy and ball boy,’’ he said. “Then when I first started at Channel 5, I would do a lot of rotary club luncheons and speaking engagements, and in the Q-and-A segment, one of the questions without fail would always be, ‘Why don’t you guys do more on high school sports?’
“That was the standard question always asked, every place I went. So we gave it a shot.”
“High 5” debuted on Sept. 27, 1985 — the day Hurricane Gloria hit Boston.
“When a hurricane comes, sports might as well pack up and go home,’’ said Lynch. “They actually ran it that day and it worked. The phones were ringing off the hook with people from other towns saying, ‘Hey, have we got a great soccer player here in Beverly, come do this.’
“I always saw it as a nice balance to the sportscast. You could lead the sportscast with someone like Kyrie Irving being disgruntled and disrupting the team, and then you end it with some kid who has just come back from a torn ACL and is having a career year and is just happy to be on the team with his buddies and playing.”
Even after covering Boston professional sports for 37 years, Lynch never stopped appreciating the magnitude of the big moments.
“I would stand at arenas, I would stand at the Super Bowl, and I would always say to myself, ‘What a lucky guy I am. Look where I am. There’s tens of thousands of people in New England that would trade jobs with me tomorrow.’
“I mean, I would go to my Harvard reunion and run into classmates that have villas on the Riviera or they’ve written books, they’re brain surgeons, and all they do is gravitate toward me and say, ‘OK, tell me about Bill Belichick, what’s he really like?’ ”
He laughs. “And I’m saying, ‘You’re an investment banker; can you tell me what I should be doing with my 401(k)?’ And they’re like, ‘Forget about that. We want to know about Tom Brady. Is he really a nice guy?’ That just stuns me when that happens.”
Lynch acknowledged he isn’t sure how the adjustment is going to go, only that there is going to be one.
“I don’t have anything planned,” he said. “ I’d like to find something that’s gratifying or fulfilling, but I don’t have that figured out right now. So if anybody has any ideas . . .”