For the better part of the last decade, “Bulldog” Bob Fescoe has been entertaining Kansas City sports radio listeners on a daily basis. Having worked for both of the market’s top sports radio stations (610 Sports & 810 WHB), Bob has gained valuable insight into what the Kansas City sports fan cares about and his passion, hard work and commitment to the local community have played a strong role in helping him achieve success with his current show “Fescoe In The Morning“.
On a national level, Talkers Magazine has recognized his program for the past two years as one of the nation’s Top 100 most important sports talk shows. For 2012 and 2013 he was ranked 69th overall and that recognition by fellow sports media professionals further demonstrates how respected his brand has become in the Kansas City market.
I first crossed paths with Bob 8 years ago while programming SportsTalk 950 (now 97.5 The Fanatic) in Philadelphia. I was looking for a morning show at the time and I brought Bob in for an audition opposite former NY Jets QB Ray Lucas. I remember coming away impressed by what he did on the air that day especially considering he and Ray hadn’t met until the day of the show. Unfortunately, the call for the opening wouldn’t come his way as I’d end up leaving Philadelphia for St. Louis and putting the morning show search into the hands of the next Program Director Gregg Henson.
While the situation in Philadelphia didn’t materialize, Bob had gained my respect and attention and once I settled in at my new job in St. Louis and had an opening become available, I made him an offer to come join me at 590 The Fan. Bob accepted and was eager to take on the challenge of doing mornings opposite Tim McKernan but unfortunately all of us were thrust into an impossible situation due to poor company finances and as a result, the whole show would be dismantled in less than a year and leave tension high and everyone involved with the show confused and frustrated.
Despite going through some difficult situations in St. Louis, Bob and I clicked personally and professionally. We even co-hosted a weekly NFL show together which I’m pretty sure he’s since tried to forget about. While working for KFNS, he gained the opportunity of covering the Rams on a regular basis plus he had the chance to host a weekly show with former wide receiver Isaac Bruce.
What stood out to me about Bob during the time I worked with him was how hungry he was for coaching and how receptive he was to feedback. Not every talent in this business is always looking to get better but that wasn’t the case with Bob. That willingness to constantly search for ways to improve is an important trait that I believe all on-air personalities should have.
When you turn on Bob’s show, one thing that’s impossible to ignore is how fired up he can get. He delivers his opinions with authority and sometimes gets so fired up that you’re worried he may just pop a blood vessel or two. While the force in which he presents his points may tick off local players or teams at times, it’s that genuine raw emotion on the air that has earned him the respect and appreciation of his audience throughout the years. Case in point, take a listen to one of Bob’s most memorable rants on the Kansas City Chiefs.
I reached out to Bob recently to get a sense of how he feels he’s grown as a personality throughout the years as well as what he considers some of the most important aspects of creating good radio. I hope you enjoy reading the conversation as much as I enjoyed conducting it.
Q: When did you first start to think about getting into sports radio? What made you want to do it?
A: I first thought about getting into sports broadcasting when I was 8. I was watching John Madden every Sunday and thought that seems like a cool job. It was at 8 when I realized I did not have the skills to play sports so why not talk about them. I never considered “Sports Talk” until about 2001. A job came open in KC as a producer and it eventually morphed into hosting nights. Ever since then I have been talking sports. Play by Play was what I thought I wanted to do in life.
Q: Who have been some of the people who you’ve learned from and would list as influences on your career? How have they helped you in developing as a talent?
A: First and foremost Ryan Maguire. My first PD at KCSP in KC. He was very instrumental in helping me develop further as a host. Constant feedback and involvement helped early on. I still do a lot of the things he talked about today. Jason Barrett was influential as well. It was from him I learned the “Art of Teasing” which is so vital and necessary in the business today. Barrett was also the first PD who actually gave me feedback which was so important in the early days of my career.
Q: Your first big career opportunity came with WHB in Kansas City. How would you summarize that experience?
A: It was fun. The guys at WHB gave me my first real chance when they allowed me to do morning. I am grateful for that chance because it allowed me to blossom and spring board on to the host I am today.
Q: During your first stint in Kansas City, you made national headlines as a result of having your Royals press pass revoked after you pissed off Royals Owner David Glass. How did that experience effect you and how you communicate with teams today?
A: I think the experience with the Royals was great. It made me realize “It’s not what you say but how you say it“. My mom used to say that to me all the time growing up but it took a real world incident to hammer it home. Its also made me realize that this business is all about relationships and without them it makes your job very difficult
Q: After working for WHB, you moved on to KFNS in St. Louis. What did you gain from that experience?
A: It made me realize that it’s not easy moving to a market like St Louis that is very provincial. It was tough. I bounced around from day part to day part and job to job. It made me become a much better broadcaster and stronger person. Without St. Louis I’m not sure I’d be in the position I am in today. I learned so much about putting together a show, how to tease, how to make radio compelling. I never learned any of that before.
Q: After leaving St. Louis, you elected to return to Kansas City and join 610 Sports. What made you decide to return to KC?
A: It was a great opportunity to return to one of the best sports cities in America. If you haven’t been to KC you are missing out on the most passionate fans in America. We have not had the most success on the field but fans live and die with their teams here and the college scene is awesome as well. 3 passionate fan bases with MU, KU and K-State make it a great place to talk sports.
Q: When it comes to the fundamentals of doing sports radio, what do you believe are your biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses?
A: I think my biggest strength is that I know what the fans are talking about. I feel like I have a good feel for the KC fan. I also think that having a fast pace, tons of energy and fun are big strengths. You can’t take yourself too seriously. My biggest weakness would have to be “the bits” that come with a radio show. That could use some work.
Q: When you listen to sports radio shows locally or nationally, what are some things that frustrate you as a listener and cause you to tune out?
A: Droning on and on with a topic. The one thing that our PD John Hanson has stressed is pacing. He is right. Make your point and move on. I also hate hosts who keep a guest for too long. 5-7 minutes is enough. 20 minute interviews do nothing for me. I usually turn on a show to hear the host, not a conversation with a writer. I also can’t stand when hosts don’t re-set. Let us know who you are talking to every few minutes.
Q: What’s your philosophy on guests and what do you hope to accomplish when conducting an interview?
A: I like guests, if they are a big name. I think the days of bringing on beat writer guys to preview a game are done. I also think that short chats are the best. Get the nuts and bolts out of them and move on. Again that is something that John Hanson has stressed and I agree with. I find myself getting mad when I hear guests on too long now.
Q: Being known as someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve during his show, how do you balance being explosive vs. going too far and crossing the line?
A: I think you have to be calculated. You can’t explode a lot or it becomes white noise. But when a fan base is upset and you can sense that, you have to give them what they want. Numerous times I have found myself taking a deep breath because you don’t want to go too far. However at times it’s warranted. I think there have been 2 times where it was really warranted and I let em have it!
Q: When it comes to improving as a personality, what are some things you do to measure your progress?
Q: How important are the ratings to you and what are some things you do to try and maximize your audience?
A: Obviously ratings are important but radio is so much more than just ratings. You have to spend a lot of time on social media these days talking with listeners and interacting. I think it has helped me a ton and I am sure it has with other hosts as well. As we all do, I wish there was a more efficient way of measuring listeners. I think podcast downloads and streaming numbers are vital as well since that is the way the young generation consumes everything. I was talking to a class at the University of Kansas a few years ago and a student said they don’t listen to the show. I said how do you know me then? He said podcasts. A lot of people listen to the show later in the day. Most people use their phones to stream. All those avenues are coming on fast and we need to embrace them.
Q: As you look at the sports radio industry, what do you believe has been the biggest change over the past 10-20 years?
A: The internet. Listening habits have changed. In a way, it is kind of on demand radio. People can consume your product 24/7. Interaction with listeners has changed so much with social media. IF you are a host and not on twitter you should just quit.
Q: In assessing your own work, what would you list as the biggest accomplishments of your career and what do you still hope to achieve in the future?
A: I think my biggest accomplishment was taking over my competition. We have worked hard to put a good product out. When we became the top sports morning show that was huge. But its not enough. We have to find a way to maintain that consistently.
Q: To those who are thinking about entering the sports radio business today, what one piece of advice would you like to pass along to them?
A: Be ready to work hard. Then work harder. IF you are not willing to put in the time then don’t bother.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Nick Wilson: Deshaun Watson Press Conference ‘Insulting’ To Local Media
“You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters get to say, ask, or think.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson met with the media for the first time yesterday since being reinstated by the NFL after the league ruled he was guilty of violating the Personal Conduct Policy due to improper sexual advances towards more than two dozen massage therapists. 92.3 The Fan afternoon host Nick Wilson called Watson’s press conference “trash” and “insulting” to local media.
Watson told reporters he would only answer football related questions from the assembled media members, which Wilson took issue with.
“You can’t bury this story simply by saying ‘I won’t talk about it’,” Wilson said. “It is insulting to the media who covers this team. This is not about Nick Wilson, I promise. This is about the beat reporters who cover this team. It is insulting — intentionally or not — to say ‘You know what, guys? I love y’all, but I’m going to dictate what you ask me’.
“You don’t do that. You dictate when you speak, your opening statement, or how you respond. You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters — who work very hard day in, day out covering this organization, covering Deshaun Watson, covering this town — get to say, ask, or think. That was trash.”
Co-host Dustin Fox added the whole job of the media is to bring information to fans, and Watson wouldn’t allow reporters to do that Thursday, and may never do that.
Gregg Giannotti: Biggest Issue With Craig Carton, Jon Jastremski Feud Is “Mole” At WFAN
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems.”
A feud has sprung up between WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton and former WFAN host John Jastremski. Boomer & Gio discussed the spat on Friday morning’s show, with Gregg Giannotti being troubled by a revelation.
During his New York New York podcast, a voicemail left for Jastremski asked about Carton’s comments, but the caller said a WFAN employee sent him the clip of Carton’s criticism.
“So that means we have a mole,” Boomer Esiason said.
“That right there is a problem,” Gregg Giannotti added. “‘We both have a mutual friend that still works over there’ and that person shared a link of Craig talking about JJ (Jastremski). So, clearly, that person is on JJ’s side and they’re still working here. That’s a mole! That’s someone going against the team! And I think know who that is!”
Esiason then asked if he knew the person, to which Giannotti said he did. He then asked if he would be upset by who it was, which Giannotti affirmed as well.
The show then played the final portion of Jastremski’s rant, which included him saying to Carton “I’m not listening to a crook. So you know what? Go take a f—ing hike.”
“Jesus!” Esiason exclaimed. “Good for JJ, though. Standing up for himself.”
“I like both of these guys. I do. I got respect for both of them,” said Giannotti. “Everybody doesn’t have to go to the jail, crook thing with Craig every single time. Do they? It’s low-hanging fruit. Everybody goes there. There’s no way he can defend himself in that way because everybody saying ‘You went to jail’ didn’t go to jail, and it’s not apples and oranges. But the business stuff is apples-to-apples.
“So when I hear that, I’m just like ‘Ok, you went there. Be a little more creative than that’. As far as I listen to legend things, please, nobody has given me worse advice in my life than Mike Francesa did. Nobody. I would still be out in the newsroom cutting Islander highlights if I listened to that guy. And the only reason why Mike liked JJ was because he didn’t feel he was a threat. The only people Mike likes is the people he feels non-threatened by. And that’s where that comes from.”
After concluding Jastremski’s rant was a “little over the top”, Giannotti then turned his attention to the “mole” inside the station.
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems. That — to me — is an issue. The guy on the voicemail said ‘We may or may not have a mutual friend that still works at the radio station’ and this guy just slammed the radio station. And he’s friends with the guy who slammed the radio station and then slammed Craig and this guy’s on their side?! And this guy that works here is on their side?! That to me is a major, major problem.”
Dan Dakich: Craig Carton is ‘The Way Talk Radio Should Be’
“If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Craig Carton has prided himself on being one of those hosts who tells it like it is, especially when talking about New York’s pro sports teams.
That willingness to call a spade a spade and levy criticism on teams like the Jets and Giants, especially when things are not going well on the field, is something Dan Dakich has always seen as a recipe for success in the industry.
Interviewing Carton on Thursday on his Outkick show Don’t @ Me, Dakich praised the WFAN afternoon host for essentially creating a blueprint for how sports talk should be done.
“In Indianapolis I’m the bad guy right, because I say look the Colts stink, this regime is 46-49-1 – why are you telling me the GM is the best in the country – why are you telling me Frank Reich can really coach?” Dakich said. “New York’s different, though, right? I mean, New York they expect you to say look if you ain’t any good then you ain’t any good. Yu don’t sugarcoat nothing, and I think that’s the way talk radio should be.”
Carton noted that what’s key in how you critique a team or a front office, executive or owner is finding a balance. He said you can’t as a host be the ultimate homer and blow smoke up everyone’s behind.
“You have to be able to be critical when it’s warranted,” Carton said. “If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Carton pointed out that the fan bases in both New York and in Indianapolis are ultimately the same, because at the end of the day it’s all about making sure you have competent people calling the right shots. He added that the organizations are the same too because of how sensitive they can be to criticism, which he said if they don’t like it, “too bad.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.