Gabe Bock was traveling home to Dennison, Texas for the Christmas holiday when he thought he got the phone call of a lifetime. The year was 2003 and on the other line was Daryl Bruffett, the sports director and sports anchor at KBTX Channel 3 in Bryan/College Station, Texas where Gabe had moved from an internship to a part-time gig. Though he still had one semester remaining at Texas A&M University and doubts he was even ready for the position, Gabe was verbally offered the No. 3 anchor position over the phone by Bruffett. This had been the break he’d been hoping for. Without hesitation, Gabe accepted the position and said, “Give me about four or five days to go home for Christmas and we’ll get started.”
When Gabe returned back to College Station and KBTX, a new news director was already in place, as well as a new sports anchor who he brought with him from Abilene. Gabe’s new job had been replaced before he even got back. Much like Craig from the movie Friday, he basically got fired on his day off.
On top of figuring out his next move, Gabe asked his current wife to marry him. His sole income was waiting tables at a Chili’s in College Station to make ends meet. Needless to say, Gabe jokingly says that his father-in-law was skeptical if he had a plan for his life. From growing up on The Ticket in Dallas, he’d always admired sports radio and was curious about joining the business, but didn’t have a way to get his foot in the door. In the spring 2004, Gabe called Chip Howard of Sports Radio 1150 The Zone in College Station who started the sports talk industry in the Bryan/College Station market. Howard agreed to let him answer the phones, but he had to split the duties with another employee. Despite the limited hours and short income (about 30 bucks a week), he was extremely thankful to be in the industry he always wanted to be in.
Today, Gabe holds the lead-host position of TexAgs Radio, which can be heard and seen on weekdays from 8-11 a.m. CT on Sports Radio 1150, CW-8 TV and TexAgs.com via live stream. Though he’s found his dream job, it wasn’t without hard work and a ton of perseverance. When looking to give advice to young interns, he always goes back to that first opportunity in sports radio when his only role was to answer the phone.
“No matter how significant or small the position is, you have to treat whatever role you get like you’re covering the Super Bowl,” said Gabe. “If you’re covering the Super Bowl, you’re going to make sure you’re on point and energized. If you get asked to answer the telephone for a radio show, you better treat it like it’s a big deal or you’re never going to get anything better.”
TM: Every show host had a ‘first show,’ how well do you remember yours?
GB: I moved up to board-op for Chip Howard in the fall of 2004. He had to leave town and needed me to host. This was the opportunity I’d been hoping for. For the entire first segment, I forgot to give the phone number to the show. Then, we got a call during the break and I was fired up. Here we go, someone is calling and wants to get on the air and mix it up. The caller said that he didn’t want to go on the air, but wanted to tell the host to quit saying ‘uhh’ so damn much. I’ll never forget that. To be honest, a calmness came over me after my very first segment. The hate mail had already rolled in. From there, it was smooth sailing.
TM: You currently work for TexAgs, a community dedicated to Texas A&M sports, so how did you land a radio show for an online publication?
GB: I actually left radio for a little while to help bring TexAgs up to speed. At the time we had about 1,500 subscribers and were getting around one-million page views a day, but we were nowhere near where we needed to be as a company. As soon as the Johnny Manziel era and the move to the SEC happened, TexAgs blew up. Now, we have over 12,000 subscribers and get around three million page views a day. In 2011, right around the move to the SEC, 1150 The Zone came to us and wanted to partner with TexAgs to do a show. Radio has always been my passion of mine, so I was happy to get back into it. My situation is unique, because I don’t work for the radio station, nor do I do my show from their studio. We have our own studio at TexAgs and that’s my employer. There’s a revenue share with The Zone that takes our feed through their signal. It’s a really cool partnership.
TM: When you first joined TexAgs it was as a writer. How did that benefit you as a host?
GB: It helped me, but you have to be careful, because you want radio to be free-flowing and not scripted. It allowed me to understand the flow and find the narrative of a game or a story. On a radio show, your lead is your open, it’s your hook. I think being able to write is important, because it helps you craft and maneuver through a show with what’s most important. As an example, this morning A&M got two Top 10 2019 commits from in-state and its two days until Signing Day. The Super Bowl was Sunday night and the Aggie basketball team just came off a 23-point win over South Carolina where they scored half of a hundred in the first half. Are they for real? We’ll see, they have Auburn and Kentucky this week and those games will likely determine it. That’s a huge talking point here. So, with all that going on, you have to maneuver thru topics with each one deserving segment attention. Then, you have to figure out how to weave it all in and get people to respond to all of it. I say you need to write. People are hiring individuals who can do a number of different things. You can’t fake writing.
TM: How do you handle not having a permanent co-host?
GB: I don’t have the same co-host for every segment of every show. We have so many people that do so many different things, we utilize all of our talented guys in various ways. The first hour of every show, our columnist Olin Buchanan joins me. But after that, Billy Liucci joins me every Monday and Friday, so you set your appointment listening. You know that every Monday and Friday at 10:00, he’s going to be on. Depending on the season and sport, we set up guys on the same days at the same time each week. We make things consistent. But every day, we’re going to talk Aggie football. That’s what fuels the market. Around here, the hits are Texas A&M football and we make sure to hit that every day.
TM: During your three-hour radio show, you’re on camera and people are watching on TV. How does that make things different?
GB: Well, there’s not much I can do with my bald appearance, but there’s some things that are different. We try not to do things like the Paul Finebaum Show, where you’re peering into the camera. We try to almost have hidden cameras. Sort of like Mike and Mike, especially originally, where the camera is just there and hanging out. It’s also kind of how Colin Cowherd deals with it, seeing as, it’s a radio show. He has his papers laying all around and not looking at the camera. We have a five-camera setup, three cameras in studio. There’s a wide shot on me as well as a one or a two shot, depending on how many people are with me in studio. That’s the way we try to handle it.
TM: TexAgs seems to be pretty tight with Texas A&M (the company’s office is next to the football practice field) so how difficult is it to be critical about coaching changes or in-game decisions when you know the relationship is vital to the business model?
GB: You have to be real with your listeners. That’s one of the top rules. There’s no Skip Bayless hot takes going on during our show. I prepare every segment and then just hit my guys with stuff, with the trust they’re good enough to give you their opinion. After Texas A&M lost to Texas in 2011, I came on the air the next morning and said that Mike Sherman needed to be fired, because it hadn’t gotten any better. There were long losing streaks, blown leads and losing to the most scared quarterback (Colt McCoy) that’s ever entered Kyle Field. If you say it’s bad when it’s bad and you’re real with your listeners, they’re going to listen to you, hear you, believe you and value what you’re saying. I mean, yeah, we’re in with Texas A&M, we worked really hard to make that happen, but we’re certainly not an emblem of Texas A&M University. Your No. 1 obligation is to your listeners. They’re the reason why we’re in this business. You can’t be afraid to tick anyone off.