Saturday, September 3, 2011


I remember listening to Howard Eskin in 1983 on talk radio station WWDB-FM in Philadelphia when he did a ground-breaking (for Philly) sports talk show in the early evening. It was riveting radio. Eskin was opinionated, passionate and argumentative. He interviewed sports guests with a combination of child-like awe and reporter zeal.

I also remember when he moved his show to the multi-faceted Philly radio icon WIP-AM in 1986 which had been veering to an all-talk format back then, launching what would eventually become one of the country's first sports talk radio stations.

He did his style of brash, in-your-face, sports talk for 25 years at WIP, dominating the afternoon drive time ratings for most of that time. He was also famously paired with a rogues gallery of partners in an attempt to perhaps soften his sarcasm or lessen his polarizing personality, but all of those attempts (including an embarassing morning drive stint with Morning Zoo-famous John DeBella at sister station WMMR-FM) fell flat, even his most recent pairing with ex-Eagle linebacker Ike Reese.

In the end, the best Eskin is the solo, unfiltered, full-strength Eskin, and maybe that was part of the motivation for his emotional announcement a few weeks back that he would give up his regular time slot in favor of other opportunities. He remains at WIP for several spot roles, and seems to be leaning toward some kind of national show, either on satellite or terrestrial radio.

Yesterday Eskin did his last regularly scheduled show in his time slot, as WIP-AM moved to simulcast itself on the frequency held for decades by hard rock WYSP-FM. The show was filled with celebrity phone calls, well-wishing callers, and Charles Barkley in studio along with Eskin's son, Brett, who ironically lost his job at WYSP in the foremat/simulcast change. It was, of course compelling radio, full of emotion, laughs, inside jokes and forced reflection.

It is still amazing and very impressive that Howard Eskin lasted (survived?) for 25 years at one radio station, in virtually the same time slot, a concept virtually unheard of in the current climate of homogeneous radio, right-wing talkmongers and dumbed down sports talk, corporate rock radio and scattershot pop programming.

Part investigative reporter, part oddsmakers, part insider, part true sports fan, there is not, nor never was, anyone like Howard Eskin. He made the mold, broke the mold and re-invented the mold.

Forever The King.

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