Despite there being four major sports teams in this city, Philadelphia sports talk radio seems obsessed with the Eagles and that’s about it.
The NFL is king. There is no denying that. Football is the number one sport in America by a long shot. It surpassed baseball as America’s pasttime years ago. And in Philadelphia, the Eagles rule the town. Not many people will even try to debate that. The majority of sports fans in Philadelphia would rank the Eagles as their number one team out of the four major sports franchises in the city.
This hasn’t always been the case. When I first started following sports in the late 70’s, Philadelphia was more of a Phillies town. They had made the playoffs in 1976, 1977 and 1978 while the Eagles were struggling under new coach Dick Vermeil. They finally broke through in 1978 and made the playoffs as a wildcard team, but Philadelphia was still more of a baseball town then. Even as late as the early 90’s, there was some debate as to whether Philadelphia was more of a baseball or football town.
When I was listening to one of Jody McDonald‘s first shows after his arrival in Philadelphia, he posed that question to his listeners. Was Philadelphia more of a Phillies or Eagles town? The Eagles wound up coming out on top but the vote was pretty close. One could make the case that when the Phillies had their run of success from 2007 to 2011, the Phillies had surpassed the Eagles as the number one team in Philadelphia but you couldn’t say definitively that the Phillies were number one. On more than one occasion, an Eagles regular season game would get better ratings than a Phillies playoff game.
So it’s understandable that when you turn on one of the two Philadelphia Sports Talk radio stations in this town, the talk will center around the Eagles most of the time. But it has gotten to the point now that it is insufferable. When you look at the landscape of the Philadelphia sports scene right now, most of the “four for four” people (fans who follow all four of the major teams in Philadelphia) would agree that when it comes to the long-term futures of the four teams and which of the four is on the best path towards winning a championship, the Eagles would be fourth on the list. Even some of the staunchest of Eagle fans would agree that the Eagles long-term prognosis isn’t as good as the other three teams in this city.
The Flyers made the playoffs this year and are loaded with young talent in their system. The Phillies are the surprise team in baseball right now. They just won their fifth straight game on Saturday night and sit at five games above .500. Baseball America just ranked the Phillies minor league system fifth in all of baseball. The Sixers are coming off a 10-72 season but, when you look at some of the pieces they already have in place in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel as well as Dario Saric coming over from Europe and hopefully a healthy Joel Embiid in addition to three first-round picks in next year’s draft, Sixers fans can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is good reason to be excited about the Sixers future.
Things aren’t all gloom and doom for the Eagles. They just drafted what hopefully will be their quarterback of the future in Carson Wentz, they rid themselves of some bad contracts in DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso and they made what look like to be some good signings to help their offensive line.
Even with all of that being said, the Eagles are still the furthest away from winning a championship out of the four teams in this town. Even though there is reason for optimism with the drafting of Wentz, the Eagles have only just begun the rebuilding process where as the other three teams in this city are further along in that process. If in fact rebuilding is what their plan is. They re-signed quarterback Sam Bradford in the off-season and also signed backup Chase Daniels to an expensive contract. So that gave the fans the indication that the Eagles were in a “win now” mode. Coach Doug Pederson even came out and said he isn’t interested in a rebuild, he wants to win now. But then the Eagles turn around and mortgage their future by making a trade with the Cleveland Browns to obtain the second overall pick in the draft in order to draft Carson Wentz.
So are the Eagles trying to win now or are they rebuilding? There is a lot of debate in this town right now as to whether the Eagles were right to give up what they did in order to obtain Wentz. Did the Eagles give up too much to draft a QB who only played division 1AA football? Or did the Eagles do the right thing in getting their QB of the future? Those who say that they did will tell you that since the quarterback is the most important position on the football field, the Eagles were right to give up what they did to get Wentz. Even if Wentz winds up being the right move, it by no means guarantees the Eagles a Super Bowl. The Eagles have a lot of holes to fill before they can be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And this is what leads me to the larger problem when it comes to the Eagles and why more and more people are growing tired of sports talk radio in this town.
A lot of people in this city have become fed up with the Eagles. They are fed up with Jeffery Lurie being a weak owner. They don’t trust Howie Roseman as a talent evaluator. They are tired of pouring their hard-earned money and their precious time into a team that doesn’t seem to have any sense of direction or any type of long-term plan in place. Me, my Dad, my brother and my cousin are to the point where even though the Eagles are still our favorite pro football team, we have decided we aren’t dedicating our precious time into following them. I have been a fanatical sports fan for 38 years now (has it been that long?) Never in all of my years of following sports have I seen a team hire a GM, fire him, and then hire that same GM back for another tenure. You would never see a solid, stable organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots or Green Bay Packers pull such a stunt. Well run organizations don’t do such things.
Yet if you were to turn on one of the two sports talk radio stations in this town, you would think that the Eagles truly were the “Gold Standard” of the NFL. One of the first things you hear whenever you turn on one of the two stations is “I’d like to talk about the upcoming Eagles draft.” My blood started to boil just writing those words. I don’t get why people in this city want to talk about a sports team that is so poorly run and who’s future is so bleak. The hosts of the shows will try to lecture you about how ratings rule and if the majority of the people want to talk about the Eagles, that is what they are going to talk about. That may be the case, but the hosts of these shows go a long way towards dictating what is talked about.
Whenever a host first comes on the air, he usually has around a ten minute monologue to open their show. He usually touches on recent events in sports and will bring up subjects that are of interest to him. More times than not, the majority of the people calling that show will want to talk about things that the host brought up in his monologue. So the hosts do play a role in what is talked about on their show. And 99.99% of the time, the host talks mostly about the Eagles in his monologue.
I turned on the radio not that long ago after a Flyers game had just ended. Joe DeCamara, who came on after the game ended, barely even mentioned the fact that the Flyers had just completed a game. He went right into talking about the Eagles, even though the Eagles were in their offseason and the Flyers were in the thick of theirs and were fighting for a playoff spot, all he wanted to talk about was the Eagles. It was infuriating. Why do we have to talk about the Eagles 24/7??? Especially when you look at the state of the Eagles as compared to the other three teams in this city. Even if the Eagles long-term prognosis was at least somewhat comparable to the other three teams in this city, then it would be understandable that the majority of the people would want to talk about them. Like I said to open this piece, Football in America is King and the Eagles have ruled this city for the better part of forty years. But when you look at the other three teams in this city and compare that to the Eagles who don’t have the pieces in place like the other three teams do, why do we want to talk about them so incessantly?
My theory is that the two stations that proclaim to be sports talk radio shows aren’t really sports talk shows but just talk shows. WIP has not just one but two Howard Stern imitators in Josh Innes and Angelo Cataldi. Cataldi was the biggest prude on the planet when he first started on the morning show. But then the station hired a new producer who actually used to work on the Stern show and all of a sudden Cataldi was constantly having women on his show and was fawning all over them. Innes just tries to be as loud and as obnoxious as possible in the same vein as Stern.
Neither station is for the hardcore sports fan anymore. It’s meant to appeal to the broadest audience possible. If you tune in to the majority of the shows on either station, you have just as good a chance of hearing people talking about the grammy awards or the latest Game of Thrones episode as you do hearing them talking about the Phillies six-game winning streak. It’s why more and more of the hardcore sports fans can’t listen anymore and it’s why more and more people who aren’t sports fans but are just looking to be entertained are being drawn to these shows. These people don’t really care that the Phillies have won six straight games or that the Sixers have three first-round picks in this year’s NBA Draft. They don’t want to talk sports, they want to talk about what is “in” or “trending”. The Eagles are what’s in right now so that is what the masses want to talk about. It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of as to why the Eagles are talked about as much as they are because if you are a true “four for four” Philadelphia sports fan, the Eagles should be at the bottom of your list of teams in this city that you want to talk about.
Philadelphia is the most passionate sports city in America with the most passionate fans. When something goes wrong with one of our sports teams, we very badly need to vent about it. It’s why sports talk radio works so well in Philadelphia. But these stations better wake up to the fact that the silent majority is getting fed up with them and their obsession with the Eagles. People who listen to sports talk radio represent a small percentage of the Philadelphia fan base. And the people who call these shows represent a very small percentage of the people who listen to sports talk radio. And when I listen to the majority of callers, it’s hard to not come to the conclusion that most of them are unemployed and not very well-educated. The things that come out of their mouths makes one want to start pounding the steering wheel in frustration. These people don’t represent the true pulse of the Philadelphia sports fan. Yet I’m starting to think that the people who run these stations think that they do.
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They are sadly mistaken if they think that is the case. The subject of Philadelphia sports talk radio has been coming up more and more with my family and friends and with people on social media. To a man and woman, not one person I talked to had one positive thing to say about it. I didn’t hear one person say that yes, they enjoyed listening to sports talk radio. When I posted on Facebook that I would be writing about this subject here are some of the responses I got:
- “What a sad state it is. There are only three or four hosts I can listen to.”
- “Most of it is listening to chalkboard scratches. It’s the dive bar stool sports expert writ large.”
- “They need guest speakers every day. Regular philly sports fans live on the radio.”
- “Haven’t listened to one word of Philadelphia sports talk radio in three years. Don’t miss it at all.”
- “It should be a long ass article. Go ahead and tell people how the majority of us fans feel. So tired of it. Can’t begin to tell you.”
- “I had to listen to a Toronto radio station to get some input on the Flyers playoff game because all of the local stations were talking Eagles.”
As you can see, more and more people are being driven away from the Philadelphia sports talk radio scene. 97.5 was supposed to be an alternative to WIP but they have gone down that same road, constantly talking Eagles 24/7. Personally, there are only a handful of hosts I enjoy listening to. I enjoy listening to Jody McDonald because on top of the fact that he is probably the most knowledgeable sports host in this city, he always opens up his show giving the listener a variety of topics to talk about, “We can talk Flyers hockey, Eagles, Phillies, just give me a buzz, bell or tinkle.” He also doesn’t have an over the top obnoxious personality like a Josh Innes. Jody is a down to earth, blue collar type of guy who you can feel comfortable talking sports with. I also enjoy listening to Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow on Saturday afternoons because again they talk about a variety of topics and are regular down to earth guys. That’s about it. Everyone else I can only listen to for about five minutes before having to turn them off. When I listen to any sports talk radio show in any other city other than Philadelphia, they talk about all the teams in their city, not just one.
Philadelphia is great sports city. It deserves better than what Philadelphia sports talk radio is giving them.