Meet Phil from Mt. Airy, the rare enlightened sports-radio caller.
Just shooting the shit on the radio requires work.
You have to figure out what you're going to say. You have to stay on hold often for 20 minutes or longer. You have to overcome jitters and hosts with short fuses. Most important, you have to laugh it off when the host tells you, in so many words, to pull your head out of your ass.
Phil learned this the first time he called WIP. It was back in the early '90s, and he was calling to lambaste the Phillies on afternoon rudeboy Howard Eskin's program. Eskin wasn't having it.
"Howard called me a dope, of course," Phil recalls.
Undaunted, Phil began calling other shows. But he didn't join "the circuit" until ex-New York Post reporter Gargano, who grew up at 18th and Ritner in South Philly, showed up at WIP in 2001.
Gargano, a sports-savvy Joe Everyman, comes off on the air as a guy you'd enjoy downing a few cold ones with during a ballgame.
Phil says it isn't shtick.
"Anthony's the real deal," he says. "The first time I heard him, I said, 'that's me.' Ant just wants to win. Eff the salary cap, eff the GM, eff the personality crap. Are we gonna win?"
Gargano's fond of Phil too. "Phil's just a great, great sports fan," he says. "I gotta tell you, his passion's real."
But their mutual admiration doesn't mean they always agree. Gargano disagrees, for instance, with Allen's perception that the Phillies care only about putting backsides in seats.
"Ed Snider wants to win, David Montgomery wants to win, they all want to win," he says. "I've buried the Phillies for not doing the right thing when I felt that way, and I know people are talking about Ryan Howard and saying, 'They're just about the payroll,' and to an extent I'd agree. But the fact is they're winning now."
Eckel, a Trenton Times columnist and ex-beat writer who's covered the Eagles since 1985, says he respects Phil for refusing to swallow every spin-job the suits who run the franchise throw out.
"Phil isn't a Kool-Aid drinker," Eckel says. "He sees the faults in his teams. He doesn't have that blind loyalty, you know, 'Well the Eagles say this is right, so it must be right.' I think that's a good fan."
Nor does Eckel think Phil's wrong about the Eagles brass doing too much internal backslapping.
"The Eagles are very pleased with their success," he says. "And we can't deny that they've won a lot of games and they've been to the playoffs more than they haven't. But it hasn't been enough. They have to win it all, and until they do, it's not good enough."
"As an organization, we appreciate the fans' support of our team," writes Eagles assistant director of media services Bob Lange in an email response. "They are passionate and prideful of the Eagles."
Phillies PR man Larry Shenk writes, "The fans in this area deserve a championship and we will continue to work toward that goal. We believe our payroll, seventh in the majors a year ago, reflects our philosophy. This year's payroll will be higher."
Reclining in a booth at Chickie's & Pete's near the stadiums in South Philly, Phil waits contentedly for his order of crab fries. His Yuengling is cold, and ESPN Sports Center is playing on the giant TV. A few feet away Gargano and Martorano are wrapping up their weekly remote broadcast.
Could it get any sweeter for this Philly sports diehard?
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