Anthony Gargano walked into the studios at 94 WIP in Philadelphia with the attitude of doing a show to have a little fun and make a few extra bucks. It was the late-90’s and he was a writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer. The thought of making a career in sports radio had never even been a thought. As he walked out of the studio that day, he was stopped by Tom Bigby, who was the program director at WIP during the time. He had a simple question for Gargano. Bigby asked if Gargano wanted to make things permanent and host the mid-day show with Glen Macnow.
The response was quick and to the point. “No,” Gargano said. “‘I’m good. I like writing.”
Before Gargano became the heart and soul of Philadelphia sports radio, he was an accomplished writer that worked in New York and Chicago, before moving back to his hometown of Philly. He loved The Philadelphia Inquirer and saw himself as a writer that traveled the world as a foreign correspondent. Sure, he loved listening to sports radio and enjoyed listening to hosts such as Macnow, Mike Missanelli, Angelo Cataldi and Howard Eskin. But sports radio as a career? It hadn’t even crossed his mind until Bigby offered to double his salary from what he was making as a writer.
Gargano’s cousin told him to seriously consider the offer. Gargano’s girlfriend, now wife, liked the idea of him working in sports radio because he wouldn’t be traveling as much. The editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer told him to stay at the paper, because a Rome Bureau could open up soon. But when Gargano asked if they could put that in writing, they declined. Doubling his salary was too much to pass up. He loved sports, so he took the plunge into sports radio.
“When I tell you never, I never thought about it,” said Gargano about a career in sports radio. “I was a writer.”
One of the first calls Gargano ever took on the air was one of the most memorable in his career. He was already doubting his decision to leave the newspaper, but then a man called in and said, “who are you? You sound like you should be cutting pepperoni on 9th Street”. That’s where the Italian market in Philadelphia is and this was an obvious shot at Gargano’s voice.
“I said, hey man, I’m an accomplished journalist,” Gargano said. “They didn’t care. They didn’t want to hear it.”
Gargano admits he regretted his decision around twenty times in his first year on the job. He even kept telling himself that leaving The Philadelphia Inquirer was a huge mistake. But with reps came confidence. And with confidence came comfortability. Developing a love for sports radio didn’t take long for Gargano. Soon enough, he became his authentic, Philly-loving self on the air. And when that happened, his radio career started to take off.
“Radio is an amazing medium because it’s so warm,” Gargano said. “Television is just you and your camera and co-host, it’s quick, all that. Radio, I’m on for four hours a day. I make real relationships with people. You have callers you know and you have people that spend time with you. They know about you, you know about them, you really get the pulse of people. I love to write. I still write to this day. But nothing beats the warmth of, hey, what’s going on cuz? I hear these people and just smile. It’s not a job. It’s like a calling.”
Gargano is as Philly as they come and wears his sports emotion on his sleeve. Whether it’s been at WIP or his current stop at 97.5 The Fanatic, he’s won over listeners by being real with the audience and always having something to say.
“It’s all about who you are and what you want to say,” said Gargano. “It’s entertainment and you have to be real. There’s a responsibility to make people’s day. Make ‘em smile, man. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about what you know or how smart you are. It’s about making them smile, make them laugh or even make them cry. Just be real with them. They want a companion and I think that’s a pretty cool thing to do.”
The Anthony Gargano Show can be heard from 10am – 2pm every weekday on 97.5 The Fanatic. It’s a good bet he’ll spend the rest of his career in Philly, seeing as he’s become so synonymous with sports talk radio in the city. You can’t help but smile when he yells ‘PLAY THE SONG’ after a big Sixers win and the old school anthem of the 76ers gets played right after the open. It’s brilliant. He deeply cares for the city and the teams that play there. You have to admire someone who accurately shows the heart of the Philadelphia sports fan every day on the air.
“It’s my hometown so it’s a big deal,” Gargano said. “It’s a big radio town. Always has been. I was a big sports radio listener. Philadelphia is family to me, so sometimes I get a little overprotective. I feel like I have to show love for my people. I feel a kinship that I need to represent. I know what the hell they think. It’s in the soil. We’re emotional beings and they care deeply about sports.”
Not only has Gargano been a huge success in Philly, he’s also been a national radio host on Fox Sports Radio for the past 15 years. But don’t expect a different guy when he’s hosting a national show. He’s the same genuine, authentic Philly guy you hear everyday on The Fanatic.
“I love when I talk to people during my show on FOX Sports Radio and they go, man, I love listening and relating to you,” Gargano said. “ I love cultures and one of the reasons I love doing the national show and what I love about traveling is being immersed in culture. It’s so interesting. The connection with the listener is just so big. That’s what provides the warmth.”
Twenty-two years ago, sports radio was just something he enjoyed listening to. He never would have imagined his career would see him as a radio host in his hometown, host at a national level and be so endearing that he’d one day be included in a movie starring Adam Sandler that focused on the Sixers. But he’s accomplished all of that and much more. And he’s done it all by keeping one important thing in mind.
“The one thing you learn is that you can’t do radio and be a phony,” Gargano said. “When you do sports talk radio, you can maybe exaggerate your personality, but you have to be who you are. It’s too much work to not be that way. I want to have a conversation, man. I don’t want to think about what I’m projecting. I want to project what I feel and who I am. I’m going to be inviting and warm and see if it lands.”
*editor’s note: this interview was conducted before Mike Missanelli announced he was leaving 97.5 The Fanatic’s afternoon drive slot
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.