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.